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Gradius III (Arcade)

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Title Screen

Gradius III

Also known as: Gradius III: Densetsu kara Shinwa he (JP)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform: Arcade (Custom)
Released in JP: December 11, 1989
Released in AS: December 1989


EnemyIcon.png This game has unused enemies.
GraphicsIcon.png This game has unused graphics.
ItemsIcon.png This game has unused items.
MusicIcon.png This game has unused music.
RegionIcon.png This game has regional differences.


The first two Gradius games were difficult enough, but Gradius III goes out of its way by making its stages more hair-pullingly hard than ever before. There are no continues either, as no "easier" localized version was released overseas (well, not completely) as the previous entries. So don't think you can just money your way out of this one.

Unused Graphics

Power-Ups

There are eight unused Edit Mode power-up icons in the game ROM. Unfortunately, none of them seem to have been properly coded, so the icons are all that's left of them.

Power-Up Previous Games Notes
Missile-type
Gradius3ArcHoming.png Salamander (MSX)
Nemesis 3 (MSX)
Would home in on enemies, naturally. This is the only unused power-up that has unique graphics in the ROM:
Gradius3ArcHomingMissile.gif
Gradius3ArcMine.png N/A This would drop floating mines behind the player ship instead of missiles. A similar concept was used ten years later in Gradius IV.
Double-type
Gradius3Arc3Way.png N/A Standard three-way shot. This could be an early version of the Spread Gun (which can be upgraded to a three-way shot) or an entirely different power-up.

Since there's no telling exactly how the three-way shot would work, an icon can't be properly constructed.

Option-type
Gradius3ArcFOption.png Nemesis 3 (MSX) Options would surround the ship in an arrow formation. This was later implemented in the SNES port.

There don't seem to be any graphics for this icon left in the game besides the name of the power-up.

Gradius3ArcROption.png Nemesis 2 (MSX)
Nemesis 3 (MSX)
This would make Options rotate counterclockwise around the ship. Another power-up that made its way into the SNES version.
?-type
Gradius3ArcPileUpField.png N/A The shield in the icon looks larger than the normal Force Field graphic. Maybe you'd be able to stack multiple fields?
Gradius3ArcRShield.png N/A The last unused power-up that was later added to the SNES port. The shields rotate. Whoa.
Gradius3ArcSearchShield.png N/A An interesting concept that never made it to any Gradius game; These Shields would actively home in and destroy enemy bullets.

Enemies

New Enemies

Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy1.gif
This design is used in the game, but the used version lazily spins and floats around the screen. This unused variant looks like it would actually go after the player.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy2.gif
Again, this design is used, but the version used in the final game flips horizontally, not vertically.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy3.gif
A new design for the "Zub" enemies that appear in large numbers. The final game reuses the design from Gradius II.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy4.gif
A typical vertically-flipping enemy design.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy5.gif
There's an enemy in the final game that flies in from the right, opens up to shoot at the player, then flies away. This looks like a similar enemy, but it would just start floating around instead of firing anything.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy6.gif
Very similar to a used enemy; The only notable difference is that the bullet hatch splits open instead of retracting.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy7.gif This looks like an organic version of the ubiquitous Hopper enemies. This design actually appears in the ROM of Salamander, minus the shooting animation, but it wasn't used there, either!
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy8.gif
This scrapped enemy design starts out looking like a bullet before transforming into a ship. Kinda cool.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy9.png Looks like an alternate design for the large enemies that give the player power-ups before the boss rush starts.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy10.gif
In the final game, there are two different enemies that come out of the silver hatches in the final stage. This third enemy design was the one left one that didn't make the cut.
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemy11.gif Having a relatively impressive eighteen frame animation count wasn't enough to keep this spider beetle-looking thing in the final version.

Returning Enemies
Enemies from previous Gradius games and spin-offs. Most of the graphics are ripped directly from those games, and it's not clear whether or not they were actually intended to be used in the game. The only exception is the small Moai head from Life Force JP, which has new graphics and was likely meant to appear somewhere in the game proper.

Enemy Name
Gradius
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG13.gif
Beans
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG14.gif Iron Maiden
Salamander / Life Force (INT)
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS1.gif Phalanx
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS4.png
Drum
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS5.png Thunder Mu
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS6.gif
Iron Maiden
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS7.gif
Amka Kemdomira
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyS8.gif
Fire Geist
Life Force (JP)
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyL1.gif
???
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyL2.gif
???
Gradius 2
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG21.gif Rgolist
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG22.gif Carst Ducker
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG23.png Death Mole
Gradius3ArcUnusedEnemyG24.gif
Urolist

Other Sprites

Gradius3ArcTitleFull.png
The title screen image is 320x240 pixels, but since the game's resolution is 320x224, the last 16 lines of the image get cut off.

Gradius3ArcCrash.gif
The blue screen-clearing power capsules seen in previous Gradius games are conspicuously absent in this one, they did make it into the SNES port, albeit using the same design as the power capsules instead of two separate sprites for each.

Gradius3ArcUnusedHatch1.gif Gradius3ArcUnusedHatch2.gif
Two unused enemy hatch designs, both of which have the same retractable base.

Gradius3ArcOtherStones.png
Two unused rock designs for use in Stage 3's underground section. Even though there are three different designs, the final game only uses one of them. Kind of a waste, eh?

Gradius3ArcSmallBoulder.gif Gradius3ArcBigBoulder.gif
Small and large boulders, likely meant to be used in Stage 3's digging section. Even though they both have special falling animations, the final game still uses the same rock design used everywhere else in the stage. That design isn't even animated!

Gradius3ArcSmallPillar.png Gradius3ArcMedPillar.png Gradius3ArcLargePillar.png
Rock pillars of varying thickness. Could have made good obstacles in the underground section; Maybe they could have dropped down from the ceiling or jutted up from the floor or something. No such luck, though.

Gradius3ArcSmallShrivel.gif Gradius3ArcBigShrivel.gif
Small and large vines shriveling up which would have been used after the Choking Weed boss is defeated. In the actual game, those vines just explode like everything else in this game.

Gradius3ArcBigCrystals.gif Gradius3ArcCrystalShards.png Gradius3ArcSpinningCrystal.gif
A whole mess of crystals. Similar, less-detailed crystals appear in Gradius II's third stage as destructible objects. At one point in development, the Crystal Maze might have been more closely based on the Gradius II's Crystal stage.

Gradius3ArcCrystalCube.gif
The palette for this object is loaded during the flying crystal section of the Crystal Maze and might have appeared as an added obstacle. Dig that 12-sided die!

Gradius3ArcShipG1.gif Gradius3ArcShipS.gif
The ships from the first Gradius and Salamander are in the ROM. The Gradius ship uses the default ship palette, while the Salamander ship actually has a custom palette loading during the Salamander stage (Palette 16) that's not used by any other object in the game.

It's plausible that in the Gradius and Salamander stages, those ships would be used in place of the standard Vic Viper design. It would certainly explain why the player loses all of their power-ups after being transported to either stage.

Gradius3ArcVolcanicRocks.png
The volcanic rocks used in the first Gradius games. Uses palette 1B in the Gradius stage which, again, isn't used by any other object. The developers might have originally planned to keep the volcanic eruption that prefaced the Big Core boss fight in the original game.

Gradius3ArcSmallPlasma.gif Gradius3ArcBigPlasma.gif
Small and large blue plasma balls in the same style as the energy balls shot out by Bacterion at the end of the game. It's possible that he was mean to actually attack the player, but given the history of Gradius games' final bosses being completely ineffectual, this was likely meant to be used by some other boss.

Gradius3ArcDisc.png
A strange metal disc. No clue on this one...that's probably not even the correct palette. Weird.

Miscellaneous

Gradius3ArcAki.png
These filler tiles are in the Cell stage tileset. アキ means "empty".

Gradius3ArcMultiple.png
In the previous international releases of Gradius and Gradius II, the "Option" power-up was renamed to "Multiple". Since this game was never released in Europe or North America, this graphic was never used. But oddly enough, this game's announcer always says Multiple when selecting the power-up...

Gradius3ArcHighScoreAlt1.png
Gradius3ArcHighScoreAlt2.png
High score numbers taken from Gradius and Gradius II respectively. Gradius III has its own, larger font that it uses for the high score table, making these graphics superfluous.

Gradius3ArcAltHeads.png
In Gradius II, players could enter their gender and age in the high score table. This feature was taken out of Gradius III and instead used the differently-gendered heads from Gradius I, but the differently-aged heads are still in the ROM.

Gradius3ArcFireLion.png
This lion enemy is used in Stage 1, the Desert level. However, Stage 7, the Fire stage, has an unused palette that matches up with the lion design perfectly. Considering that the dragon enemy is used in both Stage 1 and Stage 7, they might have planned to reuse this enemy as well.

Gradius3ArcCubeColors.png Gradius3ArcCubeColorsFG.png
While the Crystal Maze stage in the final game only uses blue crystals, there are palettes for at least four other colors. The cubes on the left are the sprite-based cubes, while the cubes on the right are the tile-based cubes.

Palette 1D Palette 1E
Gradius3ArcSmallVine1D.png Gradius3ArcSmallVine1E.png

The small vines that the Choking Weed sucks up actually use the wrong palette! Palette 1D is used by the Choking Weed's bulb, while palette 1E is totally unused in-game and fits the vine graphic a lot better.

Unused Music

The IDs listed here are internal track IDs and don't match up the ones used in the game's sound test.

ID Track Notes
90
This is the dogfight theme from the original Gradius. The Gradius stage starts right after the dogfight section of the original Stage 1, so it never plays.
94
This is the theme from the High Speed stage in Gradius II. There was originally going to be a High Speed stage where the path was created by debris and other junk flying at you as went along; This idea developed into the Crystal Maze stage seen in the final game. Another High Speed stage was added in the SNES version but in the style of GII's and with its own theme.
A1
The original ranking theme. According to the game's sound director, this was rejected for being "too short and too bright."


(Source: Gradius III – Gradius Portable Guidebook Interview)

Region Differences

Intro

Gradius3Arc1985.png Gradius3Arc1986.png Gradius3Arc1988.png
The Japanese version goes through a pictorial history of the Gradius series (The arcade games, anyway) before transitioning to the title screen. In all other sets, the game immediately transitions to the title screen.

The actual title screen sequence is the same length in all versions, leading to an odd experience in non-Japanese sets where the game just stays on a static image for more than a minute before the music ends.

Title Screen

JP INT
Gradius3ArcTitleJP.png Gradius3ArcTitle.png

All non-Japanese sets delete the game's subtitle, 伝説から神話ヘ ("From Legend to Myth").

Beginner Course & Difficulty Between Regions

Gradius3ArcModeSelect.png
The Japanese set has an additional mode select before the Weapon Select screen. The option on the left is the normal game, while the option on the right is a special beginner mode that ends after Stage 3. Another thing that differentiates them the most apart from the limited stages to be played, is that when the player dies in the beginner mode, they gradually lose whatever power-up they have equipped with each death as opposed to the series' traditional die-and-have-nothing that is also present in the normal mode.

Despite the fact that the non-Japanese sets don't have this selection and the player is thrown into the full game directly, the gradual power-up losing routine from the Japanese's beginner mode is actually present in them and is in it throughout the whole game! So in a way, the non-Japanese versions can "slightly" (big emphasis on that word) be considered the easier versions of this hellish-ly hard mess of a game.

Select Difficulty
Technical
(Normal)
Beginner (Intro to game)
Ends after 3 stages.

Gradius3ArcPracticeEnd1.png Gradius3ArcPracticeEnd2.png
After defeating the boss of Stage 3, a special message appears.

You've cleared the beginner course.
But the world of Gradius is much more
than just that. Now try challenging
yourself with the technical course!!
We pray for your success...


(Translation: Bast)
(Source: Original TCRF research)