Japanese arcade flyer
|Arcade system||Konami GX945|
|Display||Raster, 320 x 224, horizontal orientation|
Gradius III (グラディウスIII -伝説から神話ヘ- Gradiusu Surī: Densetsu kara Shinwa he?, Gradius III: From Legend to Myth) is a side-scrolling shooting game originally released for the arcades in Japan and other parts of Asia in 1989. It is the third sequel to the original Gradius for the arcades following Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition, and was followed by Gradius IV: Resurrection. Gradius III was rereleased for the Super Famicom in Japan in 1990, and for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in North America in 1991 as a video game launch title. It was released as simply Gradius III (グラディウスIII Gradiusu Surī?). The arcade version was included with Gradius IV in a two-in-one compilation (Gradius III & IV) for the PlayStation 2 and in the Gradius Collection for the PlayStation Portable.
The player returns as the role of the pilot of the Vic Viper starfighter to battle the onslaughts of the Bacterion Empire. There are a total of ten levels in the game, with stage 4 being something of a bonus level; here, the player controls the Vic Viper in a third-person perspective and must avoid colliding with walls. Though the level is completely devoid of any enemies, free floating power-ups are scattered throughout. There are also two hidden levels that are based on the early sections of Gradius and Salamander. The game contains the familiar weapons, level layouts, and enemies that have become trademarks of the series.
The original arcade version is known by fans as being considerably more difficult than its predecessors. This version did not provide a way to continue the game upon losing all lives, even as an operator-selectable "allow continue" option. The Japanese version of the game contains a 'beginner mode' that allows the player to venture through the first three levels at a much easier difficulty. At the end of the third level, the game ends immediately and bids the player to try the game again at the normal difficulty. The Asian arcade release lacks the beginner mode and retrospective introduction sequence, but reduces the difficulty overall.
In addition to new pre-defined weapon schemes, Gradius III introduces the "Edit Mode"; players can mix and match missile, double, laser, shield and "special" ("!") power-ups into their own custom combination. Some of the weapons available in pre-defined schemes can not be used in custom schemes, and vice versa.
A port of Gradius III was released for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in Japan in December 1990 and for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in North America in 1991, with the option of reduced difficulty and additional armaments for the Vic Viper. It replicates the slowdown of its arcade counterpart and discards the pseudo-3D and Crystal levels. It also introduces a boss called Beacon which awaits the player at the end of the new high-speed stage, which is a counterpart of the high-speed stage in Gradius II. Unlike any other version, the Super NES port is the only one that allow players to continue when they lost all their lives. A harder difficulty called "Arcade" can be unlocked by inputting a code (Quickly tapping the "A" button) on the options screen, however, it is simply the same SNES game at a harder difficulty, and not an accurate port of the arcade version.
This port was also released for Virtual Console on April 23, 2007.
In 2000, Konami bundled Gradius III and Gradius IV: Resurrection together for release on the PlayStation 2 video game console, as Gradius III and IV. The port is based on the arcade version and has an unlockable Extra Edit mode, which gives the player the freedom to create a weapon array from all included setups and adds the F-Option, R-Option and Reduce II power-ups found in the Super NES port. The Reduce from the SNES port returns the player one step closer to the Vic Viper's original size when hit, giving it protection from two hits.
As the PlayStation 2 is technically more sophisticated than the game's original arcade hardware, the game as a result runs faster in situations that would normally impose lag. KCET implemented a "WAIT LEVEL" regulator as an option that can be adjusted from three levels at any point in the game, beginning from 0 to 2 (original rate).
While the PS2 version doesn't have the option to continue as the Super NES version, it features the possibility to select any stage the player has cleared.
Gradius III was later ported to the PlayStation Portable in 2006 as part of Gradius Collection. This version keeps the tradition of not allowing the player to continue after exhausting all reserve ships.
A soundtrack, containing the original music as well as arranged tracks, was released by Konami on the King Records label in the early 1990s. Additionally, several albums containing arrangements of the music from this game were released in the years to follow. Konami also released a soundtrack album containing music from Gradius III as well as other Gradius games, entitled Gradius Arcade Soundtrack on April 24, 2002.
The "Gradius III Symphonic Poetry" track was released by Kukeiha Club on June 5, 1990 and contains many orchestrated tracks from both Gradius III and numerous previous games. A prime example of its diversity is the "Final Battle" track, which contains numerous variations on the "Crystal World" and "Boss Battle" tracks in Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition. 
Gradius III received positive to favorable reviews. IGN gave the game a score 8.5 out of 10 for impressive graphics and game-play. GameSpot give the game score 7.0 out of 10 for Virtual Console and criticizing the game for its high difficulty.
- Gradius III at the Killer List of Videogames
- Gradius Series resource page
- Gradius III world record page