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Gradius is a 2D horizontal-scrolling space shooter from Konami. Players start the game with three lives but can earn more through high scores. The object is to make it through a series of stages by blasting or evading enemy units. At the end of every stage a level boss awaits the player — it must be destroyed before proceeding to the next level.
There are two types of icons for the player to collect. Both can be received from certain, differently colored, enemy units, or by completely destroying certain enemy groups. The orange power-ups allow the player to upgrade their ships in their variety of ways, while the blue power-ups destroy all on-screen enemy units.
The game offers a complex upgrade system. There are six classes of power-ups: speed, missile, double shot, laser, option and shield, displayed in order along the bottom of the screen. Each time the player collects an orange power-up, the icon advances to the right one space. The player selects the power-up they want by pressing the II button when the cursor is over the appropriate power-up grouping. For example, it takes one orange icon to get a speed power-up, two for missiles and six for shields. Each time a power-up is activated, the cursor returns to the beginning. The player can have up to five speed power-ups and four options. The other power-ups are only selectable once, and the double shot may not be combined with the laser. Option units follow the player's ship for double the firepower. ~ Kyle Knight, All Game Guide