Gradius, the grandfather of shooters! It laid down the standard of powerups in shooting games, back in 1985. It was also so hard, that it introduced the Konami Code in the NES version (made popular by Contra). With close to a dozen episodes spanning from 1985 to this very day, many unique characteristics, a complete parody series (Parodius) and music so popular that even symphonic arrangements were created from it not once but twice, Gradius is a game with serious legacy behind.
What does Gradius Deluxe Pack offer to live up to this legacy? Perfect ports of the original arcade Gradius from 1985, and its sequel Gradius 2 (released in Europe as "Vulcan Venture"). The colors were changed a little in Gradius 1 to make the game look more lively, but other then this, everything looks the same it did two decades ago. Even the "warmup" scene is there!
Of course you also get many customization options, such as controls (complete with Rapid and regular shots), difficulty, stereo/mono sound, and screen size. This latter is quite a treat: you can choose the original arcade screen size, which leaves slight black borders on the side (the arcade game used 256x224 resolution, the Saturn uses 320x224). You can zoom this so no borders are shown, or you can use a "full screen" mode where all of the screen is used as playfields, but without zooming. This latter mode is easier then the rest as you have a bigger screen to manouver on. A very nice option.
So you have the legendary Gradius - in case you don't know what this game is all about, let me tell you. Gradius differed from other shooters by its powerup system. Red colored enemies leave an orb after them when killed. This orb fills one slot in your powerup bar, located at the bottom. Said bar includes the following powerups, in order: Speedup, Missile, Double, Laser, Option, and "?". You have a seperate button for triggering a selected powerup. Getting more orbs will advance the highlight with one, and the highlight will cycle to the beginning if you get more orbs then slots on the bar.
Speedup will increase your speed of course, and can be triggered multiple times for higher speeds - the default speed of your ship, Vic Viper, is unplayable slow, so you will want to start with this at least once or twice. Getting more speedups will turn Vic Viper uncontrollably fast however. Missile grants you a downward missile which travels forward on any landscape it falls on - it will also move down on slopes, but not up. Double will halve your fire rate, but will let you fire two shots at once, one forward, and one diagonally up. Laser grants you an immensely powerful beam laser weapon, but you can only fire forward with it, leaving you stuck in places where enemies swarm from above. Option should be your most sought after powerup. It adds a small, red circle "option" which follows your ships trail, and mimics all of its movement, including firing. This little baby can quite literally double, triple, quadriple your attack power, and is essential in the game. You can have up to 4 options with you at maximum. Lastly you have the "?" symbol which calls upon a ridiculously powerful front shield. This will deplete whenever it is hit, but can take on dozens of hits. It can be a lifesaver many times, but remember that your back is still unguarded with this.
Gradius 2 adds better sound and graphics, and the pick further powerups in the game. At the start of Gradius 2, you need to select a "powerup plan", and you can then use any powerups from said plan. The default scheme is the same as the prequel, but other schemes include things such as a ripple beam instead of laser, a Tailgun instead of the double shot, and so on. More importantly you can also pick a different shield to use, a Forcefield, which depletes only after 2-3 shots but provides all around protection.
This sums up the gameplay basics of Gradius, but there are many other elements in the game that you may have seen before - endless loops, Shoot the Core, recursing vertical dimensions, Moai, hellish difficulty, nonstop gameplay without stop, and many, many more events that became iconic by today. Gradius Deluxe Pack also features an fmv intro, and an arranged piano version of the theme song played on the Staff Roll. Really, you shouldn't call yourself a real gamer if you can't recall the Gradius theme song, or if you never played any of the Gradius games. Gradius aged very well and, aside from the devilish difficulty, is still a masterpiece this day. Even if this is just a retro compilation, there's no excuse for passing up the chance of buying Gradius Deluxe Pack.