I've said it once, and I'll say it again: I just wasn't a fan of Shoot'em Ups when I was a kid. Oh sure, I liked the original Gradius well enough and rented it a few times when I was a kid, but between the time of the NES and SNES I was finding that I just wasn't enjoying the genre of shooters. They were fun enough in the arcade and all, but when I was renting a game, I wanted to rent games that I was reasonably certain I could beat come Sunday evening and time to return the rental. And the fact of the matter was I was pretty bad at most shoot'em ups, bullet-hell or otherwise.
As an adult I've grown a new found appreciation for the genre and still wonder what it would have been like had I rented Phalanx. There was one shoot'em up for the SNES I did end up renting though, yup good ol' Gradius III. I don't know why I did it in the first place, seeing as I passed up shooters like it left and right. Perhaps I remembered the fun I had with the original, perhaps I was left with the terrifying possibility of not having a game for the weekend. Well, whatever the reason was, I rented Gradius III.
Just the once though, I sucked at these games, remember?
If nothing else stuck with me, the music sure did. Again, we were at a time when Konami took pride in it's work rather than pride in ticking off fans and treating one of their biggest game designers worse than a red-headed step-child orphan. Anywho, the music throughout the game--or at least as far as I got with it just rocked. From the adventurous and inspiriing prologue theme:
To the excitement conveyed by the brief, but awesome intro screen music:
Heck, even the weapon select music had a great vibe to it:
I was originally just going to cover one or two songs from the game, but having listened to the various game tracks--some from levels I never reached as a kid but look forward to attempting to get to now--I couldn't pick just one track. They were all so good. I would heartily recommend finding a way to rip this to an mp3 or iPod whether you listen to it while working away at your job or heading down the freeway on pleasant trip somewhere. There's just a real sense of adventure conveyed by the tunes in the game. I think part of why it's such a successful soundtrack is that Gradius III's music doesn't sound too overblown or even too sci-fi'ish. There aren't unnecessary warbles or annoying, high-pitched beeps and bloops meant to "sell" the space theme. While the bass hits and synthesizer music say science fiction, it says "Star Trek" or "Battlestar Galactica" (newer version), not SyFy channel movie of the week if you catch my drift.
Maybe it sounds like I'm laying it on thick again. After all, with games like Super Metroid out there, how could any game--even a pre-insanity Konami--hope to match or live up to others? Simply put, there are so many games for the SNES that really did a botch job when it came to putting a score to a game. Not just sports games or failed mascot games either, but games where you really hoped or expected the music to sound either top-notch or at the very least, reasonable.
Last thing I want to say is this: Part of the other reason I find the music from Gradius III so dang enjoyable comes from the fact that it reminds me of time not too long ago. A time when Konami used to care, and used to be one of the greatest video game makers around--not a collection of nuts in a rubber room trying to convince orderlies that franchise themed pachinko machines were the way to go.