Gradius III: Densetsu kara Shinwa e

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GIII logo.png

Gradius III
GIII title screen.png

Title screen

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Director: Hiroyasu Machiguchi
Music: J. Kaneda
S. Fukami
M. Higashino
K. Nakamura
M. Izumi
Program: T. Shimomura
Y. Itoh
M. Ozawa
Art: T. Miyoshi
M. Igarashi
R. Itoh
K. Hattori
Y. Asano
Release date: Arcade JP: December 11, 1989
Arcade AS: 1989
PS2: April 13, 2000 [1]
PSP: February 9, 2006 [2]
PS4: December 24, 2020 [3]
Switch: December 24, 2020 [3]
Previous game: Nemesis 3
Next game: Space Manbow

Gradius III: Densetsu kara Shinwa e (JP: グラディウスIII伝説から神話へ, "Gradius III: From Legend to Myth") is a horizontal scrolling shoot em' up developed and published by Konami in the year 1989. It is the sequel to Gradius II.

The game was ported to the Super Nintendo in the year 1991 as a launch title for the console, featuring several changes and tweaked difficulty. Eventually, a proper emulation of the Arcade version was released in the early 2000s via Gradius III and IV on PlayStation 2 and Gradius Collection on PlayStation Portable respectively.

For replay videos, visit the Video Index.

Gameplay Overview


Gradius III is a 3 buttons game with 10 stages. In the console ports, depending on the player's difficulty settings finishing all of them will either start the second loop or end right there.

  • A button: Equips the slot highlighted in the Power Meter.
  • B button: Fires the player's main weapon.
  • C button: Fires the player's missiles.

Game Modes

In the Japanese version the player can choose between two different modes before starting.

GIII game modes.png

Beginner Course

As the name implies, this is a mode intended for players who are just starting out. Power Capsules are more frequent, enemy placement is toned down slightly (such as no giant bubbles in stage 2) and power loss upon dying is more forgiving. Losing a life takes away upgrades in a gradual way going from right to left in the Power Meter, that is:

  1. Lose Option.
  2. Lose Laser/Double.
  3. Lose Missile.
  4. Lose Speed Up.

Moreover, the slot placement isn't reset to Speed Up after dying, if the player died with the Option slot highlighted it'll stay like that. This of course makes pulling off checkpoint recoveries much easier compared to Technical Course.

Beginner Course ends after 3 stages, afterwards the player is encouraged to tackle the full experience.

Technical Course

10 stages and power loss after death is handled like the previous Gradius games, that is losing everything. This mode loops infinitely and is very usually the one used for competitive play.

Power Meter

GIII power meter.png

Following its prequels Gradius III reuses the Power Meter to handle the power up system. Collecting Power Capsules highlights one slot going from left to right. Grabbing a Power Capsule when the last slot is highlighted makes it go back to the Speed Up. However, new to Gradius III is a seventh slot in the Power Meter, presented as the ! slot. Dying with a Power Capsule not utilized will highlight the Speed Up slot regardless of where it originally was.

Each slot does the following:

Slot Effect
Speed Up
Increases the player's speed. Can be equipped up to 5 times.
Adds a ground-based projectile.
Adds a secondary shot giving more coverage. Equipping Double replaces Laser in case the player was using it.
Upgrades the main shot. Higher damaging than both the regular shot and Double. Equipping Laser replaces Double in case the player was using it.
Adds an orange orb that mimics the player's movement and weapons. Can be equipped up to 4 times.
Activates a shield that grants protection against bullets and enemies.
See below.


Preset configurations

Type A
GIII type a.png
Weapon loadout from the original Gradius.
  • Missile: Fired downwards and travels across the ground.
  • Normal Double: Secondary shot fired at a 45° angle.
  • Normal Laser: Thin beam that can pierce through enemies.
Type B
GIII type b.png
Spread Bomb+Ripple makes it the most popular setup for high level play or just clearing a single loop.
  • Spread Bomb: Explodes upon impact dealing heavy damage.
  • Tail Gun: Secondary shot fired backwards.
  • Ripple: Becomes wider as it travels across the screen, cannot pierce through enemies.
Type C
GIII type c.png
Good coverage but rather weak power.
  • 2-Way: Two missiles fired up and down, they can't travel through the ground.
  • Vertical: Secondary shot fired at a 90° angle.
  • C. Laser: Functionally the same as the normal Laser.
Type D
GIII type d.png
Probably the most versatile one, but can be difficult to use.
  • Photon Torpedo: Fired downwards and travels across the ground faster than the regular Missile, can pierce through enemies.
  • Free Way: Secondary shot that can be fired in up to 8 different directions depending on the player's last directional input.
  • Twin Laser: A set of two thin small lasers.


GIII force field.png

  • Grants protection from all sides against bullets, can withstand up to 6 hits.

GIII shield.png

  • Grants frontal protection against bullets, can withstand several hits.

GIII free shield.png

  • Shield pod that can be attached to any part of the ship, can be equipped multiple times.

The weapon assigned to the ! slot for all the preset weapon configurations is the Mega Crash. Using the Mega Crash clears the screen from bullets and small enemies, acting like the blue Power Capsule from previous Gradius games (which is mysteriously absent here).

Edit Mode

GIII edit mode.png

Edit Mode allows players to combine multiple different weapons in whatever way they feel like. Some weapons from the preset configurations aren't present in Edit Mode and vice-versa.

Missile slot

  • Control: Missile that flies horizontally and moves up and down based on the player's movement.
  • Upper Missile: The same as the regular Missile, but it's fired upwards.
  • S. Spread: The same as the Spread Bomb, but it's fired behind the ship and the explosion has a smaller radius.

Double slot

  • Spread Gun: 2-Way shot that becomes a 3-Way shot. Can be equipped up to 2 times.

Laser slot

  • E. Laser: Energy orb. This laser is unique in that it is the only non-beam laser that has piercing properties, and that it can be charged. While charging it'll deal constant damage, but severely blocks visiblity.

Option slot

  • S. Option: These move in the opposite direction the player is going, similar to the Free Way there's 8 possible directions. Snake Options are spread out a little more compared to the regular ones and stay in place once the player stopped moving, allowing for several different formations.

? slot

  • Reduce: Shrinks the Vic Viper's size but doesn't grant protection. Can be equipped up to 2 times.

! slot

  • Normal: Reverts back to the regular shot.
  • Speed Down: Reduces the player's speed.
  • Lives for Options: Trades lives to get multiple Options at the same time.


GIII power capsule.png Power Capsule
Appears upon defeating enemy formations and orange colored enemies. Advances the Power Meter by one slot. Awards 300 points when picked up except for stage 4.


The rank of this game is determined as follows

Game Difficulty + Loop/Stage + Powerups + Special = Rank

The rank range is 0-31. The gameplay difference between rank levels increases as you reach the higher ranges, 21->22 is a larger deal than 5->6.

Game Difficulty This is set on the DIP switches.

Easy - 0 Normal - 2 Hard - 4 Very Hard - 6

Loop/Stage The value is determined by 8*(Loop # - 1) + (Stage # - 1) = Loop/Stage rank

Powerups Speed Up - +0 (no effect) Missile - +1 Double - +2 (Spread gun and Free Way are +3) Laser - +3 Option - +1 for each Shield/Force - +4 (Reduce in extra edit is +2)

Special There are two special conditions for rank.

1. Rank Limiter - Rank is limited to 16 on the first loop 2. Beginner Mode - Automatic -2

An extra condition for the PS2 port. 3. Easiest Difficulty - Divide rank by 2, throw out the decimal part.

Rank is sampled and updated at all times. ...

What rank affects 1. Enemy speed 2. Enemy bullet firing aggression 3. Bullet speed 4. Boss behavior


Gradius III loops infinitely. Higher loops introduce suicide bullets from enemies after being destroyed, the higher rank affects some stage hazards such as the speed at which the bubbles from stage 2 travel is considerably faster, turning it into one of the scariest stages in the game. The loops also feature a few stage changes.

Stage 1

GIII 2-1.png

A complete layout overhaul, the sand dragons have considerably higher HP and spawn more often, several jumping enemies who fire nasty spreads can also be found throughout the whole stage.

Stage 3

GIII 2-3.png

Before the underground section begins all the volcanoes spew fireballs instead of just the first two. Furthermore, right before the enemy rush at the end there is an extra hatch on the ceiling.


For general tips, walkthroughs and boss descriptions, see: Gradius III/Strategy

Development History

Wyvern originally present in the desert stage.

Gradius III had a development cycle of around 12 months, being intended to be the final entry in the Gradius series. This was reflected in the game's original subtitle during the planning drafts: "saigo no shitou" (the final battle to the death), instead of the final one "densetsu kara shinwa e" (From Legend to Myth). The desert, bubble and plant stage were the first stages to be made and subsequently displayed at a game show, eventually they were relocated as development kept going. Notably, this led to Wyvern, a boss initially meant to be a part of the desert stage, being present as the stage 7 boss in the final game instead. Konami was very involved with game magazines around this time in order to promote Gradius III, having to show monthly updates of the game's current status, another publicity effort was an idea submission contest of readers from the magazine Gamest. Beginner Mode was added near the end of development, realizing after the location tests the game had become considerably difficult.[4]

Version Differences

Asian version

This version removes Beginner Course and Technical Course, however it actually plays like a combination of the two. With the easier first 3 stages and the gradual power loss, but with the entire game being playable.


This is the first release of the actual Arcade version for home consoles. It features several configuration settings and new content not seen before.

Main Modes

  • 1 Player: Starts the game in single player mode.
  • 2 Players: Starts the game in two players mode.
Visible hitboxes.
  • Hi-Score Try: Starts on Technical Course with default settings. When the run ends, the player is given their score along with a unique code that could be submitted to Konami's website. Finishing the first loop unlocks the hitbox display, this can be enabled in the pause menu.*

*This mode and the hitbox display are not present in the US version.

Option Mode

Default settings.
  • Game Level: Determines difficulty settings. The lowest difficulty setting is Easiest (1) while the highest is Very Hard (6). Unique to this version is that difficulties below Normal differ from the Arcade version, tweaking several sections to make them easier, such as the fireballs during stage 7 won't split to their smallest size after being shot and the "Cube Rush" section of stage 9 is much shorter. However, this comes at the cost of the game not looping by playing in these lower difficulties.
  • Extend: Determines extend thresholds.
  • Player: Determines the number of lives the player will start with.
  • Power Up: Power Meter behavior.
    • Manual: Same as the Arcade version.
    • Semi Auto: Equips specific power ups in the Power Meter automatically, these being Speed Up->Missile->Laser->Option(x4)->?.
  • Wait Level: Determines how frequently the game will slow down while playing. This can also be changed in the pause menu.
  • Adjustment: Pressing the Square and Circle buttons move the screen horizontally while the X and Triangle buttons move it vertically.*
  • Key Config: Rebinds buttons.
  • Default: Reverts all options to their default settings.
  • Sound Test: In-game BGM.
  • Save/Load: Current playtime, autosave option and saving/loading a profile.
  • Exit: Self explanatory.

*This option is not present in the US version.

Stage Select

Allows to select loop, stage and individual checkpoint to start on. This is accessible right off the bat and increases gradually as the player progresses further into the game.

GIII stage select.png

Extra Mode

This is the unlockables menu. These are unlocked the moment the player meets the requirement regardless of settings.

  • Cube Attack: Starts at the infamous "Cube Rush" segment of stage 9. The player can change the number of Speed Ups equipped and level (difficulty), higher levels will make the cubes go faster. This is unlocked once the player has reached stage 9.
  • Gradius: Starts at the hidden stage based on the first Gradius game. This is unlocked the same way one would access this easter egg in the Arcade version.
  • Salamander: Starts at the hidden stage based on Salamander. This is unlocked the same way one would access this easter egg in the Arcade version.
  • Extra Edit: A version of Edit Mode without restrictions. This is unlocked by finishing the first loop, clearing a second time in this mode unlocks a new version of Extra Edit with some of the exclusive weapons from the SNES version. For the SNES Option formations holding the Power Up button will spread out and retract the formation.
SNES weapons.


This version is based off of the PS2 port and as such retains many of its features with a few differences:

  • 2 Players Mode is removed as the Gradius Collection doesn't support more than one player. Hi-Score Try and its respective hitbox viewer reward for clearing it aren't present either.
  • A new option, Hit Size is present. This changes the Vic Viper's hitbox size, being able to choose between its original one and a smaller variant. However, playing with the small hitbox size appears to be bugged because it'll make the difficulty one level higher than it should be while playing.
Normal and small size.


  • At the end of stage 10, being hit by one of Bacterion's energy balls will send you to hidden segments based on the first Gradius and Salamander. The energy balls that travel in the middle and towards the top of the screen trigger the Salamander stage, while the one going towards the bottom of the screen triggers the Gradius stage. Entering these stages strips of all your power ups.

References & Contributors

  • Page creation and primary info provided by Andrew98