Gradius II: GOFER no Yabō (グラディウスII -GOFERの野望-, lit. "Gradius II: Gofer's Ambition"), known as Vulcan Venture outside Japan, is a horizontally-scrolling shooter developed and published by Konami in 1988 for video arcades.
Gradius II never saw availability in North America until the release of Gradius Collection for the PlayStation Portable, instead, the Life Force conversion of Salamander was marketed as the sequel to Gradius.
Two years ago, the planet Gradius was suddenly attacked by a Bacterian invasion fleet. On the brink of defeat, Gradius launched its last hope, the hyper-space fighter Vic Viper. The Vic Viper drove deep into the heart of the enemy forces and destroyed the Bacterian stronghold, the Xaerous Fortress, and brought victory to Gradius.
But now, the Bacterian menace is again threatening the planet Gradius. This time, the attack is led by a new enemy — a special unit known as Gofer. The Gradius forces again look to their savior — the Vic Viper — to save them from annihilation.
Gradius II has kept the gameplay from the original game, but infused it with enhancements brought from the spin-off, Salamander, and the Japanese arcade release of Life Force. This is primarily evident in two of the weapons configurations that are selectable.
Gradius II also introduces two special stages, which would become famously recurring in the series and its spin-off, namely:
- The "Boss Rush" - Levels designed entirely with only boss confrontations.
- The "Speed Stage" - A stage (likely inspired by the escape sequence at the end of Salamander) where the game scrolls faster than normal as the Vic Viper tries to maneuver its way through narrow corridors.
This game also marks the arrival of the Option Hunter, which like the two stages mentioned above, would also become a staple in the series.
Gradius II retains the Power Meter bar from Gradius, but now the player can choose between four different weapon configurations and progressions. All schemes have Speed-Up and Multiples (Options), but have differing 'Missile', 'Double', and 'Laser' weapons. Additionally, there are also two types of shielding to choose from: 'Shield' and 'Force Field'.
- Missile: Changed slightly from Gradius. You no longer need to wait for all missiles to disappear before you can re-fire. However, the power has been reduced (or the enemies have become stronger).
- Spread Bomb: Similar to the Napalm weapon of Nemesis 2. It does not, however, coast along the terrain. Instead, it detonates on impact, causing a large explosion that deals damage (this is why it is considered to be the best missile weapon in the game). It is very powerful, and the ballistic dropping arc is useful for hitting enemies; however, even the bosses can be defeated easily with these bombs.
- Photon Torpedo: Much like the missile, but drops straight out of the ship/Option, making it a bit more unwieldy. In return for this, the missile will pass through all targets until it touches something indestructible.
- 2-Way Missile: Similar to the weapon of Salamander in that a pair of missiles are launched above and below. Up to two pairs may be fired at once, making the weapon useful for wiping out lines of enemies above and below, however, they no longer coast along the terrain, and simply disappear on impact.
- Double: Identical to the Double of Gradius Arcade version. 2 bullets are fired: one forward, and the other at a 45 degree angle upward. You may not fire another volley until both shots have disappeared, making the weapon generally weaker in power than the standard shot. Though difficult to use and weak, it is sometimes the only way for you to deal with certain sections reasonably.
- Tail Gun: The second bullet is fired out the tail of the ship instead. There are only a few sections with enemies that appear from behind, but it can be useful for them.
- Laser: Roughly identical to that of Gradius. A powerful beam is fired that can pass through multiple enemies, and be swept up and down for better coverage. The Type B version fires a twisting beam, much like in Salamander, that has a slightly bigger hitbox.
- Pulse: Or Ripple as its known in other installments of the Gradius series. About the same as in Salamander. The longer the ring can stay on the screen, the wider it gets. Hanging back with 4 Options aligned vertically will allow you to cover most of the screen without having to move. You can also hit enemies placed on the terrain above or below without having to get too close. While the weapon is generally weaker than the Laser, some bosses in Gradius II appear to have a "weakness" to it.
- Shield: Just like the one from Gradius. It offers greater durability, but only guards the front. Not ideal, given that most attacks come from above or below. It also has more trouble with terrain collision, causing the shield to weaken as you have to squeeze into tight spaces throughout the game.
- Force Field: It only guards against three hits, but will protect against attacks from any direction. In the Famicom version, you can only choose this type.
While the game was ported to home consoles at the time, none of them were released in the United States.
The game was first ported to Nintendo's Family Computer (or Famicom for short) in 1988. The game made use of the VRC4 (Video Resource Chip) mapper chip  which enhances the Famicom's video and audio capabilities. This port changed the stage orders, added and removed bosses, swapped or wrote new tracks (some still exclusive to this game) for some stages. Despite the fact that the Famicom versions of Gradius and Salamander (as Life Force) were localized for the NES, the Famicom version of Gradius II remained exclusive to Japan, likely due to the difficulty of converting a VRC4 game into MMC format.
The game was then ported in 1992 to the PC Engine Super CD-ROM². Unlike the NES port, this version is the more faithful to its arcade counterpart, the graphics remained unaltered and one additional stage was even added that is similar to both the temple stage of the NES version of Life Force and the first stage of Gradius III. Additionally, a sound test was added. It is worth mentioning that it was announced as an upcoming TurboDuo release by Turbo Technologies Inc. in 1992 but was cancelled with no given reason. Had it been released, North American Gradius fans would not have had to wait for Gradius Collection for the PSP or the Virtual Console release of this version.
The MSX1 version of Gradius 2 (released as Nemesis 2 in the European market) was a completely original sequel produced specifically for the platform and unrelated to the arcade version. Portions of Gradius II were later re-used in Nemesis 3.
The arcade version of Gradius II was later re-released in the Japanese exclusive Gradius Deluxe Pack for the Sony PlayStation, Sega Saturn and Microsoft Windows in 1996, and for the first time a worldwide release on the Gradius Collection for the Sony PSP. It was also released on PlayStation 4 in 2016 and Nintendo Switch in 2020 as part of the Arcade Archives. It was also included in 2019 as part of Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection.
The TurboGrafx-16 port was released for the Wii's Virtual Console in North America on October 20, 2008 at a cost of 900 Wii Points. The same TurboGrafx-16 version was also included in the list of games available for the PC Engine CoreGrafx Mini in March 19, 2020 and is available in all regions.
Gradius II received generally positive to favorable reviews as the game look similar to predecessor but only add something to make the game different as it success the original in every-single-way.
|1||Artificial Sun||Phoenix||Burning Heat|
|2||Alien||Big Eye||Synthetic Life|
|3||Crystal||Crystal Core||Crystal World|
|4||Volcano||Death MK II||A Way Out of the Difficulty|
|5||Revenge of Moai||Jumping Moai
|The Old Stone Age|
|EX||Temple||Desert Core||Deprived Sanctity|
|6||High Speed Maze||Big Core MK II||Maximum Speed|
|7||Boss Rush||Big Core MK I
Poison of Snake
|8||Gofer Ship Interior||Demos
|Into Hostile Ship|
Shoot and Shoot
The Final Enemy
|Gradius II: GOFER no Yabō|
|Stages (arcade)||Artificial Sun • Alien • Crystal • Volcano • Revenge of Moai • High Speed Maze • Boss Rush • Gofer Ship Interior|
|Port-exclusive stages||Gradius II NES Stage 2 (NES) • Volcano - Crystal (NES) • Enemy Base (NES) • Gofer's Lair (NES) • Temple (PC-E)|
|Bosses||Phoenix • Big Eye • Giga (NES) • Crystal Core • Death MK II • Jumping Moai • Big Moai • Desert Core (PC Engine) • Big Core MK II • Zub Rush • Big Core • Golem • Tetran • Gaw • Intruder • Zelos Force (NES) • Covered Core • Demos • Crab • Gofer|
|Gradius video games|
|Gradius series||Gradius • Gradius II • Gradius III • Gradius Gaiden • Gradius IV: Fukkatsu • Gradius Galaxies • Gradius V • Gradius ReBirth • Gradius: The Interstellar Assault • Gradius NEO • Gradius NEO Imperial|
|Spin-offs||Salamander (Life Force) (MSX ver.)• Salamander 2 • Nemesis 2 (Nemesis '90 Kai) • Nemesis 3 • Nemesis (Game Boy) • Cosmic Wars • Solar Assault|
|Parody games||Parodius • Parodius Da! • Gokujō Parodius! • Jikkyō Oshaberi Parodius • Sexy Parodius • Paro Wars • Otomedius (Otomedius Gorgeous) • Otomedius Excellent|
|Other games||Scramble • Thunder Cross • Thunder Cross II • Space Manbow • Force Gear|
|Pachislot||Gradius: The Slot • CR Parodius Da! EX • Gokuraku Parodius!|
|Cancelled||Vic Viper • Gradius Arc • Salamander HD Remaster|