Vulcan Venture / Gradius II

Manufacturer Konami
Year 1988
Emulated MAME, Sparcade


Vulcan Venture Title Screen Gradius II Title Screen

Depending on how you view Salamander, Vulcan Venture is either the second or third game in the Nemesis / Gradius series (in fact, if you include Lifeforce, it could be the fourth or fifth). The fact that the Japanese version is called Gradius II seems to indicate that the Salamander games are somehow not part of the main Gradius sequence. This seems odd, as Vulcan Venture includes elements from both Salamander and Lifeforce. It's a bit like George Lucas changing the title of 'Return of the Jedi' to 'Star Wars 2'.
Vulcan Venture is my favourite shoot-em-up in the whole world, ever. Konami's designers were on top form, each level being challenging but not impossible. Also, the selectable power-up schemes added greatly to its replayability. It seems strange that just a year later they were to make such a mess with Gradius III.
The subtitle of Gradius II apparently translates as 'Gofer's ambition'. Who or what Gofer was and what his ambition might have been is never made clear.


The controls are the same as Nemesis. A joystick moves your ship, the first fire button shoots your guns whilst the the second button releases your missiles. The third button is used to choose your power-ups.


Vulcan Venture Weapons

Vulcan Venture retains the power meter from Nemesis, but now you can choose between four different varieties with differing Missile, Double and Laser weaponry. There are also two types of shield to choose between. Speedup and Multiple are the same as in Nemesis.

Option 1: Nemesis

Missile Falls to the ground, then slides along it until it hits something.
Double Fires a bullet at 45 degrees up as well as forward.
Laser Replaces your bullets with a blue beam.

Option 2: Mega-Destruction

    Spread Bomb Large explosion of death.
Tail Gun Fires backwards as well as forwards.
Laser The infamous Toothpaste Laser.

Option 3: The Third Way

Photon Torpedo Similar to standard missile, but goes straight through enemies.
Double Fires a bullet at 45 degrees up as well as forward.
Pulse Salamander's ripple laser.

Option 4: Salamander

2-Way Bombs fall up and down.
Tail Gun Fires backwards as well as forwards.
Pulse Salamander's ripple laser, in a nice shade of red.

So, which option is best? I don't think we ever came to a definitive answer, although the fourth option was often preferred due to the 2-way missiles. I always liked using option 3, just because I liked the photon torpedoes. The first option was probably the one we used least, although I'm sure it had its fans. Konami should probably be congratulated on balancing the weapons so well.

The two shields available are Shield (identical to the one from Nemesis) and Force Field. Force Field gives you all-over protection, but only lasts for three hits. You should always choose Force Field.


Vulcan Venture and Gradius II differ only slightly. The main difference is the lack of a 'continue' feature in Gradius II. Also, Multiple is referred to as 'Option' and Pulse as 'Ripple'. MAME also supports two other ROM sets of Gradius II, but it is unclear exactly how they differ.


MAME and Sparcade emulate both games. As usual, the one that is best for you depends on your circumstances - Sparcade for speed, MAME for compatability.

Level Guide

See Also:
Nemesis / Gradius
Salamander / Lifeforce
Vulcan Venture / Gradius II
Gradius III
Salamander 2
Gradius IV