If Ikaruga has given you a new love for shooters, you should probably get this game. If not, well, get it anyway.
Gradius Galaxies is developed by Mobile 21 - which certainly fooled me, as it looks, sounds, feels, and tastes like it came right from Konami. It's pure, 100% Gradius.
The player must pilot the Vic Viper through anything and everything as each level transitions into the next. There may, in fact, be some sort of story, but what's really important is that you blow up the giant brain at the end, am I right?
Gradius Galaxies uses the good ol' Gradius power-up system. Pick up a power-up, and you can activate 'Speed-Up' for the ship or save it up for Options, Laser, Shields, etc. A unique feature of Gradius Galaxies is that Double, Laser, and Missile can be powered up twice each - allowing more shots at a time or more power. Twice-powered lasers with all options can burn through a boss in seconds!
Like most Gradius games, there are multiple sets of weaponry that are chosen at the beginning of the game (each will also cutely color-code the ship). Unfortunately, there isn't a total customization available, but then again, maybe that would make things a little easy...
The bosses are large and in-charge - full screen and all that - and sometimes even rotating around, filling the screen with shots and ending your game with extreme prejudice. If they're too tough, there's a HINT mode, demonstrating how to beat them or deal with any other particularly hairy parts of the game.
The game is strictly one-player. There's not even an alternating two-player mode. But honestly, who plays alternating, anyway? It saves high scores, though, if you feel the need to compete.
The graphics are sharp and clear. Even though many of the enemies in the game are very small on screen, they are always well-contrasted against the background. The same goes for the player's ship, and since the ships are small, the play area feels very large and open in comparison. Some of the most interesting obstacles in the game turn and rotate over the whole screen; it looks really cool and intimidating. The design of each level is very detailed; it looks like quite a bit of effort went into the art.
The sound, however, is pretty average. The songs aren't particularly memorable and sound dated. Allegedly, there's a way to listen to a song from the original Gradius, but I couldn't figure it out. At least the voice samples are good - "DESTROY THE CORE!"
The actual gameplay is fun, challenging, and quite addictive. There are three difficulty levels, and progress is saved for each one. When a level (or one of the many sub-parts of a level) is finished, a game can be started from there at any time. When the last level is finished, "Loop 2" of a difficulty begins, and things get much tougher. Then, there's Loop 3 beyond that... even on Easy difficulty, it's a huge challenge.
The control feels sharp and precise. The buttons are configurable, too - you can decide for yourself if you want to fire and use missiles with the same button or not. Dig it.
Gradius Galaxies is awesome. It could even be considered the GBA's Ikaruga. It's definitely worth buying, so check it out.