We’re back for another Sundry Sunday! Congratulations for making it another week into our technological hellscape! Your reward is another catchy tune and some information from the old days of arcades.
Gradius is a long-lived and storied series of shooters, full of interesting details and traditions, but my favorite part of it all is something not a lot of English-speaking fans may be familiar with.
The first arcade releases of Konami’s Twinbee and Gradius were produced using “bubble memory,” a type of storage that had to warm up, literally, to be read reliably.
It would work effectively if it had been running for at least a couple of minutes. So, to prevent anyone from playing the game too soon after the machine had been turned on in the morning, it would display a countdown on the screen. It would also emit a digitized voice, saying “Getting ready!” and then after a few seconds, it would play the MORNING MUSIC, while the computer warmed up, as in the video embedded above. I kind of think of it as the national anthem of arcadeland.
One of the quirks of Gradius‘s bubble storage is that it was read sequentially, from a starting point. Its stage layouts were stored in this memory. Dealing with this hardware quirk required the game, when the player lost a life, to return back to the last starting point they had passed. This was the source of one of the Gradius series’s major characteristics, having to return to a previous part of the level, which could then be read into memory going forward once again.
I forget where I heard this factoid, but I think I saw it in the supplemental material in the Gradius Arcade Collection, out on Steam and Switch, and no doubt other platforms. Hey, it’s Sunday, I’m not supposed to be stressing out about these details!