Gradius - the start of a legacy. The great granddaddy of the modern shoot-em-up. Combining multiple kinds of power-ups, detailed and varied graphics, and challenging gameplay with memorizable levels, Gradius basically set the conventions for shoot-em-up games that even modern members of the Bullet Hell genre follow today (albeit with many additions.)
The older brother to Salamander, Gradius has a much less organic, more mechanical and static essence to it, which works well with its gameplay and animation which feel slightly less fluid in this initial incarnation. Later games in the series would improve upon the animation and variety, and my personal favorite, Gradius III, would even let you customize your array of achievable power-ups when you start the game, but they would never have the honor of laying the foundation for literally dozens of other games that followed.
The official art for Gradius is a masterpiece that brings together the art style of older game covers such as those seen on the Atari 2600, and the elements of this game not possible on the former—attacks from half a dozen directions at once, boss enemies taking up a large portion of the screen. I made the logo at the top from scratch in Photoshop, although it’s designed to resemble the actual logo which was on the original promo flyers Konami distributed. This golden-orange-brown logo would never again be used, unfortunately; it was replaced with the more familiar (but harsh) blue and black arrangement.