There’s one Gradius tune that really sticks with me outside of the other tracks in the fantastic series. This one is “Farewell”, the ending theme from Gradius II (arcade, 1988). It gives this sense of leaving friends behind as well as the vast reaches of space that separate people and the tiny stars suspended within. It’s a very powerful, emotional track. The original version is…well, Kukeiha Club (maybe Motoaki Furukawa?).
In this version, the giant space station/all-night penguin dance-athon has just exploded, and the camera is floating past the debris (which contains some bizarre trash such as a bra). As a result, this version has a slightly sillier, lounge feel to it. Which is pretty good for winding down the new year.
I haven’t exactly found my favorite version of this song yet. Oddly enough, the MSX version of Gradius II (1987) has a different ending theme. I’ve yet to find my favorite ‘definitive’ version of this song as it has so much emotion packed into it. The Arcade and Famicom versions are both very good, but a little short. The Suite Gradius Fantasia (1988) version is a nice orchestrated version by the Gradius Symphonic Orchestra, but it lacks the sense of space that the original versions had, mainly because there’s little filling in the middle.
This track is actually off the PlayStation Gokujo Parodius Deluxe Pack, which is actually a comedic parody of the Gradius series (and in some cases better than the originals!). Gokujo is the best in the series and well worth tracking down. They actually released a soundtrack that doubles as a drama album. Note that the SNES version had a different composer.