This sort-of special version of Gradius is one of the rarest and most sought-after games in Fami-land. It goes in the $150 range among collectors and in Akihabara... and about 50 yen at the flea market where this one was found. (This can be filed under "Why I Like Collecting".)

Gradius was of course sold normally in Japan and was a fairly big hit, but this version of the cart was distributed only as a contest prize, via a food supplier called Ohzuka Shokuhin. The contest tied up with a brand of instant ramen they were selling at the time called "ArchiMENdes" (if you follow the pun).

Externally the only difference between the two versions is the triangluar sticker inviting you to "Power Up with ArchiMENdes!" And that's exactly what you do: the power-up graphic has been replaced with a little animated picture of an instant ramen container. How exactly the Vic Viper gets new weapons and speed by eating ramen is a mystery, but besides that and a slightly different ending message, those are the only differences.

Despite this (or because of this?) the ArchiMENdes version is definitely a rare find, even in Japan. It's rumored that not even Konami has a copy of this anymore, and if you ever go to Japan I wish you luck searching through all the regular Gradius carts at the flea markets.. (tee hee)

Thx: George Palamero, Mania-X