- Think of the second stage as a vertical presentation of the first stage of Gradius. Rather than dealing with terrain above and below you, it will be to the left and right of you. Enemy releasing domes and walking cannons will dot the landscape on either side, including the occasional rock spewing volcano. You are given the opportunity to shoot down 11 squads of Beruberumus. You can collect ten power up capsules; the second to last squad on the left will provide a blue Crash capsule that destroys every enemy on the screen. With the number of bullets that get fired in this stage, it would be a wise idea to invest in a Force Field if you don't have one already.
- Once you get beyond the dirt, you will pass through a small open section before a hail storm of gray rocks fills the screen. A few other enemies will fly around and attack, but you should generally focus on the rocks. Stay near the bottom of the screen, and fire constantly. While the NES is often criticized for the slowdown that one experiences when a large number of objects flood the screen, this can actually work to your advantage in this section. Slowing the screen down will provide you with more time to adjust your position and navigate a safe path through the falling rocks.
- After the last boulder flies by, you will be presented with the choice to go down three different paths. Each path will contain a series of stationary and mobile cannons, some of which offer power-up capsules when destroyed. During the first part, the middle path is the widest and safest to navigate. After you shoot a path through some dirt, the right path is the widest.
- The last obstacle you must face before you reach the first boss, is a screen-wide patche of dirt that you must blast your way through. Just before the patch, a formation of ships will fly up to meet you and then dive down to the bottom of the screen. As you blast through the dirt, you may reveal some hidden power ups. Don't get distracted by them, or over prioritize collecting them, or you might crash into the dirt. A few more cannon's and flyign craft await you on the other side as you reach the fortress.
Boss 1: Valis Fortress a.k.a. Center Core
Just as in the arcade game, when you reach the end of the Volcano stage, you arrive at a fortress containing three blue cores. However, this extremely difficult to defeat boss from the arcade is drastically easier to fight on the NES. Due primarily to technical limitations, this fortress won't have the opportunity to flood the screen with quite so many blue orbs. They are still a threat and must be avoided at all costs, but you'll have an easier time doing so, as they won't literally fill the available space. Do your best to destroy the three barriers in front of the cores before the cores actually appear. This way, when they do appear, you will be ready to attack them immediately. Monitor the position of the orbs carefully, and position yourself in front of a core whenever it is safe to do so. The fortress will be defeated when you destroy all three cores.
Boss 2: Tetran
If your familiar with the arcade, you may be surprised when the stage continues to scroll along after the three fortress cores are destroyed. You must pick one of the core alleys as the screen scrolls, and blast your way through pink dirt (shown left) until you are clear. Then the Tetran, the boss from the second stage of the arcade, will also appear. The Tetran shares a feature in common with the Fortress cores you just fought; it possesses a power core protected by three shields. You must remove the shields and blast the core to destroy it. Aside from this similarity, the Tetran is very different. Nearly round, it has four tentacles made of spheres that rotate around the ship while the ship itself moves in clockwise circles. One touch from its tentacles will kill you. While the Tetran moves rather close to the edges and corners of the screen, it is possible to safely remain in one of the lower corners of the screen early on, and then fly back underneath it when it begins to rise on the screen. Blast it from underneath for as long as you can, and then retreat to the safety of one of the corners again. However, the Tetran slowly progresses down the screen, so if you wait too long, the lower corners will no longer be safe, and you'll have to fly around to the top of the screen to avoid harm.
2nd loop changes: The orbs that compose the tentacles will periodically reverse direction and spin the opposite way around.