As one of the earliest shmups to hit the Super Nintendo along with Super R-Type, it was hard not to love Konami's Gradius III. It remains an absolute luxury to have such a great exclusive home port, but reviewers at the time were unanimous in pointing out a single flaw which was somewhat common among earlier SNES releases.
The issue in question was an intense slowdown when the action got a little too hot to handle on screen due to both programmer inexperience with the system and the console's own limited clock speed. Not the best of qualities to showcase when you were fighting for playground video game supremacy against your shmup-crazed Megadrive owning mates.
Fast forward to 2019 and that issue is on its way to being fixed in a very clever way indeed. Vitor Valela is working on a hack to add SA1 chip support to the game, routing all the calculations that used to go to the SNES's CPU and PPU to the SA1 instead. Despite still needing to tackle several issues regarding stability and keeping a correct overall clock speed when the game is running, the initial work on this is already quite promising.
The SA1 (or Super Accelerator 1) graced such games as Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, Kirby's Dreamland 3 and even Konami's very own Japanese exclusive Parodius 3: Jikkyou Oshaberi Parodius. It had several different uses within each game, but the fact that it had a clock speed of 10.74 MHz compared to the SNES's internal 3.58 MHz certainly helps to explain the technical wizardry Vilela is getting out of Gradius III.
Adding custom chips inside cartridges did allow Nintendo to pull off some amazing feats well beyond the Super Nintendo's vanilla hardware capabilities, but it also raised cartridge production costs - challenges from a not so distant technological past which may seem trivial nowadays when we carry around super micro-computers in our pockets. We tip our hat to Vilela for such an out-of-the-box approach to tackling this one.
Do you still own Gradius III? More importantly, have you ever finished it without cheat codes? What other SNES games would you like to see accelerated in the future? Overclock your answers in the comment section.