Gradius 2 s a side-scrolling shoot-em-up. The gameplay is for the most part similar to that of Gradius. The player-controlled ship can alternate between three main weapons: Missile, Double, and Laser. Extra weapons such as various types of lasers, napalm missiles, reflex ring, and back beam can be collected as power-ups and equipped. In addition, special power-ups can be acquired, their effects ranging from slowing down enemies to turning the Metalion into an invincible drill-like machine for a brief amount of time. Boss battles are followed by optional mini-stages, which grant the player new weapons if completed successfully.