Gradius V PS2 Review

The history of classic shooters began with Gradius. Konami’s Gradius may not technically be the first but their 1981 title Scramble is included in Gradius’ line of heritage. 2d shooters have been a dying breed over the past few years but Gradius V is one that should not be overlooked. In fact, I believe Gradius V is the best one in the past few years that may spark some other developers to put some time into a genre that seems to be almost extinct now.

Gradius has a rich history that does in fact have a fan base that is devoted to buy each Gradius game that is released. Gradius began in 1985 when it was released on the NES. Gradius 2 never saw daylight in North America but Japan was able to get their hands on it when it was released over there in 1988. There was a spin-off game titled Salamander which was also known as Life Force. This would be the last one on the NES and next up for the Gradius series was Gradius 3. Gradius 3 at first was in the arcades and people loved it due to its difficulty but mainly it was for the hardcore gamers. Then Konami finally gave Gradius 3 a release on the SNES in 1990 which was easier than it’s arcade brethren. It took another five years for another Gradius based game when Salamander 2 was delivered to the Japanese arcades in 1995. The last Gradius game before Gradius V of course was Gradius IV and it was more of a disappointment then anything. In 1998 Gradius IV was looked upon more as a backwards step from Gradius 3. So since 1985, Gradius has been battling its way over the years to still be innovative and have the same fun factor included. Would Gradius V be a stellar entry in the phenomenal series that has over 20 years of robust history?

Gameplay

For those fans of the series, you’ll be happy to hear that Gradius V plays like any of the other games that were previously released. The classic side-scrolling is back and it is better than ever. Items are still available to collect to boost up your power meters. These include favourites like Speeding up, Missiles for your attacks, Double Guns, Lasers and much more, so if you know your power-ups, you’ll be happy that everything is back and better than ever.

What Gradius V does do better then other installments is that it includes two player co-op. This is the first time it has been available for US players so this should get you excited if you were jealous of your friends that may have imported the Japanese game, Gradius Gaiden, to play the available 2 player co-op on their PS1. Gradius V also takes cues from the Salamander series and allows players to restart from where they died rather then taking over from their last check point.

Gradius V also allows full control of Multiples (another power up). Before they only followed Vic Viper (the ship you control) and aided with attacks. Now they can be controlled with four separate formations. Spacing Multiples spread out to cover a larger area, Rotation Options aid the Vic Viper to provide another level of protection as they circle the ship. Direction Multiples change the firing direction when you simply press the R1 button and lastly the Freeze Multiples lock in a rock solid formation around the Vic Viper in assisting it’s defense.

For those that love difficulty, it’s all here and as hard as ever. Even on very easy mode, the difficulty is insane. You’ll want to play over and over again to prove to yourself that it’s not that hard on very easy and the reason you died was a mistake. Well you are wrong as the game is hard and will make you frustrated if you haven’t had experience with shooters like these.

Graphics

Gradius V is the first ever release of Gradius in a full 3D world. The objects that you can smash into and glide around are fantastic. Gradius has never looked this beautiful and if there has to be one Gradius game to pick up, Gradius V is one that stands out above the rest with graphics. The 3D backgrounds whirl in the background and they all are done attractively. The sprites (objects on the screen) are amazing as they fly around and cause havoc so that you have to pay attention to stay alive. Colliding with objects provides some colourful and interesting effects that make it all the better. The running of the game is smooth for the most part but there will be slow-downs a few times but nothing too dramatic to change your opinion on the game.

For those who are disappointed with graphics, just remember, Gradius used to be a pure 2d shooter that never featured these 3D objects. Gradius V smartly improved on what they could with outstanding 3D sprites that will give you thrills to blow up. The only thing that may make you a little worried is when you mix up what’s 3D and what’s actually in the background.

Sound

With the giant steps they took with the graphics, Gradius takes a few steps back with the sound. The music is played with the original theme but it’s played too softly and barely heard. Voices are used more than ever but that doesn’t mean they are great. Sure, there is more voice acting but tit isn’t that impressive. Classic lines are heard playing over the game when you pick up power ups to allow you to know which ones you just picked up. There really isn’t much available in the sound category that is head and shoulders above the rest.

Lifespan

The game is short as it only has eight stages available. The final boss is relatively simple and easy to beat compared to the rest of the game, which is a let down from the final bosses present in the past games. If you want any online action there sadly isn’t any but Konami does allow a High Score type contest. Playing in Score Attack mode will give you a password that you can register into the Gradius V website.

What will keep you playing over and over again is the difficulty that will deliver a lot of moments of defeat that will make you angry. At least ten hours will be put into playing and trying to master the game. When you finally learn all the tricks and secrets on how to perfect your piloting, it will only take you a few hours to beat the whole game straight through, but you may still want those extra levels and easier difficulty.

Overall

Konami delivered an amusing shooter that may inspire players to find other games similar to it. The cold hard truth is that not many games are developed around the side-scrolling type shooters anymore. Gradius V doesn’t disappoint and I am glad Konami got the right blueprints down on a solid shooter such as Gradius V. It’s my favorite shooter that brings back a genre that seemed to be extinct but now has other solid additions to the genre such as R-Type Final and Ikaruga.

8 out of 10
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