The masochistic Vic Viper takes on the sadistically powerful Bacterian Empire in the ultimate Gradius game.
I believe the development team had one thing in mind when they designed Gradius V: to create the most intense, relentless, impressive, sadistic, incredible, ruthless, and hardcore shooter ever. And did they ever succeed.
Gradius V finally starts to evolve the tried and true Gradius gameplay. The precision flying and strategic use of power-ups remain, but new to the series is the choice of option abilities, which is actually something not entirely new since these option placements appeared in Konamiís own Thunder Cross 2 in 1994. The four option placements add a new strategy element to the game. Pressing the R1 button makes the options do various things like freeze, rotate, and reposition. Option type 1 is the classic trail-the-ship, except this time you can freeze the options in place. Type 2 lets you rotate the angle the options fire at, allowing you shoot in any direction. Type 3 puts two options above the Vic Viper and two below and lets you space them to fit the battle situation. Type 4 is the prettiest placement. The options are placed around the ship and pressing R1 makes them rotate. This creates somewhat of a shield against enemies that get too close and a sweet looking display of blue laser power. Using the options effectively is essential for successful navigation through the evilly inspired stages, especially the ones that donít just scroll to the right.
Another new thing about the options is that they donít disappear when you die in a blaze of glory. They stay put, giving you a chance to pick them up again without having to do all the pesky power-up work. This also helps make the game easier, but only very little. There's something else new too; Two player simultaneous playability. It's about damn time, I say.
Like all of its predecessors, Gradius V is extremely difficult, although this time there is adjustable difficulty. Every time you reach a new boss, or enter further into the next stage youíll be confronted with seemingly impossible task. These tasks range from precise piloting through enemy choked hallways, squeezing inside a massive wall of regenerating tissue, weaving through tightly packed asteroids, and praying your lasers are capable of keeping the green goo away for a split second longer. I was in constant awe and disbelief at what I was supposed to try to survive, and for some parts of the game, I still am. I still have no idea how to survive a section of stage five without dying a few times.
The bosses are some of the most impressive bosses youíll ever see in any shooter. The fist stage boss alone is enough to make you forget about any other shooter boss. Sometimes, what you think is the stage boss actually isnít. There are a few ship parades as well. These battles pit the Vic Viper up against one big ship after another. Gradius V pays tribute to many of the games in the Gradius universe as many of these ships are taken from previous games. Remember the original ship boss from the first Gradius? Thatís a normal enemy here.
Besides having the best looking visuals of any shooter, Gradius V also features some of the best music ever heard in a shooter. From the familiar yet newly reworked classic tunes to the epic score of stage two and the hard trace of stage seven, the music never gets old. Accompanying the score are all the lasers, explosions, and huge boss deaths, makes me wish the game featured a 5.1 surround mix.
There is no way anyone will beat this on their first try. For the hours sacrificed to play a little longer youíll earn more continues. Eventually youíll be able to actually beat the game and hopefully itís before you reach the unlimited continues mark. To make the game a tad bit easier, thereís an option to start off right where you die, without having to start back as per the usual Gradius method. This makes the game a bit easier, but the hardcore Gradius vets will probably switch that option off. Also, for all those Vic Viper pilots that are really masochistic, thereís the second quest play through, which increases the speed and shot output of the Bacterians immensely.
Since everything else about this game was sweet crackers awesome, I was hoping for an actual story element this time, but there isnít one. The only parts of the game that resembles a slice of plot are two very short conversations in two of the stages. Although the events igniting those conversations are very cool, itís pretty much just the game.
******SPOILER ALERT****** (highlight to read)
As for the conversations, its not too hard to figure out from the first one what will be happening when you reach the final stage. It's still really cool, but I wish I knew why and how the Vic Viper is able to open a time portal any time it wants to. I suppose if you think about it it makes sense that this is the only course of action that the Vic Viper can take since IT CAN'T TURN AROUND!
Beating the game unlocks Weapon Edit mode, giving you even more choices in weapons and extending the replayability of the game. Many of the weapons are from previous Gradius games, such as the spread and free shots, the ripple laser, e-laser, flame thrower, and mega burst.
After playing the ultimate shooter, R-Type Final, for so long, I was worried that Gradius V may not seem as good as it could have been, since Final has its sheer numbers of ships to pilot and the hidden levels. But, none of that matters. Gradius V is just plain awesome and destroys nearly every shooter before it. It may not have the variety of Final, but I think I actually like it a little better. Gradius V is one of the greatest shooters ever made and impresses me every time I play it.
Bonus!!! Gradius V Breakdown DVD
The only place I saw where you could get the Breakdown DVD was doing a pre-order through Gamestop.com. My local Gamestops never got the DVD bonus, only the online store did. The Breakdown DVD contains gratuitous Gradius info, so here we go.
Masterview: Watch as an uber-Gradius master whizzes through stages one thru five without encountering death and blowing the hell out of everything on screen. Besides stages six and seven no being represented, the video and sound quality of these is simply terrible. It almost looks as though they were recorded with a frequently used VHS tape on SLP mode using the best VCR $30 can buy and then burned onto a ďMasterĒ DVD. But, seeing the stage five asteroid bust-em-up boss destroyed in record time is pretty amazing.
Bonus Movies: This contains the E3 trailers from 2003 and 2004 and serves to excite you into a hyper Gradius state.
Ship Gallery: This is a slide show of every ship and creature big and small in Gradius V. Now youíll know the names of the ships constantly killing you.
Interviews: This is an interview with Game Director Yasushi Tanako and gives a little insight on the development of Gradius V. I especially liked his comment when he mentioned that his team members said to him at one point, ďThis is not like Gradius,Ē but he went along with his plans anyway. Iíd say the game is very much like Gradius and is a nice evolution of the series.
History of Gradius: Here you will find every game that exists in the Gradius universe. Each game selection shows the most recent disc that the game has appeared on and a short gameplay movie. For example, Gradius IIIís box art is the Gradius III and IV game from PS2. Some of the game selections also show the opening cinematic and CG movies. Many of the games have not aged well in the graphics department, but Iím sure the gameplay holds up just fine.
If you can find this disc itís worth your money for the history lesson alone. It would be nice to have better quality video in parts and stages six and seven in Masterview, but itís still a great little bonus disc.
Score for Breakdown DVD: 8.5
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Articles: Gradius and Yu-Gi-Oh.