Pros: Designed with followers of the Gradius series in mind
Cons: Doesn't improve on a 10 year old formula
With the recent wave of space shooters, retro gaming freaks are
getting their fill. The Gradius series, which originated on the days of
the NES has gone through only at most minor changes from the original
formula. Konami's flagship space shooting series is known for tight
maneuvering, gun pod options, big bosses, and a weapons array. All of
these appear in the latest Gradius game, Gradius V.
The weapon array
system is one of the things that made the Gradius series shine. When
enemies are shot down they occasionally drop a little power up.
Collecting power ups moves you along the weapons array meter at the
bottom of the screen. One power up allows you to use the first item,
which is increased speed. Two power ups gives your ship missiles, if you
choose to use them. You can stock up to six power ups to use the "?"
mark power up, which gives you a force field. Konami allows you to
select from four different weapon arrays, but they're not too much
different from each other. Three of the power ups (speed up, laser and
"?") are the same for all four combinations. The main difference with
each array is how your options work.
Options are the other hallmark of the Gradius series. These glowing
orange orbs follow your ship and fire shots when your ship shoots. There
are four different option configurations. The first is the standard
options that follow you around. The second array gives you the ability
to change the direction your options are shooting by holding R1 and
rotating the analog stick. The third option puts your options in a
straight line, that looks like an air force configuration. The last
option is to have the gun pods rotate when you hold the R1 button down.
For some reason the whole weapons array system in Gradius V just
isn't what it used to be in Gradius III. Did Konami have to dumb the
options down for some reason? Instead of getting an improvement Gradius
V has gotten the exact opposite on a 64 bit system.
The Gradius series still requires the same tight maneuvering that it
always demands players to have. Instead of pelting players with a screen
of little glowing bullets Gradius requires you know how to fly your ship
through narrow areas. Not just fly through narrow areas, but dodge and
attack other ships in narrow areas. When you get to this point in the
game you will realize how essential the speed up power up is. Without
it, you'll go through unnecessary deaths because you just can't move
your ship as fast as you want to. Big bosses are also around in Gradius
V. You have ships that can take up to half a screen. Most of the ships
also shoot a laser that remains on screen. This forces players to
navigate the Vic Viper to avoid the laser and any other incoming shots.
Because of this the boss battles can be challenging, more challenging
than an entire stage.
Konami did add in a Stage Select mode that gives players a chance to
replay areas of the game for practice. This is a good addition so
players can actually master a certain area or stage without having to
replay the entire game just to get there. If the practice mode doesn't
help you can alter the difficult level and drop it to easy or very easy.
On the other hand you can up the difficulty to hard or very hard.
Gradius V has a good set of visuals for a Playstation 2 game. Instead
of using 2D sprites, Gradius V is in full 3D. You can notice this when
the camera rotates during cut scenes. The Vic Viper certainly looks
better than the recent Espgaluda, even if Espgaluda is more artistic.
The other enemy ships, mainly the bosses, are as well designed as the
Vic Viper. The background for the game have their moments. Konami has
added rotating backgrounds and some other moving elements, which look
nice. The sound and music in Gradius V fit the job. You get sounds of
cutting lasers and lots of explosions. The music in the game is standard
sci fi techno, it's nothing special.
Gradius V doesn't try to do anything to appeal to the general class
of gamers out there. What it is, is a solid shooting game designed for
Gradius players. Even though its more visually polished than some of the
other shooters out there, the lack of innovation and the small number of
seven stages makes Gradius V a must for fans of the series only.
The majority of the menus and text are in English. When there are
cut scenes there is English dialogue that is accompanied by Japanese
Konami has announced Gradius V for a Fall release in North America.
The problem with Gradius V isn't that it's not a good shooter, it's
that its designed only to appeal to people who like that sort of thing.