Gungrave OD

More shooting, more characters, more of the same game


The Lowdown

Pros: Lots of gun shooting action, emphasis on close range fighting too, more characters, brilliant anime sequences

Cons: Too much of the same run and gun action, not much strategy involved, doesn't live up to expectations

Purchase at Play-Asia
After the success of Gungrave in Japan and its mediocre success in America the game spun an entire anime series. Ironically, the next game is based upon the anime series rather than the original game. If you played the original Gungrave chances are it felt a little fresh and a little old school at the same time. Gungrave provided mindless entertainment, a decent story, an excellent soundtrack as well as some awesome anime sequences. What really made Gungrave special was the style of the game. Blasting away while diving side to side and doing that silly, yet entertaining gun dance, made the original an experience. Gungrave OD is a lot like its predecessor, mindless action. However, it isn't as fresh as the original was and is missing the key element of style.

In Gungrave OD you can play as one of three characters Grave, Rocket Billy or Jubei Samurai. Grave is the returning hero who totes two guns and carries a coffin on his back. Rocket Billy is a guitar player that can shoot electricity out of his guitar. Jyuji Kabane is more of a melee character. Out of all the characters he is the fastest with melee attacks and has the best melee combos. With this blend of characters Gungrave attempts to add in melee combat to a shooter. Certain enemies are designed with shields or the ability to block bullets with their swords. These enemies which are resistant to bullet fire are susceptible to being hit by a sword, giant coffin or electric guitar. This mechanic creates a balance, but feels very experimental. You can't block and you can barely evade shots while trying to move in for a melee strike. So, if you close in on enemies to attack with melee attacks to quickly you'll find yourself taking a lot of hits from surrounding enemies. For the most part, guns will be more useful than running in hack and slashing. Gungrave OD also provides other new moves than the melee attacks. For instance Grave can use his coffin as a temporary shield by pressing down with the melee attack button, he can also hit rockets out of the air by attacking them with his coffin. Also instead of having instant shield recovery, you recover your shield manually. By pressing and holding R2 your character will begin to charge. If you're uninterrupted for a couple of seconds your shield will fully recharge. You can recover your shield without doing this by clearing areas, but when you're in a fix that's the way to do it.

The original Gungrave wasn't all about the moves it was about the "beat" counter. The beat counter was a sort of combo meter. Everything you shot, whether enemy or background object added to your beat counter. One of the challenges of the game was to keep a full counter, which would mean memorizing where objects where so you can shoot them and keep your counter going. The beat counter was more than just a simple score meter because the higher your combo went the more your demolition shot meter charged. When the demolition shot meter filled up you were granted one massive bullet that would eliminate enemies on the screen or give massive damage to a boss. In Gungrave OD using a demolition shot will also give the added bonus of filling up your shield meter. Gungrave OD brings more demolition shots, than the predecessor. Each character has three different shots with three different levels of attack. When you use a demolition shot the beat counter changes to the jackpot counter, which counts how many things you destroyed with one shot. Destroying lots of objects can bring up your art meter. The art meter is a measure of how cool your moves are. In the first Gungrave diving around increased your art score, but now it seems that multiple kills have more of an impact on it.

The art meter was part of the whole style element that Gungrave presented itself as. Not only were you supposed to "kick their ass", but do it with style. Hence, the art meter. Blowing up side objects, evading shots and using your demolition shot were all considered stylish. In Gungrave OD everything can be blown up. You can shoot walls, tables and almost every piece of scenery you can imagine. This not only takes away some of the challenge of the original Gungrave, but it takes away a lot of the fun. Mashing the fire button is sufficient enough to increase your beat counter without much thought. Next problem is Gungrave is an ugly looking game. Besides the anime sequences you're treated to jaggy polygons that look like they're from a Sega Saturn game and not a PS2 game. The backgrounds are equally bland, not like you'll be seeing them because you'll be blowing them up. Gungrave also suffers from "same enemy syndrome". You have your sword wielders, gun guys, giant gun guys and rocket launchers that you'll see over and over again. While the boss enemies do look cool seeing the same enemies over and over is a big yawn. The lack of quality graphics make Gungrave OD look worse than the original. At least you can say the original game is two years old.

Gungrave OD also is lacking a good camera. When you're diving between scenery or sliding between the enemies the camera just can't keep up. The camera will be facing where you should have been or pass your completely so you won't be on screen. It then takes a couple of seconds to catch up and find you. While this is happening your either getting shot or mashing fire in hope of shooting something down. The camera is even worse in tight areas and unfortunately for Gungrave OD there are too many small areas for the camera. In small areas the camera is at awkward angles and sometimes even spins around to find a suitable resting area. For a fast paced shooter the camera is like a sluggish baby snail walking across a busy street.

Gungrave OD doesn't have the same intense score as the original game. The original Gungrave had upbeat music that was classically composed. While Gungrave OD has a blend of classical strings music one would imagine in a detective story. Its more atmospheric, but seems out of place with all of the action. However, the voice acting for the game is on par. After all it is supported by an anime, so you would expect it to be good.

If you liked the original Gungrave or are a fan of the series don't let anything I say stop you from purchasing the game because fans will obviously like it. For the general gamer Gungrave OD feels stale. It doesn't improve on its own formula, has archaic graphics and a sloppy camera. All of this puts a damper on the gameplay experience, but it doesn't mean its not fun. Gungrave OD is fun, but it's fun for only a short while.

Import Friendly?

Cutscenes and voiceovers are in Japanese. Yet, the menus are in English. This means you can figure out how to play the game without understanding Japanese, but you won't get the story.

US Bound?

Sega hasn't made an announcement on the game yet, but even if Sega doesn't bring it out Red Entertainment will find someone to distribute it, eventually.

Overall

A decent shooter, even with its flaws that fans of the original and the anime series will enjoy. For everyone else you may want to try before you buy.