By: Uma Smith
My very first experience with 2D space shooters was actually Gradius for the NES (I’m aging myself here). Ever since, Konami has had a special place in my heart for its challenging gameplay and excellent music. It’s sad that 2D shooters have been on a decline in recent years, but I guess a re-release of Gradius V, a PS2 classic downloadable title for the PlayStation 3, will have to suffice for fans like myself. Let’s see how this one “flies” out.
If you’re familiar with the controls with the Gradius series, then you’ll be able to manage this one with no problems. In Gradius V, the very straightfoward button layout coupled with the ability to control your options (or your ship’s clones) makes this the best to control to date. The only complaint I have is the speed of your ship, which can crawl painfully slow. You do have the ability to speed up your ship, but too much speed can also screw you over.
Considering that Gradius V is the first of its series to offer a 3D world, the game looks mighty impressive even to this day. The graphical effects of the explosions are fantastic to look at while the details are pretty intricate and appealing. On top of that, the 3D backgrounds from one level to the next continue to have an attractive appearance.
As for the audio, the sound effects are a bit soft and lack some bass to them, even by PlayStation 2 standards. Still, Gradius V does have some nifty tracks. While they may not be as exciting as its predecessors, the game still manages to get players immersed into the space atmosphere.
As a side-scrolling space shooter, Gradius V remains faithful in terms of the gameplay to its predecessors. For those unfamiliar with this series, there are power-up items that you collect to boost up your power meter. For each one you collect, you shift your choices within this meter from speed, to missiles, to double guns, and so forth with the last being force field.
The enemies are plentiful and diverse while the obstacles themselves vary in size and appearance. This ends up being an epic type of gameplay where you’ll really need to think on the spot and react accordingly. At the end of each level, you face off against a boss, which can be pretty exciting. A big letdown, however, is the final boss, which is easy to defeat compared to those in the previous levels.
Gradius V consists of eight levels, which can take around 10 hours to complete at first. Once you get a hang of it and manage to hold on to your power-ups as you progress, then you can probably complete in just a few hours. As such, the game does not have a lot going on in terms of longevity.
What does give Gradius V its lasting appeal is the ability for players to engage in a two-player co-op mode. While it could make the game less difficult, it still is a treat to tackle on the space baddies with a friend.
If you are seeking a PS2 classic that successfully captures the essence of space madness coupled with nice graphics, then Gradius V is here to deliver. Even though it’s not going to “blast” you away amongst the games of today’s visual standards, it still has this degree of charm that will keep you entertained.