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Gradius V

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Action


PS2 Preview - 'Gradius V'

by Thomas Wilde on June 2, 2004 @ 1:58 a.m. PDT

Genre : Shoot'm Up
Publisher: Konami
Developer: Konami
Release Date: Summer 2004

It’s hard to believe that Gradius is only on its fifth installment… well, the sixth, if you count the notoriously difficult, inexplicably abandoned Lifeforce.

A lot of people cut their teeth on this game, back in the NES days; it was one of the few punishingly difficult shooters, back on that platform, that was also somewhat fair. Yes, it would delight in finding new ways to kill you, but it did so in recognizable and exploitable patterns. If you died, it was because you simply weren’t fast enough, or didn’t react quickly enough. It was time to try again.

Gradius is a return to type. Once again, you’ll climb into the cockpit of the Vic Viper combat spacecraft, and once again, you’ll fly into battle against a near-endless array of alien monsters, enemy ships, gun turrets, strange bubbles, cosmic phenomenon, and whatever else happens to take offense to your existence.

Not much has changed in this installment. On the one hand, you could be like ninety percent of the people who attended E3 and decry its lack of innovation (whiners), but you could also recognize and admire a nearly-perfected formula. As with the last few games in the series, Gradius lets you pick a predetermined lineup of upgrades for your ship, which you can power up and activate on the fly by gathering the crystals dropped by destroyed enemies.

All the basics of the series are here, from the lasers to the characteristic Option side cannons, along with an assortment of new weaponry. One particularly devastating new gun is a tight-beam, curving laser, which, when combined with a few Options, can create a sort of EKG beam of death.

The real differences here are in scale and direction. Gradius is a visually spectacular game, as one might expect, and all the moreso because threats can come from any direction, at any time. A trip through a giant asteroid field will require you to dodge and weave with the best of them, while destroying an alien armada may mean you’ll be scrolling right, up, down, or left. Like R-Type Final, Gradius takes advantage of its new 2.5D engine (3D graphics, 2D gameplay) to up the ante in a variety of ways.

On the showfloor, quite a few players frequently lost to a devastating level boss, which trapped the Viper within a circular cage lined with bubble-shooting turrets, and then proceeded to rotate rapidly. Not only are you dodging attacks from literally all around you, but you can’t bring your main guns to bear on the real threat. Your missiles help to some extent, but for the most part, it’s down to maneuverability, reflexes, and skill.

Gradius is seven levels long, but those are seven levels you’ll work for. A new online system will allow you to share your high scores with the Internet, and, of course, be consistently amazed, impressed, and vaguely emasculated by the immense point totals the Japanese players have managed to rack up.

This isn’t anything new, really. It’s just a new shooter, the latest in a line of good shooters, and a return to classic form following the slight disappointment of Gradius Gaiden. Gradius will be available at some point this summer.

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