Gradius V PlayStation 2
Developed by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
Release Date - Out Now
Price : £24.99
It's all too easy these days to forget just how simple and enjoyable games can actually be. So often we get hung up on the look of the game or the quality of the graphics or how realistic it is. How the game plays is something we often overlook when choosing our next game. Years ago a game would have been purchased solely on how it plays but today most of us are dazzled by the graphics only to find the game play is hollow and not very satisfying. Last year Ikaruga on the GameCube proved that games don't have to look anything special, or indeed try to be realistic, but because it had quality game play it proved to be a great game. Gradius V is pretty much in the same league as Ikaruga and whilst it might not be visually stunning it's packed full of action and will keep you playing for hours.
For those who haven't played any of the prequels Gradius V is a side-scrolling action game that's absolutely simple to get the hang of but very tricky indeed to master. You'll control the Vic Viper space craft as it makes it's way through hoardes of alien attackers. Initially your weapon will just be a simple laser that will take out the smaller enemies but it's almost ineffectual against the larger enemies. Collecting power-ups though can make you much more formidable and will allow you to destroy much more power enemies. Like all the great side-scrollers it's not just about blasting everything in sight as skillful manoeuvring off the Vic Viper is essential if you're not to be destroyed. It's also a good idea to commit to memory the movement patterns of your enemy because it makes defeating them so much easier. Of course when you get to the end of a level you'll have the extra tricky challenge of defeating the boss. Yes it takes a lot of dedication and practice to be able to succeed at Gradius but fortunately the game is very addictive and it's no chore at all to keep playing.
What makes the Gradius series stand out from other side-scrollers is it's power-up system which once again has been implemented in Gradius V. Shooting the appropriately coloured space craft will release your power ups and flying over them collects them. At the bottom of the screen you'll see a bar with the six power ups (speed, missile, double, laser, multiple and ?) that are available. Each power up you attain will move the highlight along the power-up bar. When it's reached the desired power-up you simply press the circle button to activate the power-up. Accompanying your space craft are orange orb-like assistants known as Multiples. Before you start a game you have four options for how these Multiples will behave (these options will also offer different weapon configurations too) when you press the Multiple control button (R1). You can have them freeze in formation, change firing direction, have them above and below your space craft and finally you can have them rotate around your ship. This adds a good dose of strategy to the game and it's great to see this option included. It's also worth mentioning the game has a two-player simultaneous mode too where continues and Multiples are shared and it's actually pretty good.
Graphically Gradius V isn't going to win any awards but nevertheless it looks good. It's good to see that Konami have also included a 60Hz mode for an even smoother experience. In fact it has a lot of nice touches that will probably go unnoticed unless you're watching someone else playing the game (as you'll be so absorbed in the action). The backgrounds in particular look good and are well suited to the mood of the game. There's plenty of nice visual effects to enjoy and the explosions look great. The size and look of the bosses is also impressive too. It can get a bit cramped on screen at times though when playing the two-player mode but for the most part it's not a problem.
Essentially then Gradius V is a great sequel to the established series and one that fans of side-scrollers will really appreciate. The longevity of the game will depend on your skill. If you're like me then it will probably last you forever but if you have a feel for this type of game then I would imagine it's not going to last too long. However it's great that Konami have released it at such a great price and this more than compensates for the game being fairly short (some places are selling the game for as little as £19.99, which is excellent). We usually have a paragraph to tell you how deaf gamer friendly the game is but in Gradius V's case it isn't necessary as although there is a very small amount of speech (which isn't subtitled) it has no bearing on the game whatsoever. The cutscene that is in the game though is subtitled as you can see by the sixth screenshot on the right of the screen.
Game Rating: 8.5/10
Definitely a must have for those who fondly remember the quality side-scrollers of yesteryear.
No problems at all for deaf gamers.