Review by TDRS

"A classic series reborn"

Gradius is a legendary name in videogames and with good reason. For over 20 years Konami's seminal series has provided countless hours of frantic action, and fantastic gameplay to whole generations of games players. Gradius V then, has a lot to live up to, and thankfully it doesn't disappoint. Development duties have been handed over to Treasure, the famed independent developer of such titles as Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. Having created some of the most well loved games over the years, including the two aforementioned shooters, it would be natural to expect that this latest title should be more than a bit special. Amazingly, the end product manages to exceed almost all expectations.

The first impressions of Gradius V are excellent - the game is presented beautifully, and the vibrant high-resolution graphics really bring the series up to date. Treasure has made excellent use of the PlayStation 2's graphical capabilities with beautifully rendered polygon graphics perfectly capturing the spirit and atmosphere of the previous sprite-based titles in the series. Vivid explosions and many other colourful effects help to give a fantastic sense of style – this is one eye-catching game. The audio is of a similarly high standard. Effects are exactly what you would expect with the usual array of explosions and laser fire present and correct. The music is excellent, with newer themes complementing the updated classic tunes perfectly.

Gameplay is exactly as it should be. Treasure hasn't broken the mould with Gradius V – it plays similarly to previous entries in the series albeit with a few tweaks here and there. This is classic stuff - pilot your craft around the screen on a 2D plane as the background scrolls past, using your power-ups to help you blast anything that moves. When vanquished, certain enemies leave items which can be collected through contact with your ship. In true Gradius fashion these can be exchanged for the power-ups indicated in the boxes at the bottom of the screen - exactly which one you get depends on the number of items collected before “cashing in”. All of the classic power-ups are present and correct, including lasers, shields and the “options” (small items which can be positioned around your craft, giving additional firepower). Before starting, the player is presented with a number of choices as to which power-ups will be available during that game - this enables a degree of player customisation and provides a wider variety of possible gameplay strategies. Naturally with a game of this type, attaining a high score is of the utmost importance, and the game provides a useful practice mode. Here, completed sections of the main campaign can be replayed at will so that scoring techniques can be perfected ready for when you tackle the main game again. Treasure have catered for gamers of all skill levels and the options screen has a number of variables to make the game easier or more challenging depending on what's required.

Gradius V feels, in some ways, like a “best of” package for the series – it includes classic bosses and level sections from its direct predecessors (as well as from other games such as series offshoot “Salamander”). However, the game contains enough new features and other content, and the classic inclusions have been updated in such a way as to make sure that the game still feels fresh and new. Treasure has got everything right with Gradius V – it is a fantastic addition to a classic series, as well as to the developer's catalogue of games - an instant classic.

Overall: 9/10

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 01/18/07

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