Review by EvilAkito

Reviewed: 09/19/04

By far, the best game in the series.

When you take a legendary developer like Treasure (creators of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga) and put them in charge of the next installment in a popular shmup franchise like Gradius, you know you're in for explosive results. In fact, the results are so explosive that you rarely go five seconds of gameplay without seeing a big explosion. But beyond the big explosions, the flashing lasers, and the incredible 3-D graphics, there lies carefully tweaked level design, flawless play control, unlimited replay value, and hours of entertainment. So rare a find is a game that can offer such a perfect blend of eye candy and intense gameplay. Gradius V, however, manages to do just that.

Immediately when the game starts up, you are thrown right into the action. Tons of ships in the background come up from behind, make a loop into the foreground, and then begin their assault. Unfortunately for them, Vic Viper has the fire power to annihilate them in an instant. That won't be enough for long, however. As you kill enemies, or chains of enemies, you will sometimes be rewarded with a power-up. When your first power-up is collected, the first option on your power bar will be selected. The bar includes six different options: speed up, missile, double, laser, multiple, and "?". If you want to increase your speed, you will press the power-up button when "speed up" is selected. If you want to add missiles to your ship, you will need to collect a second power-up and press the button when the "missile" option is selected, and so on. Powering up your ship is almost mandatory. There will be times when enemies approach you from both sides while turrets on the ceiling shoot swarms of bullets as a big ship on one end of the screen charges up a large laser blast, giving you very little space to move. Without weapons that can shoot down several enemy ships at once, you'll soon find yourself in a corner with no other option but to let the enemies kill you.

Because Gradius is quite possibly one of the most unforgiving shooters around, a few changes were made to ensure that the game is actually fair this time. The most frustrating aspect of the previous Gradius games was losing all of your power-ups and having to redo part of the level. This time around, the problem was solved by allowing you to recollect your multiples after you re-spawn. Now you can re-spawn right where you die, though purists are able to turn this feature off in the options menu. Don't get the wrong idea though. This game is not at all easy. As mentioned earlier, this installment was developed by the same people who brought us Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga, and it certainly shows. The level design is absolutely insane. With tons of spinning rooms, falling objects, tight pathways, and enemy fire from all directions, each level will take a lot of practice and memorization. Luckily, the collision detection is a lot more forgiving. Instead of dying from slightly grazing the edge of a bullet, you now only die it the center of your ship is it; the game would be impossible otherwise.

To make the game even more enjoyable, Gradius V now has a mode of gameplay that no good shooter should be without: two player simultaneous. While, in many shmups, having a second player can only add to the confusion, it actually pays off in Gradius V. A new control feature is present that allows you to have control over the multiples that fly around your ship. With the use of the R1 button, you can make use to that particular multiple's special feature. For example, one type of multiple allows you to lock them in place when R1 is being pushed, while another one allows you to freeze your ship in place and use the d-pad to adjust the direction it shoots in. Some choices are better in some situations. Since you can only choose one type, however, it helps to have a friend playing with you so you can have two types of multiples for the various obstacles you'll encounter. This emphasis on teamwork makes Gradius V one of the greatest two player experiences ever seen in a shmup.

Gradius V is a shmup that all fans of the genre should pick up. It's fast paced, intense, fun, and very challenging. Mastering the game will be a long and difficult task that will keep you busy for quite some time, and for only $30, it's an excellent deal. So quit sitting around on your computer and go buy Gradius V, now!

Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

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