Review by hyoomancrush00r
"One very important man's very important opinion."
There really haven't been any good shooters produced in a long, long time for the console. R-Type Final was plagued with thoughtless level design, completely the standard of the series. Ikaruga was nice, but you can only do so much with it. Mobile Light Force 2 did a decent port of a quirky game (which I dislike for various reasons), but it just didn't feel "solid". Like almost every one released for the current-gen systems, Gradius V (US) was a budget release. My hopes were high when the name Treasure popped into the fold, but then, what could they do with tried-and-true Gradius, a series that had been stagnant since Gaiden?
Review Style Explained:
Shoot'em Ups have a unique place in the world of gaming. While we all hope to have a game of any genre that is stunningly perfect beyond all previous definitions, SHMups have never really seemed to care about any kind of real plotline. And you know what? SHMuppers usually don't care that much, from what I've seen. They're here to play for hi-scores or ten minutes of stress relief. As testament, when I play a game that pops up a cutscene - no matter how vaunted or wonderful the game is - I'm usually rapid-tapping the start button, or any combination of them, to get through it faster. So obviously, SHMups need their own grading curve based on the other SHMups out there. Comparisons will be made throughout.
Story: 5/10 (1 = Space Invaders/ARCADE, 10 = Silpheed - The Lost Planet/PS2)
If it's Gradius, you'll know Vic Viper is somehow battling the Bacterion menace. This time some tiny Bacterion cells have been floating around since the last war and they've had time to grow in the dark recesses of space. Now they're back for revenge. Etc. Normally I would rate this a "2" because the original plotline was fairly original for its time. There are little in-game cutscenes here and there, though, that boost this score. There is one right after the initial wave of enemies in level 2 that made me giddy for some reason or another - made me think "Well, I didn't really see that one coming." It's still been done a billion times, but you know what? I don't care.
Graphics: 9/10 (1 = Space Shot/PS1, 10 = Ikaruga/DC)
I don't want to give this a 10 because I think they could've done more to it. Ikaruga gets props because it looks incredible, even now. My first impression was "Jeezus, this looks better than Ikaruga!" and it does, on a basic level. For the most part everything is crisp, lasers look bright and powerful. Smaller enemy shots, though, get lost here and there, and while it's not that big of a deal, it's kind of irritating sometimes. You just have to pay attention. Another minor gripe is no real reflection effects. If I would've seen my lasers reflect off the inside of the core, it would've been an instant 10. I'm sure technology these days can pull it off - why wasn't it done? Still, close to a 9.5. Beautiful!
Control: 10/10 (1 = Sol Divide/PS1, 10 = Dodonpachi/SATURN)
Tight and refined. You'll have no problem steering through narrow corridors while evading bullets, and Vic Viper is pretty small anyway. I'm pretty sure his hitbox is bigger than some people would lead you to believe because I've gotten clipped on the nose with a bullet and gone down. Still, you won't ever feel cheated unless you're a whiner who shouldn't play these games. This is how Gradius has always been and always should be!
Power Up System: 10/10 (1 = Steel Empire/GEN, 10 = Mars Matrix/DC)
As solid as ever, you select your favorite power-up style at the beginning of the game. As you make your way through a level you'll collect power-up gems. Each gem will move a highlighting cursor to the right on a table of power-ups. Pressing a button while a particular power-up is selected will give you that power-up and start you back at the far left of the table. While it's simple enough to start, a little strategy has always been hidden inside. How many speed-ups should you get? Options/Multiples first, or Lasers? Or a shield? It's all up to you and what you feel you need to get the job done. Eventually you'll run out of stuff to upgrade to and just keep the last box highlighted in case a shield runs out, but such is the nature of most SHMups.
And just in case you wondered why they give you so long to pick from your four initial fighters, if you beat the game once you are afforded a Custom option. You get a ton of new Laser options at the least, so it definately ups replayability!
Music: 10/10 (1 = Tiger Heli/NES, 9 = Ikaruga/DC)
A perfect 10 is not so easily rewarded in the world of SHMups. The genre has almost always had an adrenaline-pumping soundtrack to fuel your button-mashing fingers. Some games have an awesome soundtrack (like Thunderforce V) that you can literally put in a CD player and listen to as you go. Some (Ikaruga) are atmospheric and explosive. I would say Gradius V ups the ante with a mix of both, and a little of something new - the "Legendary" soundtrack. What this means, of course, is that you really feel like you're piloting the one-of-a-kind superduper anti-apocalyptic space craft all the manuals try to convince us we are. This one does that.
Overall: 9/10 (1 = Whip Rush/GEN, 9 = most shooters you'll hear about)
Minor gripes here and there. I would've paid 50 for it and still felt satisfied, this one is a definite BUY! You can feel the Treasure element, but you know it's Gradius. It looks incredible, it sounds amazing, and there's playability that can't be beat. Get it now!
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 09/20/04
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