Gungrave is a tie-in to the anime that aired from 2003 to 2004 and ran for 26 episodes. This game came out in a time when developers weren’t scared of doing something different, and Gungrave shows it. Developed by Red Entertainment, the developers showed us just what they could do with an anime IP and some bold decisions. I was very surprised when I began playing this on my PS2, but I wasn’t disappointed. During the PS2 console generation, I leaned toward playing my Xbox more than PS2. I somewhat regret that now. There were so many games I missed when they were released. I am happy though that I get to play them now and share them with you guys. Some of these games just HAVE to be played even if you think retro gaming is lame.
You find yourself in a city that is over-run with crime and filled with the drug seed. The Millennion Organization runs this city and you, Grave, have a beef with the top dog in this organization. Harry Macdowell is the man that killed Grave the first time, and Grave wants to repay him in kind. So you slowly begin to dismantle The Millennion Organization by killing their men and their top bosses.
After each level you get to talk with Mila and Dr. T; this advances the story a bit and gives you some background to the characters. Each level you have to take out one of the organization’s money makers. Some of their men and of course a boss. The bosses vary in difficulty, from one hit with your demolition shot to endless retries due to the weird difficulty spike. I almost quit playing when I encountered an enemy that would recharge his health because that boss was inexcusably difficult. Thankfully I muscled through and got to see this game to the end but the spikes with a couple of bosses may want you to quit.
Cell shading was the way to go back to the early 2000’s, anything that was this artistic has aged so, so well. I couldn’t believe how great this game looked playing it sixteen years later. The anime cutscenes look amazing and really make me want to get into the anime, even if it is only a handful of episodes. The levels, while short are filled with characters to murder in your quest for revenge. Grave looks great as he slowly walks through the halls putting a bullet into anything that moves, and the animations for the attacks and subsequent deaths are insanely satisfying. I kind of understand now why Gearbox decided to cell shade Borderlands, that makes games timeless, and Borderlands will join that timeless catalog along with Wind Waker and Killer 7.
The controls are quite simple in this game seeing as it is just an arcade type shooter, a high score does apply if you care; I didn’t. That fact alone did not make me want to replay the game, I’m sure there are arcade lovers out there that want to keep besting their score, but I’m different; I just want to see the credits.
Square is shoot, and you will have your finger on this button about ninety percent of the time. X is jump, but I used that very rarely, just to dodge some boss attacks. To swing your giant gun around to get enemies off of you simply press R1; this comes in very handy during a certain boss fight. Practice this a lot, just due to the fact you have to get the timing right or you’ll lose a significant amount of health during the boss fight.
As you mercilessly murder your foes your Demolition Shot Meter fills up, this can be used by pressing Triangle, which obliterates all the enemies in its path; it is very useful for the early bosses. This meter fills up and overlaps, you can use it as shots but when you find yourself in trouble you can also go into the menu and use it as a health refill. Knowing this kept me from quite a few continues, so don’t waste your shots.
This game was extremely fun, I’m very glad that I went out of my way to find a copy. I almost brushed it aside. But my curiosity got the better of me. I loved the tight gameplay and the face-paced action of this game. I was let down by how quickly I beat it though, seeing as this game has been rising in price I felt like I paid a bit too much for admission.
If you’re a fan of Anime, or if you happen to love arcade type shooters and replaying levels over and over this is the game for you. You can probably beat this game in one sitting which is a big let down, but I did happen to pick up the sequel for the title too, Gungrave: Overdose, so I’m curious to see where our hero goes next. Hopefully, the sequel lasts a bit longer and fleshes out the story more for me.