System: Sony Playstation 2
Release: October, 2002
Since transitioning into a third party game publisher, Sega has continued its tradition of mixing mainstream games that are guaranteed to sell huge (Sonic, SegaSports) with a strong library of niche games that appeal to hardcore game players. Games like Jet Set Radio Future for Microsoft Xbox, Rez for Playstation2 and Super Monkey Ball for Nintendo Gamecube don’t fall into any normal or high selling genre.
Gungrave is another in Sega’s off kilter lineup, presenting another game that doesn’t really apply to the casual, everyday gamer. Gungrave is a cell shaded shooter, much like a first person shooter but taking place over the shoulder with a third person perspective, like Spawn on Dreamcast or the Tomb Raider series.
The gameplay in Gungrave is very straight forward. It’s a shooter in the most basic sense. The gamer, as Gungrave, just has to shoot and kill everything in his path.
While not actually long from start to finish, actually completing the game is not enough, well at least not for the hardcore. There is a style and panache to finishing Gungrave, and there are various rewards for finishing the game in a certain manner. For instance, Gungrave can earn a super attack by connecting on continuous shots until his skull meter is completely filled.
There are two means of attack as Gungrave. The primary way to kill everything is to use the gun. While moving, the gun shoots at a normal clip, but when Gungrave stands still, he turns into a total maniac, shooting at a faster rate, and of course with way more style. In addition, Gungrave can use the large coffin on his back as a weapon, swinging it with gusto at the enemies, destroying more than with the gun, but slower and leaving him more susceptible to attack.
Speaking of which, Gungrave is actually totally invincible for a good amount of time. If he is shot too many times in a short period of time, his armor deteorates and needs to be recharged. This, however, can only be done while Gungrave is not shooting, so there is a bit of strategy involved in that process. Overall, however, there is not a huge challenge in actually finishing the game once through with no attention paid to style or hit count.
While playing, you get rated on how cool you look , how fast you get through, how much you kill, how much life you have by the end of the level, and your beat count. Getting different levels of style will unlock various goodies on the Gungrave disc.
The overall look and style in Gungrave is unmatched in any other current game for any console. The graphics are cel-shaded like those in Jet Set Radio, but have an anime slant. Gungrave himself is a badass anti-hero in the vein of Lobo from DC comics.
There are cut scenes featuring stylized anime versions of Gungrave, which are extremely well done and entertaining.
The game moves along at a nice pace, and rarely lets up. There are often tons of enemies and interactive pieces of the environment on screen at once, and only in certain cases does the game slowdown. However, the slowdown almost adds to the style of the game, and might have been planned it works so well for dramatic effect.
The bosses are well rendered and usually unique. The other enemies aren’t as detailed, but since they are just blown away quickly, they aren’t worth the trouble. Overall the graphics are a highlight of Gungrave.
With all the shooting, who could even hear any music! The sound effects are top notch, with all the appropriate explositions and gunfire that one could ask for. If that actually dies down for a moment, the soundtrack is a jazzy instrumental mix that actually somehow fits the gameplay. The music, however, is often lost in the action.
It all depends on what kind of gamer tackles Gungrave. A modern player weened on the heavy storylines of Metal Gear Solid and Grand Theft Auto 3 will be turned off by Gungrave’s lack of movie-style presentation.
Gungrave is a videogame through and through, and in the oldest school sense, its not actually beating the game that matters, its how many points you score. But even more than that, it’s how you actually score the points. Gungrave is such a unique, visceral experience that it is worth playing over and over again just to get a better and better style rating.
Fun Factor: 7