Gradius V

Gradius V is a side scrolling spaceship shooter originally designed by Treasure and G.Rev and published by Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo in 2004 for the Playstation 2 console. It’s digital re-release on the PS3 brings with it a lot of the same charm that made the game fun yet frustratingly difficult at times.

Players take control of a spaceship named Vic Viper and traverse through countless hordes of enemy spaceships and bosses under the evil empire Bacterian. Players have a choice from four weapon arrays that dictate how weapons will function and be used in the game. After defeating certain enemies, players can collect the various power-up capsules dropped. Each power up capsule moves the weapon cursor along the bottom of the screen one step, allowing the player to cycle through Speed Up, Missile, Double, Laser, Multiple, and Shield perks. Pressing O activates the highlighted power-up and resets the cursor back to the start of the meter. Collecting capsules and waiting to use different combinations of power-ups can make the difference between life and death. I found building the meter to Shield and then combining that with the explosive firepower of Multiple shots made it easier to dispatch enemies quickly without getting overrun by them.

As old as the game is, the soundtrack still holds its own and adds to the overall feel of the game. Composed by Hitoshi Sakimoto, whose previous work includes the soundtrack to one of my personal favorites Final Fantasy Tactics, accompanies the action and pays homage to previous Gradius titles using remixes of various music throughout the series and original pieces.

The level design has also withstood the test of time adding variation and requiring excellent timing in order to survive all that is coming at you on screen. The level changes from vertical to horizontal, the variations of enemies and their movement, and the sheer number of things that are going on in screen make for a hectic and sometimes dizzying action environment. The game forces you to choose between careful timing to stand still and constant evasion of lasers and ships flying right at you.

Side scrolling 2D platforms are few and far between todays dominance of First Person Shooters but Gradius V brings back an epic adventure of space war for gamers looking for a classic, fast paced, fun, and challenging galactic adventure.

4 stars out of 5.