Current-Gen. Consoles

PlayStation 2
GameBoy Advance

Past-Gen. Consoles

Nintendo 64
Virtual Boy
Super NES
GameBoy/GB Color

Top 11
Editor's Page
Contact Info

reviews >> playstation 2

written by Shaun McCracken

Game Information
Publisher: SEGA
Developer: RED Entertainment
Year Released: 2002
Players: 1
ESRB Rating: Mature

Visuals 7.5
The PS2's aliasing problems are not very flattering on cel-shaded graphics.
Audio 7
The sound effects can grow repetitive and the music is just okay.
Gameplay 6.75
There's realy not much to this game other than shooting repetitively. The character movement was pretty slow.
Replay Value 3
It took an hour to beat the game. Perhaps you could go back and play again on a higher difficulty, but then you're still left with not a whole lot of game time.
Reviewer's Impression 6.5
The game ended right before the gameplay became overly redundant, but still, how in today's market can we have a game with a completion time that is less than the running time of a Hollywood movie?
Overall 6
Gungrave is best served as a rental due to it's lack of length and replay value.

I think Gungrave means well. There's a lot of intense action that is similar to Dead To Rights. It has a fairy easy to grasp arcade feel. It does have quite a bit of artistic style. But it's shorter than your typical Hollywood blockbuster, and that's not good for a game, especially when you've just shelled over $40-50 for a game like this. Now, I was lucky enough to pay only $10 for this game, and I think that is about how much it's worth. It's the same cost as a movie ticket and cheaper than a dirty phone call, so really, you can't go wrong. Or can you?

Gungrave really was never deserving of the full price it once had. I think Sega remembered they had this game, saw that cel-shaded games were becoming popular (hell, they threw it into the spotlight with Jet Grind Radio) and perhaps could make some money off of this. And it looks like they were in a hurry, too. The game is barely localized, pretty much within menus. The cutscenes are in Japanese with subtitles (which some may like). Then there's the whole "done in an hour" thing. There was nothing added to really keep the gameplay going other than difficulty adjustment. But then again, it could be worse.

Gungrave is a bit tough to understand storywise at first. To me, it's almost like the developers assumed that the player already knew what was going on in this world, and didn't have to explain itself much. The first cinematic we see is a girl running through alleyways dragging a coffin. Not much was explained why until we see the main character use the coffin. Then we go into a stage to beat the hell and shoot many people because they're bad. We go to another cutscene, and we're given cryptic meanings about what seemed like drugs. Perhaps some of the confusion was due to the subtitles, which could have been a quick translation of what the characters were saying. Halfway through the game I did start to understand the story, which really boils down to a story of revenge. I assume we could have guessed that by the lack of remorse of your character.

The game design is pretty simple, almost arcade like. You start the stage with the words "Kick Their Ass!", and you proceed to do just that. After you wiped out everyone in the room, you move on to some other place. The way the game proceeds is kind of similar to the 90's brawlers that made you clear the enemies on screen before you can move on. The stage designs are pretty uninspiring. A lot of narrow hallways with some large rooms thrown in, and not much in ways of exploration. There are no puzzles, there are no multiple paths. You are guided all the way. In the way you defeat your enemies, if you can keep a streak or "beat" going, you can increase a meter that can be used for a special attack or energy refils. I preffer the later, as it does make boss battles easier. In Gungrave, you have only one life and no pick-ups for health, so having this option to refil your health as a special move is useful.

The problem (well, one of them, anyway) in this game is on the default difficulty, it's pretty easy. In fact, the first time I lost was on the Stage 5 boss, and that was because I couldn't find the right moment to attack. Mind you, there are 6 stages. The way your main character moves so slow, I would have thought to be losing the game many times. But with that option to recharge health on the fly, it makes things a bit easy. But then there's the whole thing about the enemies not really posing a threat. It consists mostly of smaller guys with guns. Some have heavier weapons later, but overall you can plow through them. The other problem is what I mentioned earlier. It's short. Very short. Short and redundant. I'm glad I didn't fork over that much for this game, because if I paid even a dollar more, I would have felt ripped off.

The graphical style is the one game's saving grace, but even that doesn't suffer. Unless the designers can figure out the anti-aliasing, cel-shaded games really don't belong on the PS2. The jagged edges kind of ruin the technique and make it seem unpolished. The animations and enviroments are decent, but they do tend to become repetitive. Also, there are a couple of framerate issues and some fogging. While it doesn't come off as a nasty looking game, it could have benefitted from some polishing and variety. Great cutscenes, though.

The sound is also repetitve. A lot of gunfire, and it's not varied enough. Also, you get loud bursts of sound from your gun unexpectedly, which is a bit jarring. The music is just there. You can't hear much of it over the gunfire, but it's not enough given for you to really care. I also would have liked the voices to be translated in english. I'm sure it would have been poor, but we weren't given that option, now were we?

Final Thought

An hour for the overall game time is really not that acceptable, unless it was in the arcades. But in a way, when I cleared the last stage, I was glad it was over. I think the developers knew when to quit the repetitive gameplay at the right moment, because I couldn't see doing this kind of thing for 10 hours. But the game really could have benefitted from a more broader design and a lot more to do. Perhaps some can get a little more out of the game by trying to top their best score or going for the higher difficulty. But any way you slice it, it can all be done in a rental.