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?
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.