Gungrave is a video game I’ve always wanted to play; not because I heard it was a must-play game but because the Gungrave anime is one of my all-time favorites.
It’s been years since I’ve watched the Gungrave anime, so I figured it would be fun to play the games before jumping back into the show.
Published by Sega, developed by Red Entertainment, and created by Yashuhiro Nightow, the creator of Trigun, Gungrave was released on the Playstation 2 in the US on September 17, 2002.
Yashuhiro Nightow’s recruitment was pretty cool;
“I was attending a convention in America and was approached by Red Entertainment, who asked if there was a certain type of game I was interested in making. I told them what kind of game I wanted and that’s how Gungrave was born.”Hong, William. Anime Expo 2009: Interview with Yasuhiro Nightow and Satoshi Nishimura, 17 July 2009, international.ucla.edu/institute/article/110449.
Gungrave does share similarities with Trigun; huge guns, deformed and exaggerated bodies (never been a fan of this) and sci-fi elements.
What exactly is Gungrave?
Gungrave is a 3rd person shooter with an emphasis on killing waves of enemies as stylishly as possible. The beginning of each stage literally starts with KICK THEIR ASS!
The back of the box reads:
Nightmarish boss battles.
Super powered special weapons.
Disposable enemies and destructive environments.
Dramatic original animation weaves a dark story of revenge.
There are some story elements; Beyond the Grave is on a mission of revenge against Harry McDowell and the Syndicate. In between levels you can get some story bits by way of in-game cutscene and some optional dialogue with NPCs. There isn’t much to it, though.
Having not played a Playstation 2 game in a while, I was reminded that old games did not hold your hand.
Unlike modern games, there are no tutorials or instructions on how to play or what the on-screen gauges represent. You must read the manual to learn all of this.
That being said, there isn’t too much to Gungrave; You want to shoot everyone and everything in the environment as that builds up your beat count, which in turn, builds up your special weapon demolition shots. This is extremely important to do because you only have two attacks otherwise. A slow melee attack and your guns, on the SQUARE button. There are 4 demolition shots in the game, with 1 available from the start and the rest unlocked as you progress through the game.
Grave’s basic attack consists of tapping SQUARE to shoot; There is no ammo or reloading, so keep pulling the trigger. You will find yourself tapping this button thousands of times throughout the game — Luckily there is an option to set shooting to rapid-fire, so you only have to hold the square button down shoot.
The Artistic Bonus is your combo meter, it displays how cool you were in defeating enemies. While playing through normal difficulty, I didn’t pay too much attention to this, but to rank high on harder difficulties, keeping this bonus going will be paramount.
I say arcade because there is no upgrading or exploration in this game. You shoot and kill waves of enemies until you reach a boss and repeat that cycle until the credits roll.
- Shooting while standing still enters Grave into Burst mode – where Grave shoots unlimited amounts of bullets as fast and stylishly as possible; spinning, jumping, behind his back, anything that looks cool.
- Hitting L1 brings a targeting reticle on a close-by enemy and allows Grave to shoot and strafe.
- X lets you jump. Adding a direction from the stick lets you jump and shoot, ala Max Payne.
- There is unfortunately no camera control on the right stick, as with modern games. Tapping L2 has Grave perform a 180-turn to flip the camera around. I do not miss these controls at all.
Gungrave’s gameplay is simplistic; although boss fights require learning attack patterns and timing dodges.
When completing the game, you are given an overall score, a cool rating and level grades. The game is meant to be played over and over again to get the best scores/ratings and unlock some extras, most by beating on the harder difficulties.
I finished with a time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, and including deaths and restarting sections of the game or bosses, my total playtime clocked in at just over 2 hours on normal difficulty.
Gungrave isn’t a great game, or even really a good game. If I bought the game for $60 back in 2002, I would have been disappointed. Saving birthday and Christmas money, only to buy a game that could be beaten in one sitting isn’t exactly great value.
I don’t think Gungrave is worth playing in 2021. I wouldn’t go out of my way to buy and play Gungrave, especially with it going for $20-$50 dollars on eBay. The boss fights have some charm, but the outdated controls, basic gameplay, and quick levels just don’t give good value for time and money.
I am actually still looking forward to playing through Gungrave: Overdose next, as I heard it is better in every way than the original.
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Once I beat Gungrave: Overdose and watch the Gungrave anime, I’ll be working on a YouTube video – SUBSCRIBE HERE!