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Playstation 2









Red Entertainment



M (Mature)



Q4 2002


- Cell shading graphics look great and sound effects suck you into the action

- Love the original Japanese voice acting!

- Excellent destructible surroundings and environments

- Easy to pick up and play this kick-ass shooter (button masher)



- Replayability? Nada. Nope.

- Bosses are about as complex as Rainman, figure out the 2-3 step pattern then kill

- Can finish this game in a lazy afternoon or late night (2-5 hours)



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Score: 7.5 / 10


For some inexplicable reason, while playing Gungrave I couldn’t help but think about old “shooter” games like Zaxxon and Galaga despite the fact that Gungrave isn’t set in space and there were no aliens to be seen anywhere.


Gungrave is a 3rd Person shooter (camera is usually right behind the title character) where you control the destructive Grave on a revenge tour against the mafia, his former employer. But that’s not all; Grave is undead and carries his rather destructive coffin along with him that helps by providing heavy support during intense gunfights.


gungrave-1.jpg (17058 bytes)          gungrave-2.jpg (23201 bytes)


For all of the battles, Grave’s primary weapons are the twin pistols (think portable cannons) called Cerberos and provide many minutes of enjoyment when you first discover the joy of the destructible surroundings. As your proficiency in killing enemies develops, you’ll earn beat points which give you “demolition shots” – which are stylized ways of killing people with a flourish (but DON’T MISS or you’re screwed as you are momentarily more open than Kansas). The initial demolition shot is the Death Blow (a rocket fired from your coffin), but as you progress you can learn different techniques like the Bullet Dance, Hellhound Roar, Raging Inferno, and the well named Recover Life Now. (I’m hoping that last one had a cool name in Japan because it really blows in North America).


Grave’s second lease on life is courtesy of the enigmatic Dr. T, who resurrected him, and serves as a confidant and sounding board. For the course of the game he pretty much serves no purpose greater than giving you a basic spiel on your next mission. Yup, that’s it – another brilliant scientist reduced to a support role… sigh...





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Grave is brought back into action at the request of Mika, a young girl who is the daughter of the former head of the mafia (and Grave’s old boss in the organization). Blah, blah, blah…

 plot… the mission-opening phrase says it all “Kick their Ass!”  If you can’t figure out what kind of game you’re getting into with that catchphrase, there’s nothing I can do for you.  


The game is decidedly “anime” in style – besides the character design, that looks like a cross between Vash the Stampede and Wolfwood in Trigun, all of the dialogue is in Japanese and is subtitled. (WOOHOO! EAT THAT, DUBBERS! SUBTITLES RULE ALL!)  


The look of the game is spectacular – all of the graphics are cell-shaded and when paired with the lighting and other visual effects (like fog) you end up with a game that just oozes style. No matter how good everything looks though, most gamers will be inexplicably driven towards blowing the environments into base components or at least smaller particles – it says something about our society.


gungrave-3.jpg (20377 bytes)          gungrave-4.jpg (18325 bytes)


The sound is really good; besides all of the usual sound effects sounding authentic, the soundtrack features some aggressive bass thumping that helps maintain Gungrave’s overall style.


My complaints of Gungrave fall to the usual culprits: difficulty and camera display.


The difficulty is laughable at times. For the most part you can wade into and out of a gunfight unscathed if you know the patterns of where the enemies come from; or if you don’t know, just saturate the entire area in gunfire – that works too. The boss battles are even more disappointing. They follow the most basic of patterns not seen since the days of Colecovision and NES and in this day and age that’s not going to stump anyone playing an “M” rated game. With unlimited continues and the same patterns for the enemy AI and their appearances, Gungrave shouldn’t take more than 3-4 hours to blow through for brute force gamers.


To understand the camera display, you have to understand how Grave moves – he’s about as fast as a unionized piano mover with a load. I guess that it fits with the character – a reanimated dead guy carrying his own coffin wouldn’t exactly break any speed records, so you can forget dodging shots for the most part. The only quick move that can be performed in Gungrave is the rolling jump to either side that will invariably leave the camera in some weird position so that you can tell that you’re being shot repeatedly but you can’t see a damn thing. (Multiply this problem by a hundred if you hit something when you roll and considering that most of the levels are downright claustrophobic in places, prepare to be annoyed).


gungrave-5.jpg (19505 bytes)          gungrave-6.jpg (21391 bytes)


All in all, Gungrave is a fun pick-up-and-play shooter that really could have used more difficulty, some camera tweaks and a more original plot. Gungrave is recommended for those looking to waste a few hours without burning brain cells.


- Tazman

(December 5, 2002)


"Drinking and smoking go together like porn and nachos."

             - Pickles (The Oblongs)

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