[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/gradiusv/cover.jpg[/floatleft]The relationship that I share with games that fall into the shooter genre is dysfunctional at best. The way things seem to work is that even on the easiest of difficulties I try my hardest and the game ends up overcoming me with a measly little wave of bad guys. Despite my apparent lack of skills in playing these types of games, I love them.
[i]Gradius V[/i] is the latest game to be based on the ancient [i]Gradius[/i] franchise. The roots of this series go back a long way, and [i]Gradius V[/i] does a fantastic job of capturing the nostalgic feel of a true arcade shooter while staying true to the [i]Gradius[/i] series.
Like most shooters, the plot is very thin and you are thrust right into the action (although there is an irritating cut scene before the second level that you cannot skip and are forced to watch each and every time you play the game).
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/gradiusv/ss04_thumb.jpg[/floatright]Prior to beginning the game, there is one very special item in the config menu that you need to know about. This item is called Revival Start, and it is your enemy. When you die with Revival Start on, you are stripped of your power-ups and you start back at the last checkpoint. This makes the game about 100 times more difficult and frustrating. With Revival Start off, you lose your power-ups but still have a chance to recollect any multiples you may have earned. I will get to multiples and power-ups in just a moment.
Before I touch on the power-ups and things that make it possible to play [i]Gradius V[/i], I want to touch on the fact that this is one tough game. In fact, I would be willing to bet that unless you possess some freakish skills at the art of shooters, it will probably take you a good 10 or 20 times before you get anywhere near the end of the game. Due to the arcade ties, you start out with a number of credits or continues. Once these credits are gone, so is your shot at beating the game. The upside to this dilemma is that for each hour you log (and make sure you turn auto save on), you earn an additional credit to play. After eight to 10 hours of play, you should have enough continues to reach the end. After 17 hours of play, you will unlock free play, which is unlimited credits.
In my opinion, power-ups are what make [i]Gradius V[/i] a lot of fun. There is just something about lasers firing all over the screen that makes me want to keep playing. While I would say that half of your success in [i]Gradius V[/i] depends on hand-eye coordination, the other half depends on your ability to properly use your power-ups. As you start the game, you are given an option of choosing one to four types of ships. The type of ship you choose determines how your power-ups will affect your firepower and your multiples (i.e. invincible orbs under your command that greatly increase your firepower). In the Type 1 configuration, your multiples trail behind you, but pressing the multiple button (R1 by default) will lock them into place. This can be handy for concentrating all your firepower into a single place for boss fights or spreading them out for a wide beam of shooting. Type 2, by far my favorite config, still has the multiples trailing behind you, but holding the multiple button allows you to control the direction of fire for the multiples. This is the best use of your multiples for boss fights and areas where enemies are coming from all directions. Type 3 spaces your multiples above and below you. Using the multiples button increases or decreases the spacing between the multiples. Type 4 has your multiples rotating around your ship. You will need to experiment with each configuration and see which works best for your style of play.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/gradiusv/ss09_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]You max out with four multiples, and upon death it would be wise to gather up your floating multiples while you are still invincible. The tricky part is obtaining power-ups and multiples. In order to activate the different power-ups, you have to collect a certain number of power-up capsules. Speed Up requires only a single power-up capsule, while a Force Field requires six. Collecting each additional capsule will highlight the next available power-up, and once it reaches the end, it will roll back over to the beginningA