Gradius V (PlayStation 2) Review

By Drew Hurley 05.05.2015 2

Review for Gradius V on PlayStation 2

Konami's Gradius V first hit PlayStation 2 in 2004, and it was very highly received by fans of the Japanese shoot 'em up (or shmups) genre. Despite being called Gradius V, it was actually the sixth Gradius title, along with prequel Gradius Gaiden, and the first to be released on consoles instead of being ported from the arcades.

The Gradius series is thirty years old this year and while its fans would have loved to see a new entry or even a HD remaster, sadly none of the above is currently on the cards. Instead, the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation 3, in particular, will be receiving the final and arguably best game of the series.

This is the first Gradius title to be developed by not just Konami, but also Treasure, developer of the legendarily difficult Ikaruga. It's safe to say that Treasure's influence can certainly be felt, especially when it comes to bosses. Each level ends with a giant boss battle that requires lightning fast reflexes and numerous attempts to learn the attack patterns of each encounter. All of these giant bosses have the classic shmup weakness: a giant glowing weak point. They are really fun encounters to learn and defeat, with rotating stages, rotating bosses, thousands of bullets and having to shoot in 360°.

Screenshot for Gradius V on PlayStation 2

It's not just the bosses that require a few attempts; the game offers a considerable challenge and every stage requires a ton of deaths and retries to master. One of the first points that must be learned is that the only piece of the ship that can take projectile damage is the cockpit. It's something that takes a while to be noticed, which has a massive impact on the difficulty. There are, of course, selectable difficulty levels, but even on Very Easy mode, the game will still destroy newcomers and veterans alike. Those who are unable to make much progress should remember Konami has a code for just such occasions.

The weapon system is classic Gradius, granting the option of four different weapon combination "load outs" when the game starts. Some enemies drop glowing power-ups that cycle through the list of weapons in the load out, and the highlighted weapon can then be activated. It's a system that works well and allows experienced players to prepare the appropriate weapon for upcoming sections. The load out options are what is expect for a scrolling 2D shooter: bombs, drones, lasers, missiles, speed ups, and more.

Screenshot for Gradius V on PlayStation 2

Though the primary weapon is stuck firing on the 2D plane, secondary attacks can make use of directional firing. By holding the R1 button the ship is locked in place and the direction of fire can be altered instead. This is a feature that's necessary to master to be able to handle the harder boss encounters. After completing the game, custom weapon sets can be created for subsequent playthroughs, including some bonus weapon sets that aren't initially available, and even some fan favourite weapons from previous titles in the series.

Gradius V also incorporates another mainstay of the series: open drop-in multiplayer. At any point, a second player can join the game in a red version of the main ship. Each ship has its own stock of lives to burn through, but the continues are shared between both. A second person dropping in does not increase the difficulty or amount of enemies, but does increase the chances of lost friendships when lives and continues are burned through.

Screenshot for Gradius V on PlayStation 2

Although the game can be completed in just a handful of hours, it's a very rare gamer that will be able to do so. Most will be seeing the Game Over screen and restarting attempts numerous times before they have their first completion under their belt. Even after the first one, the arcade style gameplay makes for great replayability, with leaderboards and Boss Rush modes to unlock on top of the main mode.

Gradius V is a classic, but in every sense of the word. Being over a decade old it does show its age. There is a graphics upgrade over the original, but it's not a complete overhaul. Thankfully, the style used lessens the impact, but it's a pity that this release was just on PlayStation 3, since it would play very well on the Vita, and a cross-play/cross-buy digital purchase would further justify the price point.

With so many games offering up little of a challenge anymore outside of the Souls series, it's always great to rediscover classic titles like this and the simple joy of no handholding, instead offering a real challenge.

Screenshot for Gradius V on PlayStation 2

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although Gradius V can offer some extremely frustrating moments, it is never enough to put playing it off. On the contrary, the old-school arcade action encourages replaying over and over again. Shump fans will be ecstatic to get their hands on this classic. For those that never got to experience what is arguably the best of the Gradius franchise and one of the best examples of Japanese 2D shoot 'em ups, this is an ideal opportunity.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Hundreds of PS2 games in my collection and I still don't have either this or the collection of 3 and 4. I really should do something about that.

Our member of the week

DeltaBladeX said:
Hundreds of PS2 games in my collection and I still don't have either this or the collection of 3 and 4. I really should do something about that.

And I have only about twenty or so PS2 games, and those two are part of them Smilie hehe. Got Gradius V in a sale, years ago, for just 5€. Money well-spent.

If you have a PSP you may want to go the Gradius Collection route too.

( Edited 06.05.2015 09:16 by RudyC3 )

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

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