I remember picking up Gradius V on the PlayStation 2 back in 2004 as though it were yesterday, but it is hard to believe that was eleven years ago. Even back then I thought it was a tough but fun shoot-em up title that made for a decent last hoorah for Konami’s beloved game series. Now after all this time it returns on the PlayStation 3 via PSN while still remaining a challenging game that only the most hardcore and patient of gamers will benefit from playing.
One of the most interesting things about Gradius V is that Konami brought in legendary game developer Treasure to handle the game. This in turn took the classic gameplay that once appealed to casual and hardcore players, and tweaked things up to where only the hardcore could get anything from it. Those familiar with the series will recognize the weapon and power-up system here where you collect items that make your selection board light up as you hit a button when it lands on the weapon or power-up you wish to use. Shields, lasers, missiles, speed boosts and the infamous options will aid you in your quest to take down whatever evil aliens and their massive bosses come your way.
And since Treasure is behind the wheel, you can expect quite a time fighting off said enemies and their bosses, as there’s a lot of trial and error to be had when learning their unique patterns and strategies. Mix in some vertical, horizontal and maze-like stages, and this is where any who play will decide if they’ll want to press on or flee in terror of the punishing difficulty. It’s not all gloom and doom though, as there is a two player mode and some restart and checkpoint options you can use. You can even select what position to place your option helpers in with a press of one of the shoulder buttons, but you can tell this isn’t a title for casual or even average game players to jump into.
For a game that was released eleven years ago, the graphics and sounds hold up remarkably well. Everything looks pretty crisp and clean as the backgrounds and bosses are sure to keep you mesmerized as you play. Sadly there aren’t any added bonuses to this PSN release, but the main game and its difficulty should be more than enough to keep those who wish to test themselves busy for quite some time.
Only hardcore game players need apply for Gradius V, as it is not for the meek gamer. With brutal trial and error gameplay along with memorization moments, this is the game you pull out when you want to separate the strong from the not-so strong in the game world. If you like challenging shoot-em ups, then suit up and pilot your spaceship to victory while others will want to stand back and watch.