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PS2 Staff Review by Michael Brady

Japanimation films have grown in popularity over the past couple of years in North America. The interesting fact with this sudden increase in popularity, is the audience that the two different genres share. Most of us gamers are huge Japanimation film fans as well! Just ask yourself, how many times have you been watching one of these exciting films and wished that a game would be developed that would mirror all the action that is present in the film. I know that I have. Well with all of this on our minds, Sega has tried to answer the call with their new installment Gungrave. This game comes from the creative minds that were behind the popular Japanimation series Trigun. This game has made quite the buzz when it was first introduced to us in the early development stages. From the screen shots it was evident that the action promised to be fast and furious. You control the main character Death, who was an assassin that was murdered and has been brought back to take down the evil boss Harry MacDowell of the Syndicate. This title has all the makings of a Japanimation storyline, lets see if the gameplay is what it is promised to be.

Gungrave is a shooter title that has caught the attention of fans of this genre. There are many shooter titles that have had great success on the PS2 console and this title could be another one. The graphics in this game are presented in the cell-shaded type of animation. This gives the game the feel that the gamer is actually playing a cartoon. I commend the developers with the use of this animation, although this type of animation is becoming very popular, it is great to see that the simplistic style of presentation can still achieve high levels of detail in the game. The character models in this title are great. The main character Death looks very cool and he is detailed accordingly. The graphics that can be seen in action will have eye candy buff applauding for more. Now do not get me wrong, this title is not the best graphic shooter out there but it does have a lot of cool elements to it. There are large amounts of enemies on screen at one time and there is no slowdown. So even when the action gets heavy it remains fast. Even as the main character gets crazy with the guns and starts to blast everything on screen, the frame rate is on point. There does not appear to be any frames missing in the movement. Another interesting feature that can be recognized is the damage detection that occurs on screen. For example, there are many bullets flying around as you do battle with sub enemies and bosses ( as you can expect from the title ), but as bullets are missed they cause damage to the environment around you. You can actually see the bullet holes in the walls and on other objects, that has taken hits in the area. This I thought was great and brings the game to life as it is being played.

The gameplay in this title is where there is need for concern. It is great to be able to shoot up everything in the environment and cause damage to the scenery, however there need to be a certain level of difficulty here in order for this game to challenging to the shooter audience. Most gamers that pick up this title will notice all the wonderful graphical features that are offered, but they may find that in the space of 2-3 hours the party is over. That's right gamers, this game is only that long! I was able to complete this game in that short space of time. The game is very easy to get through. The enemies are very easy to wipe out as there are plenty of chances for you to charge up your health, and it is easy to smart bomb all the enemies that are on screen at once. Even the bosses present no challenge to the most novice of players. The actual control of the game through the PS2 joystick is very user friendly but nothing that we have not become accustomed to through other shooters. All the buttons are used, L3 moves the character, L1 locks onto enemies, L2 looks behind you, R1 attacks the surrounding enemies with the coffin that's on Deaths back, R2 is slow mode (allows you to slow the action down like Max Payne), square shoots the regular guns, circle makes the character run, and triangle is used for the demolition shoot (smart bomb). Therefore, although there is a lot that can be done with the control in this game, it is not challenging enough to actually take advantage of all the cool controls. this is where the game loses marks big time!

The important feature that all shooters must have is great sound. This game does have great sound effects, this is enjoyed by the eradication of objects and enemies in the game. However, there is no real improvement in this area. There are no real effects that have not been heard before, but the music in the game is cool and does bring the Japanimation feel to this title. One area has been rushed in this title and that is the character voices. The dialog is this game is in Japanese and there is no option for English dialog. They have not considered the North American market here. Maybe they wanted to go with the original dialog of the series for authenticity, but reading the subtitles after a while can grow boring and players can miss the action in the cinema screens. My question to the developers is "Why no translation?" this would have helped.

Overall, this title is a neat shooter on looks alone, but the weak gameplay does make this title easy to conquer. Therefore, the overall value of this game takes a major fall. This game is fun to pick up for the first time and play, but there will not be too many revisits after the overall effect is realized. Most gamers will most likely rent or borrow this title, but I cannot see huge sales of Gungrave. Fans of the Trigun series may want this title because of the creative minds behind it, but if you want a game that has been inspired by the creators of Trigun, then you may want to grab a copy of Devil May Cry.

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