If GunGrave had been released eight years ago in the arcades it may have been appreciated for what it is. But in this world filled with consoles that do much more than play games and children with cell phones, Sega's GunGrave can only be, albeit unfairly, judged for what it's not.
A lot has changed since the days of Smash T.V., Mercs, and Final Fight. In the last decade gamers have come to expect more than just button mashing and big, loud explosions from their games. Adventure games and RPG's were once the only games to offer dozens of hours of gameplay, but that is no longer the case as action titles, sports games, and even fighters offer something more than just a standard arcade experience.
If you judge games by how long they last, and the amount of time you'll be playing them, then GunGrave is disappointing on every level. The game itself will only take a few hours to beat, and there really isn't much to do after you've gone through it a few times with your buddies. At fifty dollars you are basically buying an anime with some exciting arcade-action thrown in.
But it's the animation itself that is the biggest selling point. Easily demonstrating the best use of anime in a video game, GunGrave is tightly sewn together by a series of extremely well produced cut scenes. Each reveal the somewhat murky, and generally indecipherable, story of GunGrave, which involves a man who is apparently "back" to take on something called the Syndicate, all in behalf of a mysterious girl. As the instruction manual states: "This mysterious girl's appearance awakened a killer named DEATH: BEYOND THE GRAVE with huge twin guns: "CERBEROS". Whatever that means.
The game does offer a rather interesting story, but like most action movies, it's fairly meaningless, and is there to basically facilitate loud explosions and exciting moments of senseless violence. And if GunGrave delivers on anything, it's loud explosions and exciting moments of senseless violence. Actually, that's something of an understatement. GunGrave is wall-to-wall pure adrenalin action!
Being essentially an arcade game, GunGrave offers gamers the chance to forgo all of that technique found in most games these days. Sporting two guns, er Cerberos', our hero takes out just about everybody in sight without too much trouble. Since the computer targets for you, your game playing is basically limited to button mashing and turning in different directions. Often times you don't even have to move, just continue to shoot until there's nothing else to destroy.
As the dark figure continues to destroy, kill, and maim, his 'beat meter' adds up. As long as the beat stays constant with SOMETHING to shoot at, be it the bad guys or background, the beat gauge keeps increasing. Conceivably you can have literally hundreds of shots going as you work your beats higher and higher. The game tends to push you to simply button mash; since the characters animation tends to become more fevered and exciting to watch the higher the beat goes.
The nice thing is that there's almost always something to shoot at. Be it cars along the streets, tables and chairs in restaurants, or just windows and random debris, you will be able to rip apart just about everything you run across. Bullet holes will stay in the backgrounds, and there are plenty of animations to keep you shooting everything you can see. If you completely fill up the beat gauge you will be able to let loose one of four Demolition Shots. These are basically powerful attacks that get rid of just about everything on the screen in dramatic fashion. Each offers a different animation, and slows everything down so you can savor the pure destruction you have caused.
Like the Rock, Con Air, and countless other action movies, Sega's newest action game is loud, violent, and exciting, but lacks depth. But is that all bad? Can style make up for substance? In this case it all depends on how often you frequented arcades as a kid.
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!