Have we got any Trigun fans in the audience tonight? Well, if any of you are out there, you may not be aware that Yasuhiro Nightow, creator of the series, also wrote and designed Gungrave, a third-person shooter for the Playstation 2. There was actually a Trigun game in the works titled Trigun: The Planet Gunsmoke but nothing ever came of it which lead some to wonder if Gungrave was the end result of that project. It’s not really my intent to compare the two series to death but there are a number of similarities between the two.
If anyone does intend on playing this game, I better tell you the story because if you’re anything like me, you’ll end up exiting the game knowing just as much as when you entered. So, you play as Beyond The Grave. Yeah, that’s his name but he just gets called Grave for short. Having recently been brought back to life 15 years after his death, our silent protagonist is out for the blood of his Harry McDowell, who has just recently taken over the criminal organization Millenion through a successful coup. Grave hauls around coffin on his back containing a number of weapons not unlike the giant cross carried by Trigun’s Nicholas D. Wolfwood. Despite all the heavy weapons at his disposal, his main choice of firearm is Cerberus, twin handguns with unlimited ammo acquired from an attache case stolen by the daughter of ex-Millenion boss, Big Daddy and ugh, you know what, it really doesn’t matter. The main focus isn ’t the story and besides, the back story is what the anime adaption is for, right?
Speaking of anime, the game is strict on keeping story and gameplay separate, saving it for between stages. When it does show story though, you’re generally in for a treat since thanks to the cel shaded style, it pretty much looks like you’re watching an actual anime. The localization team apparently opted for only Japanese only dialogue with English subtitles which I don’t consider to be a negative. You anime lovers might also enjoy one of the features in the Extras menu that lets you display all of the enemies and bosses you encounter. Not only that, they ’re displayed as if they were 3D action figures inside of rotatable plastic packaging , which you can then pop out for full viewing which is great.
Outside of Nightow’s involvement, the main draw of the game is the over-the- top action. It’s definitely more towards the arcade end of the genre keeping score based on style, destruction and a few other factors. As was pointed out earlier, you ’ve got Cerberus, Grave’s signature handguns which you can, and likely will, spam until nothing is left alive. Each time you hit an enemy, your beat meter builds up to a maximum of 9 full gauges. You can use these gauges to launch some of Grave’s special Demolition Shots. They range from launching a volley of rockets in front of him to performing a 360 degree spin while firing the machine gun stored in his coffin. When I say range, that’s the entire range. The latter two you can unlock are just stronger versions of the first two. The first single missile shot is given to you at the start but the latter three only come as a result of performing well on the stages that follow. Whichever you choose, they all do a huge amount of damage generally killing anyone alive on screen. There’s also a special fifth health restoring shot which, pun not intended, can be a real lifesaver.
The controls can be a bit annoying because seeing as the camera is tied to Grave’s movements, left and right turn in their respective directions rather than strafing. It works fine but it just means that you have to wait for the camera to reorient itself in order to actually see who or what is around each corner. It isn’t much help for the boss battles either since dodge rolling throws the camera around a bit. The bosses are all fine. They’re basically just follow the pattern and dodge when necessary which is fine for this sort of game if you ask me. A few of the bosses have some wacky designs, particularly the last boss which wasn ’t really surprising knowing Nightow.
Having finished it, Gungrave just kind of starts, tells its brief story and wraps up which feels self contained the entire time. The city is definitely suffering from Millenion but you’re never exactly shown how which just leaves you with a vague idea of what the organisation is even supposed to be. It isn’t a bad game by any means but it’s not very long and it doesn’t leave you with a ton of replayability. I think it ’s definitely something that you can play when you’re bored and not have to pay a lot of attention. A few levels have a jazz soundtrack that you can sit back and enjoy listening to, so long as you turn down the sound effects. As for my wanting more of the back story, fans liked the title enough to spawn not just an anime adaption but also a sequel, Gungrave: Overdose.