Let the bodies hit the floor.
Whatever the case may be, there are two universal truths about real heroes - they always seem to know when trouble is afoot, and they always win. Whether they're out saving a damsel in distress or just defeating endless throngs of evildoers, heroes always come out on top.
And like a real hero, Red Entertainment and Sega's newest bad boy doesn't seem to lose much. Grave, the star of the Playstation 2's anime-styled super action shooter Gungrave, blasts on to the scene with a bad attitude and more firepower than a small country's armed forces. Think of him as a cross between Spawn, the Lone Ranger and Chow Yun Fat. He's got all the ass-kicking qualities you could ever want in an action hero, but sometimes being an invincible fighting machine isn't so glorious.
The story follows the typical anime formula perfectly. For you J-pop neophytes, that means it barely makes any sense at all. All you really need to know is that Grave = Good and Syndicate = Bad. Throw in an endless wave of gun-toting, grenade-throwing bad guys, mix gingerly with a little revenge and add just a dash of an "evil plot" and you've pretty much got the story in a nutshell.
Needless to say, the point of the game is to run around and shoot everything that moves. Sadly, Grave isn't exactly moving like young man these days. He just lumbers around like an arthritic Frankenstein. Who could blame him with that oversized zombie condo on his back? Pushing down the analog stick will quicken his pace a bit, but it barely makes a difference. Even his jump/dodge feels sluggish. The only other option is to lose all firing capabilities and haul ass with the Circle button. Very weak.
Even with his relatively slow movements, Grave has no problems taking out the enemy. In fact, he's damn near invincible. Just pound on the 'shoot' button and Grave will dance, jump and spin around like a prima ballerina with twin guns blazing. Bad guys have no AI, terrible aim and move about as fast as Grave does. Cannon fodder to say the least. I guess you can't find good help in the shady underworld either.
And even if the bad guys manage to even to get in a lucky shot, there's still Grave's demolition power to contend with. As the game progresses, Grave will obtain different "Demolition Shots" which will obliterate any on screen enemies. This power can also be used to recover life, making him practically immortal. Where's the excitement in that? I guess it's all in a day's work.
A short day's work, that is. Surprisingly, Gungrave can be finished in your very first sitting. Players will easily fly through a meager six levels with Grave's superhuman skill with firearms. There are a few unlockables such as a Slow mode (yes, you can actually make him move even slower!) and character renderings, but none of them are really worth mention. Tell your friends not to blink - they might miss the entire game.
But despite its faults, Gungrave does have one quality that busts some caps in the competition - some of the best anime-style presentation I've ever seen. Between the awesome cutscenes and the commendable graphics effort, Gungrave certainly provides a hefty amount of eye candy. Almost everything in the detailed environment can be busted up, blown up or shot up and all the characters look great. The game even sports original Japanese dialogue with English subtitles, a must for any anime purist.
I can't help but wish that they just made Gungrave into a movie rather than a game. The best part by a long shot is watching the animated cutscenes. The actual gameplay just doesn't offer enough support.
Alas, Gungrave turns out to be a great animated cartoon cleverly disguised as a rather lame Playstation 2 game. Great presentation is wasted on forgettable gameplay. This would-be hero is so invincible that he's put himself out of a job.