Gungrave: Overdose is the sequel to Gungrave on the PS2 that, though fun, had its fair share of problems and could be rather bland. The game features character designs by the talented Yasuhiro Nightow, who was also responsible for the character design of the anime series Trigun. The game is still a single player shoot-everything-in-sight, action game. However, the game improves on its predecessor, providing a more solid gameplay experience and a more developed storyline.
The story of Gungrave: Overdose involves an evil crime syndicate that is distributing Seed, a powerful drug that has ill effects on those who take it, either killing them or mutating them. Grave and his crew are on a mission to get to the bottom of who is behind the distribution of this dangerous substance. In between the game’s nine stages, more of the story is revealed in anime cutscenes and stills, as well as spoken dialogue between the characters. The story, though better realized than in the first game, will really take a backseat to the action for most people.
You start the game with the previous title’s antihero, known simply as Grave (a.k.a. Beyond the Grave). After completing the first stage, two other characters are made available: Rocketbilly Redcadillac and Jyuji Kabane. Rocketbilly uses a guitar that shoots bolts of energy to dispatch foes, while Jyuji, seemingly the fastest of the three, wields swords that have hilts that also double as guns. Adding three characters is a nice improvement over the original, which forced you to play through with Grave only. For the most part, I focused on playing with Grave. Grave has two pistols he uses to blast enemies. Also at every character’s disposal is a charge shot, which can also lead to a combo when charged to the max. When in close quarters, Grave can take out enemies by swinging a large coffin he carries tied with chains to his arms. This coffin can also act as a shield, which comes in handy when things get a little too heated.
Gungrave: Overdose’s complete focus is to kill and destroy everything on screen. Environments are destructible and the action is fierce. The game is non-stop carnage as you will rapidly be mashing the shoot button as waves of enemies, wielding swords, guns and rocket launchers pour into the game’s many rooms and hallways. Your game can be saved to a memory card between stages, which alleviates some of the frustration you may encounter while playing. Also in the player’s favor is a shield bar on top of the life bar. Once the shield is gone, however, Grave’s life will begin to diminish and this will ultimately end in his demise. If you can take a break for a few seconds without getting hit by enemy bullets, your shield will replenish itself. But these moments are few and far between in this game.
The game grades you on style and killing ?finesse’. Artistic points are tallied at the end of a level and, depending on how well you did, a new demolition shot may be unlocked. Demolition shots can be used in situations where you need to clear out a room full of enemies, or take a chunk out of a big boss’s life bar. Up to four demolition shots can be earned at a time. As you kill enemies, a beat counter begins to rise. When it hits a certain point, a little is added to your demolition shot gauge. Eventually, while slaying enemies, the gauge will become filled, adding another demolition shot. In a game like this, where you will often be seriously outnumbered, these will begin to feel like a necessity. The overall gameplay in Gungrave: Overdose is not based around skill as much as it is around mindless fun, eradicating enemies as fast as you can before they get the chance to kill you.
Thanks to the talent of Yasuhiro Nightow, this Gungrave: Overdose is graced with stylized characters and action. The game is presented with a cell-shaded look, giving it the appearance of an anime. The bosses are also very interesting. However, this is not the best-looking game available on the PS2. Most of the game takes place in indoor areas. These areas often consist of bland walls and are, for the most part, uninteresting. The textures are dull and the overall look of the game is rather drab. This could possibly be because focus is placed so dramatically on action, much like the PS2’s Shinobi. Sony’s console is capable of so much more though; it would’ve been nice to see a little more color and scenery in the game.
The sound effects in this game suit it well. The gunshots are loud and the explosions are more than adequate. I often wondered if I might’ve been playing this game with the volume set too loud, with the constant booms and bangs as I slaughtered countless enemies. Characters also die with a satisfying yell. The voice acting in the story sequences is okay, but someway short of greatest. This is usually to be expected when it comes to anime-inspired video games and their voiceover work. The music of Gungrave: Overdose is also rather weak. There are some okay tunes here and there, but not enough. The tracks mostly consist of a rock and jazz-type mixture. During most stages I found the music almost non-existent. Music does cut in during story sequences and during boss fights, but, for the most part, it just takes a back seat to the rest of the game.
One improvement over the original title is that this game is considerably more challenging. Gungrave was a very short and easy game that could be played through in a couple of hours. This time around, though, the difficulty is noticeably ramped up, giving a much more rounded and satisfying experience. The first few stages are somewhat easy but, as the game gets into its later stages, it can be extremely tough. It will take someone a good while to beat, or at least longer than the first Gungrave. The game can be frustrating as enemies pile into the room nonstop and Grave’s shield begins to deplete with nowhere to run for safety. Especially troublesome are the rocket launching guys who carry shields. You’ll have to knock those rockets back with your coffin to easily take care of them – all the while dodging the barrage of bullets from other enemies. The game has several unlockable features, such as alternate outfits, a sound test, stage select, and movie viewer. Some replay value is also added with the addition of the two new characters, which many will want to play the game through with at least once.
Any person who enjoys playing a destructive and fun game without much thought will enjoy this Gungrave: overdose. Shooter fans will also enjoy playing through it and the improved storyline and gameplay add to the favorable mix. With the price of rentals running at around $5USD, and this game being somehow released with a $15 price tag, not much can go wrong with at least giving the game a try. It is definitely worth it.
When it came to the release of Gungrave: Overdose, I was a little skeptical. The first was game okay, and certainly fun for the few hours it lasted, but definitely not worth a game’s normal full price. I played this sequel and the developers have actually improved upon almost everything they should/could have. Better gameplay, more characters, better story, and a nice budget price tag. I just wish they could improve those visuals a little more.