Born at the dawn of the videogame medium, the so-called shoot'em up genre, better known by us as the scrolling shooter (horizontal or vertical), lived its golden age between the 80s and the second. mid-90s, a time interval in which all the titles remained in the hearts of fans were launched, such as R-Type, DonPachi, Gradius, Radiant Silvergun and Project-X of Team 17 on Amiga.
Although arrived when the genre had already begun to lose its influence on the market, more modern products like Ikaruga (spiritual sequel to Radiant Silvergun) and Gradius V of Treasure, a small software house founded by former Konami employees, perfectly embodied it. spirit and virtue, bringing as a dowry all the experience accumulated by the developers in the past years. After the success of Ikaruga, translated on Steam last year, for the return of the fifth chapter of Gradius (originally published in 2004 on PlayStation 2) we opted for the PlayStation 3, a rather anachronistic solution considering the sales prospects on the long term and the market success of the fourth Sony flagship. Glissed on Konami's move, already in the eye of the storm for the news coming from Tokyo, and dusted off the DualShock 3, we are back in space aboard the legendary Vic Viper and this is the story of our journey into the past.
Treasure brings the fifth, very difficult chapter of Gradius to PlayStation 3
The first detail to take into account in this "nostalgia operation" by Konami is the need to forget the terms remake and remastered, which are so fashionable (even too much) at the start of this new generation of consoles. The game, in fact, is nothing more than a carbon copy of the one already seen on PlayStation 2 over ten years ago, with all that follows from a technical and playful point of view. Downloaded from the PlayStation Store the approximately 600 MegaBytes of data that make up the package, in the hard disk we still find one of the best horizontal scrolling shooters in history, whose most intimate dynamics are daughters of that old school linked to the smoky arcades of once and, above all, to the arcade slot machines.
In simpler words, we are facing an exasperatingly difficult shooter, with a zero learning curve and a technically ephemeral longevity: it is enough to know that to complete a complete game, from the first level to the end credits, it takes at most an hour and a handful of minutes. That said, before you succeed in the grueling undertaking, months and months of cursing and very small steps forward will probably have passed, which session after session, memorizing attack patterns and enemy appearances, will improve your approach to the title and effectiveness in battle. The main menu, translated into Spanish, is quite simple and with a vintage flavor, and in addition to being able to start a new game, in it it is possible to select one of the previously unlocked stages, play a points challenge, observe the ranking (with scores accompanied by the iconic three letters) and configure the options. The latter are not very many, but they can "soften" the edges of the huge rock that is revealed in front of the player from the very first minibosses. Beyond the traditional level of difficulty, from very easy to very difficult, for a total of five distinct configurations, it is possible to adjust the number of reserve spaceships (i.e. the lives) and lower the scores that once reached give extra lives. Among other things, the so-called resume point can also be activated, a very useful checkpoint - disabled with the default setting - which allows us not to have to start a stage all over again at each death, although, to be honest, it is not exactly as accessible as in more modern games, as it can make us replay rather long and tremendously complex sessions. Before starting a game and launching on the battlefield, it is necessary to set the versatile Vic Viper: there are four different "Type" of the spaceship, linked to the arsenal and secondary fire modes, which are activated by collecting the classic bonuses released by specific enemies destroyed, usually orange in color.
Managed with the R1 button, the inevitable satellite guns can be locked forward (Freeze), oriented diagonally (Direction), moved along the vertical axis (Spacing) or rotated around the spaceship (Rotate) according to the type of Vic VI chosen, while the main weapon is upgradeable with various upgrades. The double fire, for example, in the Type 1 is addressed frontally and diagonally, while in the Type 2 it is in Tailgun mode, or with bullets fired also from the tail of the spaceship, a very useful solution, for example, against the first boss. There are also several bonuses for rockets and missiles, the laser to replace the plasma (much appreciated by the most experienced players), the increase in speed of the spaceship and the inevitable shield, which can save your life in many circumstances. The interesting aspect of these upgrades is that they are all tied to a real-time selection wheel, and the player, collecting the special bonuses released by the enemies, must click at the appropriate time to equip what he wants.
The aspect that has carved the name of Gradius V in the Olympus of scrolling shooters, in addition to its uncompromising hardcore nature, is undoubtedly the superfine level design, still able to fascinate the player thanks to the infernal solutions adopted by Treasure , with deep space passages, huge space stations and sessions in the heart of colossal alien organisms. In addition to the simpler enemies to take down, namely the Bacterion (Gradius's historical nemesis) who usually move in formation, there are many minibosses and bosses, some of which are really huge, so bad and sneaky that to get the best of it you need to memorize attack patterns and transformations.
In some circumstances you are literally overwhelmed by enemy firepower, with the entire screen flooded with bullets and the room for maneuver reduced by the massive size of the bosses; for this reason the developers have slightly softened the Vic Viper's hitbox, which has a certain amount of contact with projectiles and elements of the scenario before exploding. The level of difficulty, as specified, is very high, and the risk of frustration with the consequent launch of the joypad is always around the corner, so to make the most of the Treasure work it is necessary to progress with hit and run sessions, with the sole purpose of making a small step up from the previous game. There are steps that will really damn your soul, with bosses that never seem to die while continuing to transform and change attack methods; even the second will put your patience to the test. Despite everything, the desire to proceed to the end remains intact even in the absence of a plot, and the level of challenge encourages you to continually return to the game, especially if it is possible to face it with the support of a second Vic Viper controlled by a friend. As pointed out in the previous paragraph, we are facing an exact copy of the title launched on PlayStation 2 in 2004, and you will notice it as soon as your screen adjusts to a resolution of 720x576 pixels. Although the graphics are overall pleasant, despite having been designed for old cathode ray tubes, the blurred colors, the absence of an anti-aliasing filter and, above all, some annoying slowdowns in the most excited moments, suggest that an optimization work would certainly have helped. on the return of Gradius V, whose vintage charm is enhanced by the old-fashioned sound effects and the compelling soundtrack signed by Hitoshi Sakimoto.
Son of an old-school videogame concept linked to bar cabinets, Gradius V is still today one of the best exponents of the genre, thanks to the delightful level design, the frenetic gameplay and the incredible number of bosses and minibosses to face during the campaign . Despite some annoying slowdowns and an overall pleasant but dated technical sector, for ten euros it remains a recommended purchase for enthusiasts and for those who do not let themselves be intimidated by a level of difficulty bordering on frustration. Konami's choice to release it on PlayStation 3, rather than on the new Sony flagship, is curious as it is anachronistic.
- One of the best shoot'em ups ever developed
- Delightful level design and fast-paced gameplay
- A concentrate of hardcore solutions
- Wide variety of bosses and mini bosses
- It is a carbon copy of the PlayStation 2 version
- Extreme difficulty is not suitable for everyone
- Annoying and incomprehensible slowdowns
- Hitbox to metabolize