Gungrave: Overdose–High On Fun

Guest Post

Gungrave: Overdose is the sequel to Yashiro Nightow’s 2002 frentic shoot ’em up featuring the resurrected mob enforcer Brandon Heat, a.k.a. Beyond The Grave. The people at Red Entertainment must have paid very close attention to the reviews and feedback received from the original Gungrave, because almost every element has been improved in Overdose, giving the sequel a more complete and, most importantly, a more fun experience.

One major improvement comes from the overall storyline, something the the previous game had very little of. This time he gamer does not have to piece things together from different Wikipedia entries or wait for the anime to come out since the plot unfolds masterfully through cut-scenes and in-game dialog. The events of Overdose take place three years after the fall of the Millenion criminal empire. Mika Asagi and her plucky young sidekick, Spike, reawaken Grave to stamp out the remants of Seed, the super-drug that turns it’s users into deformed killing machines. Aiding them in their search are two new playable characters: the (literally) hot-headed swordsman Juji Kabane and the ghostly rock star, Rocketbilly Redcadillac. The story is something that the player can easily get wrapped up in since there are so many twists and so much character development as the game goes on.

The game is very easy to pick up, whether you have never played it or have left it on the shelf for a while. That is not saying that it is easy to beat (that’s probably the reason it was laying on your shelf). Even if most of the enemies do not require too much strategy to beat, they usually come in packs and have an insane bloodlust. Luckily you have a variety of ways to get through them, unlike in the first game which was basically just shoot and dodge.

You have an unlimited supply of bullets at your disposal, which you can fire repeatedly or charge up for an explosive shot combo. Racking up numerous consecutive hits will fill up the gauges required to pull off a Demolition Shot, Overdose‘s requisite super attack. The melee weapons have also been upgraded tremendously. Not only do they have a new set of combos, they can be used as shields against incoming fire and can be used to deflect missiles back at their launchers.

The addition of the two new characters also deepens the gameplay, since each character must be handled in a different way. Grave is the standard hero-type with balanced abilities, although his guns are a bit more powerful than his coffin. Juji is the fastest of the three with the strongest short-ranged attacks and almost pitiful long-ranged attacks. Billy, who carries a ballistic electric guitar, is a bit like Grave except he’s much more effective at hitting longer-ranged targets. Each of the characters has nine Demolition Shots.

The cut-scenes are fun to watch and enjoy. While they are richly textured, some of them are choppier than they should be. I don’t know if that is a good or bad thing, since it does add to the overall grainy atmosphere of Overdose. I do, however, know that the voicework is a very good thing, which is rare for an all English-speaking cast. The usually excellent Cam Clarke and Steve Blum are featured players in the game and make their respective characters their own. Renee Raudman is excellent as Mika, as she perfectly captures our heroine’s innocence and her desperation in every word she says.

However, all the improvements come at a cost, namely with the graphics. Overdose really takes a step backwards in this area. The environments and character models are very stiff and blocky, looking like something that would be better suited for a PS1 game. Many of the enemies probably looked better on paper, since they do not translate very well to the game itself.

Overdose also has one of the worst cameras I have ever dealt with. There are way too many times where you are getting shot/stabbed/hit with a missile, etc. and you have no idea where it came from or who did it. Just to add to how frustrating that is, one of the boss battles has you fighitng with your back to the boss while he is still attacking you. A game as manic as this really needed a sharp camera (or two), not one that made trying to get through a difficult stage that much more difficult.

Another bothersome thing about Overdose is the lack of any other gameplay modes. You can unlock a boss rush mode as well as customizations for your weapons, but they do not really ease the monotony of playing through the main mission over and over again. This games begs for some kind of online or co-op function, but the programmers either could not or just did not add anything. Red really missed a great opportunity here.

2 thoughts on “Gungrave: Overdose–High On Fun

  1. This game came out right before the anime did. It’s a (relatively) whole new storyline with only a few characters from the anime showing up.

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