Gradius V has been in development for a fairly long time. The game, originally announced back in early 2003, was supposed to be released at the end of last year. After some delays, the game has recently hit Japanese shelves, and it is currently set to come to North America in September. From what we've played so far, Gradius V definitely appears to be a difficult shooter that lives up to the Gradius name.
Gradius V puts you at the controls of the famed Vic Viper and gives you four different sets of power-ups from which to choose. The power-ups fall into the same categories, so you'll still get a missile or a double-shot, a laser power-up, the ability to boost your speed, a force shield, and the ever-popular option power-up, which creates a little glowing sphere that tails your ship and gives you extra firepower. The options are pretty different between the four types. Using the R1 button, you can make your options freeze in formation with type 1; type 2 lets you aim your options' fire in different directions, and so on. These choices create some differences, but they all seem like valid ways to play the game depending on your own preference.
Gradius V starts out just like you'd expect a Gradius game to begin: A few waves of basic enemies fly onscreen in formation, practically begging you to blast them out of space. From there, the levels really take off into some insane territory. The second level sets things off by having another Vic Viper pop out of nowhere and demand your assistance in taking out a huge enemy ship. It seems like this Vic Viper is only here due to some crazy time travel stuff, which is a neat idea. From there, you face tons of enemies, lots of boss ships, and really wild attack patterns that make the game difficult.
As has become the norm in shooters these days, the game starts you out with only a limited number of continues, but as you accumulate play time, more and more continues will be available to you. The game is playable by two people, which makes things a little too wild in some spots, as it can be difficult to navigate with huge barrages of fire filling much of the screen.
Graphically, Gradius V has a pretty standard look to it, although it does have some nice backgrounds and explosions so large that the game has to slow down and give you a closer look. Famed shooter developer, Treasure, has handled a lot of behind-the-scenes development work on Gradius V, and it shows. The game's language is all in English, even in the Japanese release, but over the din of the game's loud soundtrack and other effects, it can be difficult to make out what's being said at any given time.
Overall, our short time with Gradius V has been a positive experience. Fans of scrolling shooters haven't had too much to play since Ikaruga was released, so this game definitely seems to fill that void pretty well. We'll have more on the game leading up to its September domestic release.