E3 2004: Gradius V Hands-On

Konami's Treasure-developed sequel gets its second E3 outing and impresses again.

Update: Video coverage added.

When Konami first announced Gradius V, shoot ‘em up fans were ecstatic over the news that Treasure's brilliance would shine once again as it handled the development duties. The game marks the return of Konami's longest running shooter franchise, continuing the tradition of the series by thrusting the Vic Viper into new, highly challenging, side scrolling worlds where it can access 12 upgradeable power-ups and 4 option control types, while engaging in intense combat throughout a variety of wicked level designs.

In addition to the game's classic features a new internet high-score ranking system has been added along with an all-new 2-player coop mode where you and a friend can blast off and take on the enemy armada together. A feature that up until now was relegated to Konami's Gradius spin-off series, Salamander aka Life Force.

The gameplay of Gradius V like that of most shooters requires very little explanation really. After selecting your weapons array, you then take control of the Vic Viper ship where you'll need to successfully maneuver and blast your way through seven levels of intense shooting action. While the Vic Viper traditionally starts off at a slow speed and is armed with a weak Vulcan cannon, you can obtain power-ups that not only improve your ship's speed but also equips it with enhanced Vulcan Cannons, missiles, lasers, and the ever so helpful Option units among others.

As with any great shooter, there's so much activity happening onscreen throughout each level that your fingers will remain in constant motion throughout the game trying to avoid crashing into enemies and objects while weaving in and out of the way of enemy fire. Blink once and you're dead as non-stop hordes of enemy ships are relentless in their pursuit of your destruction putting your maneuvering skills to the ultimate test and providing a very fulfilling twitch gaming experience.

Visually, Gradius V looks fantastic and is no doubt the best looking Gradius game yet with highly detailed 3D graphics, blazing lighting effects and fantastic explosions accompanying the hectic 2D gameplay. Unfortunately, with all the other games turned up loud I couldn't get a fix on the type of soundtrack Gradius V will be sporting, so I can only hope Konami handled the audio portions of the game and not Treasure. No offense Treasure fans, but great game music has never been one of their strong suits.

Overall, despite the PS2 Dual Shock controllers - one of the worst controllers for 2D shooters in my opinion - Gradius V still plays like a dream. The game supports both analog and digital controls and is set to be one of the most challenging shooters released this console generation.

Gradius V hits Japan in July with a U.S. release to follow in September. With all the delays it has suffered so far hopefully it actually makes this release date and isn't pushed back yet again to the point of appearing at next year's E3. Expect more in-depth coverage of Gradius V as the Japanese release closes in.

Joseph Jackson
Staff Writer, Kikizo.com

Video Coverage
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Gradius V
E3 2004: Direct feed gameplay (640x480, 1Mbps)
0.47m 5.95 MB WMV

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