Gungrave: Overdose - And You Still Get Change From a Twenty

Grave, the silent hero of 2002's Gungrave, returns to the PS2 in a sequel to the original game, but this time he's not alone. The first game was a fun little shooter that was much too short; it could easily be beaten in only a few hours. Overdose takes much longer this time around and also benefits from some re-playability, largely in part to the two other characters you can play as (once you encounter them). The two other characters are controlled much like Grave but each play differently enough so you don't feel like you're still playing as Grave with just a different character model. Juji Kabane excels at melee combat, while Rocketbilly Redcadillac (yes, you read that right) fights with an electric guitar that boosts his ranged attack. These differences add some re-playability, but not enough to warrant a second time through the game.

The story is standard fare, though it gets somewhat interesting later on. No previous knowledge from the original game or the anime by Yasuhiro Nightow is required. Grave and his young charge Mika are tracking down a drug kingpin, and along the way they meet Juji and Billy, who agree to help them in their crusade. Their story is moved along by comic book panels with spoken dialogue and occasional cut-scenes, which are nice, but don't help the tale escape mediocrity. The voice work and quality of the cut-scenes are very good, though, and the art style is quite unique.

When it comes down to it, Overdose is basically just shooting hordes of bad guy and blowing stuff up. Almost everything in the environment is destructible which just adds to the on-screen carnage when you are under attack. The later levels are get pretty difficult compared to the cakewalk end of the original Gungrave. Be prepared to fight some of the last bosses a few times before moving on. Graphically, the game looks much better than the original, except for alot of recycled backgrounds that are reminiscent of old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Other than that, the game looks pretty sharp on the aging PS2, and the console handles the load of many characters on-screen very well.

Gungrave Overdose is a much better game than the original, despite the two still being very similar. The best part? Overdose is only $15. Take comfort in the fact that even if you do wind up disliking the game, it will only set you back a measly $15. Seeing as how it's easily five times longer than the original game, with superior graphics, sound, and added re-playability, with a price even lower than most budget titles, anyone who's a fan of the anime and shooters will want to pick this up as soon as possible. It is easily one of the best gaming deals this year.

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