Gungrave G.O.R.E is the third main entry from a surprisingly old franchise of an action-shooter game that dates way back to 2002. While Gungrave G.O.R.E Ultimate Enhanced Edition is the Nintendo Switch port of the same game that was released for the PlayStation and Xbox consoles. So, chances are you also probably heard or rather, got the feeling that the title sounds familiar, as it also inspired a twenty-six-episode anime series, which I find to be weird since this is the first time I’ve heard about this franchise. But it helps that they added a recap of the series on the main menu to help newcomers know a few stuff from the past entries.
Knowing what was considered to be “cool” in that era, our character Beyond the Grave, or Grave for short, is a brooding type of guy who only speaks when it’s necessary (he barely had any lines at all). He leaves nothing but burnt lead in his wake, against a syndicate that distributes the drug called SEED, all while pursuing the people responsible for taking his merry life.
I wish I could have described Gungrave G.O.R.E’s premise in a better tone, but honestly, the narrative is quite all over the place. It didn’t help that a lot of characters threw lots of exposition which most of the time were just confusing or outright didn’t make sense. I’ll try to avoid potential spoilers, but there was this one time when a character got shot and Grave was badly injured, the only thing that could save Grave was the blood of this certain bad guy since it has healing properties. But it cannot be used to the other character because it turns out she was the daughter of the bad dude.
While I’m trying not to think too hard about that detail, if you have a main character who barely talks, and one-dimensional villains who rule Scumland (yes, that’s the name of the city) just because they’re evil, it’s obvious that the narrative is generic at best.
While I’m not the biggest fan of Gungrave G.O.R.E’s narrative, I would say the gameplay has potential. Being a third-person action shooter, you mow down hordes of enemies, and the main objective is to increase the number of your combo points called “Beats” while following a very linear map ending the stage when you reach its endpoint. The higher Beats you accumulate, the faster Grave shoots, and this will affect your stage-end score along with your remaining HP, kills, and clear time. You will get currency based on the result, which you can then use to purchase upgrades.
This is where Gungrave G.O.R.E’s fun begins, as the upgrades open up lots of ways to punish your enemies, and it offers good replayability, that is if you want to unlock every skill and stat upgrade. Meanwhile, it’s important to know which type of attack you should use on certain enemies. Being that most of the time you’re surrounded by a huge number of enemies, it’s vital to learn the actual controls, as recovery items are non-existent in this game. Only with certain moves can you recover your shield and HP, so taking upgrades and knowing the proper commands is a huge help.
Unfortunately, this is only what Gungrave G.O.R.E can offer. Admittedly, I did have fun shooting wave after wave of enemies in my path. But it got repetitive too soon as most of the enemies are just cannon fodder and don’t have much variety, with very few boss battles.
Another concern of mine is the unlockable attacks. I don’t mind that most of these unlockable attacks are finishers, but what I’m not a huge fan of is the melee upgrades. Much like other action games, you can input a combination of buttons to unleash a unique attack. The problem is melee attacks in this game are pathetic against lone enemies, most of them just miss, with their main use being to deflect incoming missiles.
The worst thing is, you’ll be standing still, turning you into a human bullet sponge, which sucks in later stages as there are sudden difficulty spikes, flooding you with tougher enemies that could result in a quick game over. It didn’t help that your operator would keep shouting at you, that you were being shot.
Last is the music. During enemy encounters, there’s metal music playing in the background, but for some reason, some encounters don’t play any music at all. I’m not sure if it was intentional, but most of the encounters with the metal BGM are not a special encounter. This gives every fight an inconsistent feel.
Despite this drawback, strangely enough, Gungrave G.O.R.E fits well as a handheld game for the Nintendo Switch. Cutscenes may look a bit janky considering how low the resolution of the Switch is, but Gungrave G.O.R.E linear gameplay feels just right as a handheld companion. Since you don’t have to pay much attention to game the details per se, you just have to focus on shooting enemies no matter how repetitive it could get. It will serve you well as a time killer, considering the game’s decent length. Putting all of this into consideration, I’d say Gungrave G.O.R.E is one of those instances where a Switch port is actually better from its initial release, at least with how it fits a handheld game’s fucntion.
Gungrave G.O.R.E’s narrative may not be the cup of tea of everyone as it tries too hard to be badass, so hard that I can’t even take it seriously (not to mention the dialogue and cutscenes), but the gameplay has its merits. By removing the need for consumable items or recovering from enemy drops, you’re left to rely on combat mechanics to survive, which is a cool twist on your action game genre. However, the lackluster upgrades and very few boss battles holds it for being a properly good experience, meaning there’s wasted potential.
But looking at the Gungrave G.O.R.E basic gameplay loop, it makes for a nice Switch port. Comparing it to old titles that got ported on handled consoles, its linear gameplay is a decent match for people on the go looking for an action-heavy time killer.