Two years ago, Sega's RED Entertainment and Trigun creator Yasuhiro Nightow teamed up to create the "shoot everything that moves with style" experience known as Gungrave. Unfortunately, it was dead on arrival in the US, so Sega passed on bringing the sequel in North America. Newcomer Mastiff has taken up localizing the game at a bargain price, giving a demolition junkie an armory full of bang for his buck.
For those not familiar with the original, the conductor of this symphony of destruction is Beyond the Grave, a man whose name says it all. With two high powered handguns named Cerberus and a coffin arsenal strapped to his back, he's a near-mute one man killing machine. He doesn't have to work alone anymore though, since he's been joined by the blind swordmaster and fellow deadman Juji Kabane, along with a rock 'n roll ghost haunting a deadly electric guitar named Rocketbilly Redcadillac. The monster-creating drug SEED is back, and it's up to these three undead musketeers to get to the root of the problem and wipe it out for good.
Grave marches through area after area filled with generic goons to give them a bullet-written invitation to the afterlife. Gungrave: OD has an arcade-inspired feel, reminding me of some classic "kill everything in sight" gun games such as Operation Wolf. Besides just mashing the fire button at every enemy that rears its ugly head, there are also charged shots, melees attacks that can deflect rockets, and even high powered Demolition Shots. Each character has nine DS variants coming in three basic types; a powerful single shot, a room clearing multiple shot, and a time dilation effect similar to the "bullet time" of Max Payne. To earn ammo for the DS, you'll need to keep your Beat counter going. Beat feels like an element borrowed from vertical shooters. It's a combo meter, where everything you shoot, from enemies to destructible elements in the environment, adds to the count. Keep the count going and your DS meter will fill, but get knocked down or run out of things to shoot and it'll fade away, leaving you to start over at one.
One non-arcade element is the lock-on system, which is also the one that doesn't work as well as it should. It'll only lock a set distance from an enemy, all the while they're slamming you with machine gun and rocket fire. Lock-on is the only way to aim at different elevations, when it's twice as hard to connect with. Even if you get it, you won't keep it for long. If the enemy moves out of your field of vision or if it's blocked by any object, the lock is lost. Since it changes how the character moves, this can leave you open for easy hits. With enemies often pouring in from all sides, you'll be left open anyway, as there's no on screen indication if an enemy is behind you, and it's often hard to tell in the middle of a firefight, at least until an unexpected rocket knocks you into a wall. A simple radar would have eased some frustration.