It's been a while since Sony released a PlayStation 2 Classic worth writing about, but Konami has reached into its library to deliver one of the greatest SHMUPs of all time for PlayStation 3 owners. Gradius V will launch this week on the PlayStation Store, and I highly recommend doing everything in your power to give it a try.
The game in itself was a sort of throwback to the floundering SHMUP series. Its release in 2004 came a full five years and an entire console generation after Gradius IV, and Konami obviously knew that it needed to make something special to help it stand out. It wisely outsourced Gradius V to beloved 2D game developer Treasure, a company made up of former Konami employees, and the results were nothing short of fantastic.
Gradius V is without question the best game in the franchise, finding a perfect balance of everything that fans love about the series. Most importantly, it nails its difficulty curve, proving to be challenging but never too frustrating. The graphics are out of this world, the power-ups all fit perfectly into place, and it even adds a fun time-travel element in which players can fly alongside the original Vic Viper jet.
Gradius V was also released into a market dominated by RPGs, where "pick up and play" arcade traditions were horribly dated and constant progression was a requirement. To meet that, Treasure worked in a system that unlocks more options the longer the game is played, extra credits and customization options for example. It was an absolute must to survive on the console scene in 2004.
This wasn't the last Gradius game ever made, as that title goes to Gradius Rebirth on Wii Ware, but it is the absolute best way for the numbered series to soar off into the sunset. It might be a little contentious when compared to Ikaruga or Radiant Silvergun, but I'd say Gradius V tops both as the best in the genre.
I'm so glad that Konami gave this game a second chance to shine, and if it wants to keep appealing to gamers in light of its recent controversy, it can go ahead and give Parodius a long overdue American release as well.