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Gungrave - The Story Behind the Game
By Ridwan Khan
SEGA has just unleashed Gungrave, for the Playstation 2 on the American public, and Animefringe was able to speak with Noah Musler, project manager for the U.S. release of Gungrave.
Noah opened with some background on the project. Developed by Red Entertainment (of Sakura Taisen fame), the game is a 100 percent action shooter. To quote Noah, it's all about "driving forward and kicking ass." The game's protagonist, Grave, is an undead assassin, working to avenge a young girl. His target? An underground crime syndicate selling an illegal new drug, "seed." The game features artwork by Naito Yasuhiro, of Trigun fame.
Noah himself was intimately involved with Red Entertainment's production. Red was recently acquired by SEGA, and since Gungrave is one of their first PS2 titles, everyone involved is very excited about it.
Noah then began taking questions.
Is the game the spiritual successor to SEGA's earlier Gun Valkyrie?
Valkyrie was similar in some respects to Gungrave, in that they were both shooters, but Valkyrie was around 80 percent a shooting game and had more action elements, while Gungrave was focused in on the shooting. Also, Gungrave is much more user-friendly than its predecessor.
Will Gungrave see high-quality toys (like Trigun) in the U.S.?
SEGA has not announced action figures in the U.S., but Gungrave merchandise is doing well in Japan. Noah mentioned it would likely be a big part of Gungrave's U.S. presence, especially if the game did well.
What changes were made to the game for the U.S. release ?
According to Noah, few changes have been made to the game for its U.S. release. Of these, including subtitles for the Japanese audio and a harder U.S. difficulty were the two most notable.
When did Naito Yasuhiro get involved with the game?
He began work on the game before coding even began.
Are there plans to spin off Gungrave into cartoons or manga?
If the game is successful, then SEGA and Red are looking at merchandising opportunities. Both companies would like to see comics or a cartoon for Gungrave in the U.S.
Does Gungrave feature progressive scan graphics (like NFL 2003)?
Does Red Entertainment have any plans to release Sakura Taisen in the U.S.?
Red Entertainment has talked about bringing Sakura Taisen in the U.S., there has been no announcement from SEGA. However, Noah mentioned to watch the Tokyo Game Show for further announcements.
Is there anything Red wanted in Gungrave that it could did not have time for?
The game is pretty complete. It has everything Red Entertainment wanted. For the U.S. release, SEGA would not have minded an English language track, but for such an anime inspired game, Japanese audio with English subtitles seemed appropriate.
How many hours of gameplay does Gungrave feature?
The game features six big levels, but it depends largely on skill. It can be blown through in a couple of days, but to unlock secrets, like new weapons, new attacks and Smash Bros Melee style unlockable action figures, it will take much longer.
The game is one player.
Did Gungrave's dark theme suggest being created for the Playstation 2? Is it a risk to market such an anti-hero?
Red Entertainment chose the PS2 because they were familiar with the machine's architecture and since there are nine million PS2 owners, there is a bigger audience for Gungrave. There is also a bigger chance for sequels with more people that can purchase the game.
As to the second question, everyone loves a dark character.
What's with Gungrave's combo system?
There is a skull in the corner of the screen that glows when Grave deals out "his own brand of action" on enemies or scenery. The skull, known as the b-counter, continues to glow for consecutive hits. Every fifty hits, the skull gains power. The goal in the game is to continue firing, so as to gain power for harder boss enemies. Additionally, using the combo system unlocks action figures in the game.
How is Gungrave different from other shooters?
Gungrave is far more stylish than other shooters; it features a "posing" feature, a diving move that is used to avoid enemy fire, and the b-counter and its subsequent power moves all differentiate the game from previous shooters.
What is Gungrave's music like?
Unlike many shooter games, who use rock with guitars, Gungrave features a jazz soundtrack, not unlike Cowboy Bebop's.