Gradius V is pretty much a recursive blast from the past. The game was released in 2004 in an attempt to keep the Gradius franchise alive and in mind. It was thus designed to be a gritty, needlessly difficult 2D shooter in keeping with the first game.
You are a Vic Viper pilot and your job is to kill all the aliens pretty much single-handed. Luckily for you the Bacterians have a habit of keeping nice weapon power-ups in their spacecraft, ripe for the taking. These power ups are yours to use when you see fit. If you save up enough tokens you can buy a more powerful upgrade, ranging from satellite guns that travel around your ship, to speed increases, missiles, firing backwards or getting a limited duration invulnerability shield.
There are four configurations that you can choose from when you start a game that decide if your satellite weapons will move closer or away from your ship at a button press, or rotate to fire at targets that your main cannon can’t hit. The array you choose is also essential for boss fights as most of the fights require you to fire on a tiny target which is either behind you or protected by barrages of weapon fire.
Gradius has a habit of forcing you to be in the exact right position at the right time or you are dead in pretty much every boss fight. This is exacerbated by the game having a love affair with bosses, at one point tossing four of them at you in a row, very similar to a Final Fantasy climax. For some players the precision becomes masterfully executed dance steps; an invisible pattern of movements following an unheard tune. For others the precision and speed required is a complete chore, making Gradius V a difficult game to recommend.
In a way it comes down to the same mindset required to play a Souls game or to play Guitar Hero on expert: if the struggle of learning through failure and repetition appeals to you, Gradius has a nice charm. It is also why the pros and cons for the game both list the difficulty, because you are either drawn to it for that reason, or you will stay away to avoid the increased blood pressure.
Sadly this is diluted by the simple mechanics that feel really dated, even when compared to other shooters from around that same time period, making that R150 price tag look a bit steep. I have played a lot of 2D shooters and this is not one of the greats that people will fondly return to.
Now leave me alone, I am crying because the PlayStation 2 is now on the retro list of consoles.