20 years ago, the third-person action game Gungrave launched for PlayStation 2. Today, the gun-slinging anti-hero Beyond the Grave returns in Gungrave G.O.R.E, the first orthodox sequel in the series since the 2004 follow-up Gungrave: Overdose. This time, it is spearheaded by Studio IGGYMOB, a South Korean developer whose first venture into the franchise was the 2017-released Gungrave VR for virtual reality headsets.
“When looking into it, as a studio, we liked that both the gameplay and the characters gave us this nostalgic feeling,” Studio IGGYMOB chief operating officer Kay Kim told Gematsu. “With the original, people fell in love with the game’s distinct look and design in this over-the-top world. That distinctive gameplay and charm of the character played an important role in our decision to revive the Gungrave intellectual property. As fans of the series, it was a new and exciting challenge.”
The first Gungrave was developed by RED Entertainment, which still owns the rights to the intellectual property. While its gameplay received mixed reception at the time, its character designs by Yasuhiro Nightow were highly acclaimed. And while RED Entertainment is not directly involved in Gungrave G.O.R.E, Nightow is still on board in a big way.
“Nightow took an active and important role as image director for the Gungrave G.O.R.E,” Kim explained. “In particular we worked with Nightow on character’s design, posing, and more. Later on, Nightow also helped us with coming up with names and designs for the skills, broadening his role to even more as an image director.”
But the wait for a new Gungrave has been a long time coming. Gungrave G.O.R.E was announced way back in December 2017, and once had a set release window of winter 2019, but faced multiple delays as Studio IGGYMOB struggled to find an investor.
“At the time, mobile games were the biggest market in Korea, so it was hard to receive an investment as a console game,” Kim said. “The release of the game was delayed due to the mixing of financial problems and changing of game designs. At first, we designed the game as half open-world, but we soon realized that it doesn’t fit to the nature of Gungrave franchise. Looking back, it feels funny now to think we nearly made the title half open-world, but we were really serious about it at the time.”
While the idea of an open-world was tossed aside, Gungrave G.O.R.E does come packed with both new features alongside Gungrave series pillars.
Kim explains, “First of all, we felt it was important to include iconic elements of the franchise, particularly unlimited ammunition is staying in the game. Also, the demolitions shots and high-tempo shooting are improved with a stylish new look. We’ve included fresh and exhilarating gameplay which has made the feeling of the game stronger. We have added various systems to design the gameplay cooler and more enjoyable.
“Our favorite new element is ‘The Storm Barrage,’ which lets players pour out bullets like a storm. We also have things like ‘R.I.P,’ which allows you to kill stun enemies in one hit, and ‘Chase,’ which lets players dive in to the enemy line. Lastly, ‘Grab’ is a lot of fun—it allows you to pull enemies in front of players during combat. There are so many enjoyable and badass melee attack systems that have as been added to the game, we’re excited for gamers to get in and enjoy them.”
To that end, Grave is also sporting some new weapons in addition to his trademark Cerberus and Death Hauler. And even those have been upgraded.
“The ‘Cerberus’ and ‘Death Hauler’ are still there, but they have more skills, and we have added new features to the Death Hauler. In previous iterations, there was no growth, but in Gungrave G.O.R.E, the player can expand and strengthen his skills and abilities by upgrading. This will become important factor in immersion and multiple rounds of play.”
Gungave G.O.R.E takes place on the fictional island of “Scumland” in Southeast Asia following the events of Gungrave: Overdose, but it is not integral to have played previous games in the series to follow the story, Kim explained.
“In the main menu you will find a history section that will educate all players about the previous titles and story. So even if players have never played a Gungrave game before it will be easy for them to jump in. Even those who have experience with the previous iterations of the Gungrave franchise can remind themselves of the story with history section.”
With Gungrave G.O.R.E out at retailers and digital storefronts today, Studio IGGYMOB looks forward to the future of the Gungrave franchise.
“We’ve made sure that this new iteration maintains the legitimacy of the Gungrave franchise but also elevates it,” Kim said. “In particular, with things like the growth system, but also more rewards within different difficulties for multiple rounds of play. If you clear the hardest mode of the game, you can get Brandon Heat as the first entry into the game. I think it is challengeable value as a fan. Also, it will be fun to challenge gamers for the highest kill count too.
“We have some ideas for [downloadable content], however we have nothing to share right now… We are planning the next sequel. If Gungrave G.O.R.E becomes successful, there is higher chance we’ll be able to develop a sequel. We’ll have to wait and see.”