Let's gun some graves“You ever feel like you’re dead, but nobody told you?”

We are going to get downright morose in today’s discussion of Gungrave: Overdose, so buckle in on these theories on dead men.

Gungrave is a franchise that stars the semi-titular Grave, a man that kicks off his franchise by hunting the dude that killed him. Yes, Grave is 100% undead, and a walking dead man that incidentally managed to keep walking due to some anime nonsense. I think he is kind of working off of vampire rules? Whatever. He is a dead man in a living man’s world, and a great many living men are committing horrible crimes that must be stopped. In the case of Gungrave: Overdose, there is a hot new drug hitting the streets, and while there may be some supernatural/extraterrestrial origins for this drug, the end result is the same: profiteering pushers are poisoning people for piles of pesos. So Grave has got to shoot everybody from here to the moon (literally), and drop these terrible drug dealers and gang leaders for the children (except the one child he maybe sorta kinda has to kill).

By and large, Gungrave is an action game where the whole of the plot exists as an excuse for Grave to increase his kill count in the most stylish way possible. While this story may be a little more grounded than Devil May Cry’s “Dante must kill every demon in hell (again)” plot, it is still a world where a guitar haunted by a rockabilly is going to be a perfectly cromulent plot point. As a result of this, gameplay where Grave is continually soaking bullets and recovering seconds later is accepted as a mundane event, just the same as Grave slaughtering an entire city’s worth of people while making his way to a malevolent forklift. It is a heightened reality of maximum style, so any “threats” in the story are about on the same level as Bowser menacing Princess Peach. Given this was released a year before Devil May Cry 3 (and when Bayonetta was still but a twinkle in PlatinumGames’ eye), while gaming at large was still focusing on open world “GTA-alike” experiences, GG:OD was/is a refreshing dose of pure action-action with nary an experience system to interrupt the carnage. Infinite bullets, infinitely refilling health (shield), and infinite fun. The “reality” of this world is secondary.

Which brings us to the most interesting moment in Gungrave: Overdose. A little over halfway through his quest, Grave is forced into an impossible situation, gets over his addiction to blood, and decides he is going to propel his undead self exclusively on the power of will alone.

Here we go

While there is still plenty of game left to go after this undead resurrection, this is unquestionably the emotional zenith of Gungrave: Overdose. G:O on the whole is a memorable experience, but the only distinct moments that are as extraordinary as Grave’s revival are when the first gangster reveals his boss form, or maybe when Fangoram loses his hat (it was a really nice hat). Past that, this is a story where everything is always dialed to 11, so you need an instant wholly off the scale to make an impact on the player. Grave’s emotional, factually emotion-fueled revival makes that grade.

And then, dead or alive or dead again, the rest of Grave’s game is exactly the same.

Shoot awayGrave before and after his second death is the same ol’ Grave. He is still stylishly hopping about and mowing down armies, and he is still soaking bullets like raindrops. He will acquire a super move or two as he moves forward, but past that gameplay feature (which, naturally, happens earlier in the game, too), Grave is the exact same man-thing straight through anything that happens in a cutscene. If you thought dying would impact Grave’s day one iota, congratulations, you are an idiot. He has gone through a rather traumatic transition twice in his life, and he is not going to let it get him down. He died. It doesn’t mean a thing.

And… I kinda feel like that recently.

It has been a while since we talked about the ‘rona on this blog. In fact, it feels like it has been a while since anyone talked about Corona Virus in anything but nostalgic terms. Our national state of emergency is officially over, any workplace that was ever even thinking about discontinuing telecommuting has been back to the office for months (if not years), and the last time I tried to get a vaccine booster at CVS, they told me I was full up (“You have immunities to diseases we haven’t even heard of! Get out of here,” they told me). And, give or take the fact that we seem to have a meager 11,581 new COVID-19 cases per week, with a paltry 139 deaths per week nationally, we really seem to have navigated through this storm. Four times as many Americans have died of COVID since November of 2020 as had before it, but I cannot remember the last time I saw more than two people in the same place wearing a mask. Maybe these facts are related? Who knows!? I am not a doctor.

KachingIf you cannot tell from the overt and deliberate sarcasm of the previous paragraph, I am not someone that “believes” the threat of COVID is over. Furthermore, the fact this even can be a “belief” seems completely wrong to me. The mortality rate for Americans has dropped and shows no sign of reversing, children and the elderly alike are dying in greater numbers from one very specific cause, and, even on the most basic level, those that claim “it’s all over” still flinch if they notice the dude at the next cubicle sneezing too often. Masks may no longer be required, vaccination verifications may never need to be presented again, and runny noses are no longer unanimously seen as a plague warning; but the world is irreparably changed at this point, with seemingly no path forward for improvement. Those with respiratory or immune system issues are likely never going to be able to revisit the public again without drastic precautions, and “oh I got COVID” is likely going to be the result of every other airplane ride you take for the rest of your life. And this is assuming “the rest of your life” is as long as it used to be, because the odds of ‘rona killing you are statistically higher than many other causes that were a lot more likely three years ago…

But the looming threat of a viral death is only the background noise for what is currently on my mind. The real problem with our “post-COVID” world? It proved we could do better… and then we gave up on it.

Watch the bugLet’s focus on how the system got schooled. While a true quarantine never happened (wondering how many days any given Wal-Mart or Home Depot was closed? The answer is zero), a great many public schools were closed for months, if not an entire school “year”. This was seen as a net good at the time, as children are sticky little disease factories on a good day, and crowding every single one of them in any given town into the same handful of rooms for extended periods sounded not only dangerous, but downright criminal. As a result, the whole of “school” as we know it had to shift dramatically, with children’s classrooms becoming their homes, and teachers shrinking to be a little person on a laptop screen. For many families, this was a burden, as it not only meant that all the required technology involved had to be dominated by a child incapable of checking mommy’s stock portfolio, but also that “childcare” was now a dominant part of any parent’s day. Whereas previously little Timmy could be counted on to be out of the house from approximately 8-3, now that rugrat was underfoot 24/7, dramatically impacting what an “essential worker” had to do to make sure Wee Jessica did not burn down the house. Unfortunately, this inevitably led to a host of people who loudly protested this public health measure, and, even in my small, local sphere, lawn signs for “reopen our schools” started popping up like/with weeds. Inevitably, for better or worse, the schools reopened eventually, and things got back to our centuries-old definition of normal.

But something that has been quietly swept under the rug is that many children thrived in the “quarantine” environment. Socialization is important for children, but it is not an objective positive for everyone. In the isolation of remote schooling, there are no physical confrontations, and bullying as we know it is simultaneously more difficult and immensely more trackable. Cyberbullying is always going to be a threat, but don’t underestimate how much it can help a child’s mental health when they are not routinely being shoved into lockers, or being humiliated in gym class. Additionally, depending on the age, some children simply learn better when a parent or trusted family member is handy to affirm or reinforce a lesson. Particularly at the start of a school year, teachers are little more than strangers, but grandma has been there right from birth, and you better believe she is going to help with your multiplication tables if you’re in her basement anyway. The math on this is easy: even if it was just a few kids per class, that meager percentage still adds up to millions of kids across the nation that benefitted from the separate environment of the “remote classroom”. And that’s even before we get into the children that distinctly have diagnosed reasons for all but begging for such a setting.

And, while this is anecdotal by definition, I can point to two children in my own life that have report cards that undoubtedly chart how they were doing measurably better during their remote schooling time, and worse after those changes ended…

But none of that is an option now. No matter what the reason, whether it be for convenience or because your child manifestly learned better during remote schooling, remote schooling is gone now, and it sure looks like it would take a lot for it to return in any fashion. Not only are these pathways now disassembled like so many forgotten sneeze guards at The Golden Corral, it appears there is now more of a push to never let this happen again than actually learn what we should do when such a situation inevitably returns. Our society did not learn that some children learn better in unique environments; we learned that remote schooling was a hassle, and if another virus comes down the pike, we better find a way to keep the kiddies on the playground and away from interrupting normal work hours. Remote schooling wasn’t perfect for everyone, but the degree we have gone to scorn returning to such a scenario ever again is massively harmful to those that benefited.

Wicka wow wowAnd our public-school situation is just one omnipresent reminder of how this rationale applies across the board. If you don’t feel like thinking about the children, consider how many businesses learned that their ventilation systems were crap not fit for a coal miner, but have not spent a dime to improve these decaying structures. Think about how the concept of working from home was universally lauded by employees across the board, but it was a bother for management, so 95% of small businesses aren’t entertaining the notion any longer. And everyone saw the “nature is healing” data on how limiting daily commutes for even a few weeks had noticeable benefits to the entire Earth, but apparently the economy would collapse if there were not five 24-hour burger joints in town, so we’re gonna need Debra to drive in and pull a double shift ASAP. Over and over again, we have seen how it is possible for there to be a better way, but that has been ignored so we could collectively “get back to normal”. Where would we be without these traditions? A better world? P’shaw…

So end of the day? I feel like I died. I feel like whoever I was before the pandemic is dead now, and now I am someone who has returned from beyond the pale… but not a thing has changed. I know everything that happened, I acknowledge everything that happened, but my day-to-day life is unchanged. My job is the same as it was before the pandemic, my life is the same as it was before the pandemic, and this complete lack of change is all around us. If you were to watch a recording of an average day in 2019 or 2023, you likely wouldn’t notice a single difference. Somewhere in the back of my head, I know so much has changed, and I have seen glimpses of a different world… but it’s all still the same. Massive upheaval, and the end result is… nothing.

Alive, dead, and back again. And you’d never know it happened at all.

Grave and I have something in common.

Damn Right?

Now I’m just waiting for the next stage of the pandemic to involve zombies…

FGC #652 Gungrave: Overdose

  • System: Playstation 2. We are not going to pretend it could exist at any other point in time.
  • Number of players: Are there competitive stylish action games? Like a Devil May Cry-alike where you are continually trying to outscore each other? G:O is not such a game. It’s single player.
  • Goin' SlowMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: Nobody is here for the metaphysical ramifications of zombie’s a-shootin’, so I should probably talk about the gameplay for a second. Long story short, this game is fun as hell, and I cannot disparage a stylish action game where you can still be effective while playing like a battering ram. And, considering your undead cast, that is appropriate! My only complaint is that they needed an alternative to “stand around to wait for the shield to refill”, because playing conservatively (aka being worried when you have low health) should not have the answer of “stand still” in an action game. It should be “get back out there and shoot as many things as possible”.
  • What’s in a name? I have to stop myself from calling this “Gungrave: Overdrive” constantly. This is apparently how my broken brain works, though maybe it is just a sign that I should play Sunset Overdose again.
  • Watch it, buddy: This bad boy was a part of Even Worse Streams for two nights.

    Original Stream Night: December 6, 2022

    Original Stream Night: January 10, 2023

    Given my faulty memory remembered this game lasting twenty minutes, I was downright surprised we didn’t clear the thing in one stream. Then again, I probably remember this one being short thanks to…

  • The Cost: Gungrave: Overdose was a budget title before we truly had a name for such a thing. In a time before downloadable titles, a brand-new videogame being released at $15 generally meant you were dealing with… Katamari Damacy? And that was it? And, while Gungrave: Overdose had the financial excuse of being heavily tied to an anime release (which, at the time, was a much sweeter plum of a financial investment), it is hard to make the argument that GG:OD somehow had less value than its contemporary Playstation 2 titles. There are nine levels, three playable characters, and a plot that is slightly more complicated than “beat all the bad guys”. This is a complete PS2 title in every way that matters, and seeing it priced at 30% of the initial MSRP of Devil May Cry 2 seems like an insult to the universe at large.
  • BLAMMOFavorite Character: Rocketbilly Redcadillac is mentioned often on the stream (and… uh… other streams) because he absolutely should be the main character. I do not care if you are trying to tell a serious story about drug dealer clone babies, you need to focus more on a dude with an electricity-chaining guitar and his extremely forced southern accent. On a related note: more videogames should star the ghost of Elvis.
  • Did you know? Gungrave: Overdose is the only videogame fully developed by animation studio Ikusabune. Ikusabune was also responsible for Galaxy Angel, Bakuretsu Hunter, and other animes you have never heard of.
  • Would I play again: Hey, I don’t think I have ever beaten this game as that blind zombie. Maybe I could give it a go with that angry, undead lad. Not like I’m doing anything better with my own afterlife.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… RWBY: Arrowfell! Learn all the colors in your printer while saving the world! Please look forward to it!

Let's boogie
So stylish

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