Gradius V is the most recent intallment in the Gradius series that spans 3 decades. Though it wasn't very successful commercially, it got very high ratings from reviewers and critics alike.
The same basic storyline as prior games is present in Gradius V. Alien invaders, you're the only hope, against insurmountable odds, etc. Let's face it, people play shooters to test their skill and have fun, not for the great storyline. Through eight stages you fight through space and corridors filled with lesser enemies, then go up against the boss to progress through the next stage. Like prior games, once you beat the game it starts over at a harder difficulty.
It takes under an hour to beat the game, presuming you don't die a lot, but you will. One nice thing compared to prior games, though, is that if you die you come back right where you started. You're not forced to start back over at some midpoint in the level. You can also recapture your Options (little ships that follow you around and fire when you fire). Also, like many "bullet hell" games, the hitbox of your ship has shrunken. Your ship can get grazed by bullets and it will be fine -- you will only be killed if the bullets hit the cockpit of your ship. Hit detection and control are perfect in Gradius V. Staples of prior games are here. Orange enemies drop powerups, you have the same "power up" bar at the bottom of your screen. You can also select from various types of missiles, lasers, and options during start up. While the game is a 2D shooter, it has some elements of 3D. All the models are 3D and in some stages the screen tilts a bit to give you a slightly different angle of the action.
Gradius V was developed by Treasure, the company behind many of the best 2d shooters of all time, including Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga. Hitoshi Sakimoto, reponsible for both those games soundtracks as well as other games such as Final Fantasy Tactics is also responsible for the soundtrack here. The game is very well polished graphically and has a superb soundtrack.
Overally Gradius V is probably the best 2D shooter on the PS2, and it's likely to remain that way. It's definitely a game for people who enjoy playing shooters so much that when others watch them play, they are just in awe. There's a lot of replayability here in mastering the levels, the patterns, etc. The various difficulty levels are perfect for gamers of all levels though. If you can find this around, pick it up and try it out.