Experience the revival of the hardcore action-platformer in the adrenaline-pumping Azure Striker GUNVOLT for the Nintendo 3DS
While the days of Mega Man have seemingly come to an end, Keiji Inafune – the “father” of Mega Man – has done his best to make sure that the spirit of the series lives on. While most of Inafune’s current popularity comes from the game “Might No. 9”, which currently in development, both Inafune and Inti Creates have come together to make yet another spiritual successor; Azure Striker GUNVOLT.
Let’s put things into perspective. Mighty No. 9 is Inafune’s spiritual successor to “Mega Man”; that is a very widely accepted opinion. What does that make Azure Striker GUNVOLT the spiritual successor to? The answer is simple, my friends. GUNVOLT is the new “Mega Man Zero”. You know the one, right? The series was considered by many to be one of, if not the most difficult of the franchise. Between its difficult levels, high learning curve and, most notably, its insanely demanding ranking system which required both skill and speed, MMZ was certainly the series game to master if you wanted to become an action-platforming savant. And now, finally, that formula is back!
The storyline isn’t really something of major concern, but it is still done well enough. Azure Striker GUNVOLT stars a young Adept, an individual with special abilities, named GUNVOLT (not a big surprise). At the start of the game, GUNVOLT is working for an organization by the name of Quill; a group dedicated to destroying the evils of the Sumeragi Corporation who wish to dominate the world via the control of Adepts. GUNVOLT has been tasked with taking out a special Adept with the ability to help, hinder, or even control people through her song. The hero soon finds out however that not everything is as it seems.
Seeing as how much of the game’s inspiration was drawn from the Mega Man Zero series, one might think that Azure Striker GUNVOLT would play quite identically to that of its muse. Honestly, it really is not the case. That is not to say, however, that there are no similarities between the two. Like Zero, GUNVOLT has the ability to dash and climb walls. Surprisingly, that is where many of the similarities end. While GUNVOLT does carry a traditional weapon, a gun, most of the damage done to enemies is done through the use of electricity. Shooting an enemy with a gun will “tag” it. A single enemy or object can be tagged up to three times and, depending on what ammo you are using, there is an opportunity to tag multiple enemies. Once tagged, GUNVOLT can then damage his enemies through electrical currents using his signature Flashfield; an ability which simultaneously creates a circle of electricity around GUNVOLT in order to deal minimal damage to surrounding enemies, and shoots up to three arcs of electricity at tagged enemies. GUNVOLT can also gain experience and level up throughout the course of the game. These levels increase HP, and can occasionally teach the Adept a new skill. Up to four skills can be acquired at one time, and take up a certain amount of SP. GUNVOLT only has 3 SP however, and the charge time is incredibly slow, so it is important to only use special skills when necessary.
The levels themselves are a bit more traditional. As one might expect, GUNVOLT features a beginning level, seven main levels, and a final gauntlet of four levels. Each of the main levels boasts a certain theme such as water, wind, or fire, and feature a boss which aptly fits said theme. GUNVOLT is your traditional platforming game in this aspect, with level layout consisting of all of the sidescrolling goodness that one could come to expect out of a company made up primarily of ex-CAPCOM members. The bosses, while a lot of fun, can get pretty ridiculous. If you’re not used to games like this, it could take a while before you’re comfortable enough with the game to be able to defeat a boss. Fortunately, you can continue from your last checkpoint as many times as you want with absolutely no penalty! While not particularly useful to veterans of the genre, this feature makes the game much more accessible to those who are trying out action-platformers for the first time. I’m sure that, after reading this, some of you are saying to yourselves “well this actually seems easier than the MMZ series.” With that thought in mind, let’s move onto what hardcore gamers would quite likely consider to be the most important part of any level in this game.
Azure Striker GUNVOLT features a ranking system spanning from C to S+/SS (Much like the F – S system in Mega Man Zero), based on score and time. The time aspect is how it’s always been in games, with the score multiplier increasing or decreasing in accordance with the amount of time it takes the player to complete the level. The functionality of the base score works a bit differently than normal. While defeating enemies does net the player some points, most of a player’s score will come from a meta-score, or a score-within-the-score, known as “Kudos”. Hitting and defeating enemies will both earn GUNVOLT Kudos and increase the Kudos multiplier, as will performing special tricks such as killing several enemies at once, or defeating bosses under certain conditions. Kudos can be banked by touching a checkpoint, using an offensive skill, or completing a level. Taking any sort of damage whatsoever will decrease both the number of Kudos and the Kudos multiplier to zero; no exceptions. While rank S can be reached with relative ease just by avoiding damage and banking Kudos sparingly, there is a severe jump in difficulty when attempting to achieve an S+ in any level. Anything short of a perfect run will simply not do. While the S+ rank is most definitely able to be accomplished, presents the potential for a player feel though as if it takes the way skill in favor of simply memorizing where everything is in a level.
Enough about the actual gameplay; let’s move onto some of the aesthetics. The artwork of Azure Striker GUNVOLT is quite nice. The colors are vibrant and never run together or clash, and the movement of both the characters and backgrounds are quite fluid and nice. In a way, it almost feels like you’re watching an anime as opposed to playing a game (if you can forget the adrenaline rushing through you while you try to go for that S+ rank, that is), and honestly there’s a good chance that that is what they were going for. Sure it’s a bit showier than other games of its class, but people need to remember that this isn’t Mega Man, Mega Man Zero, or any other game in the Blue Bomber’s series. Just like it has its own gameplay mechanics so does it come with its own art style, and it’s a rather charming art style at that.
The music is nice, but it didn’t really seem to wow me. If I’m being honest, my favorite song is the one that plays during the level select screen. I’m not sure why, but I find it to be quite catchy. The selection of music found in the levels is a bit lackluster however, as is the boss theme. The soundtrack’s one saving grace (or nail in the coffin, depending on how you look at it) is the fact that, after amassing 1000 Kudos, the level’s music changes into one of several J-Pop songs. These songs are supposedly those of the Muse, a character in-game. While they’re catchy, they’re definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.
All-in-all, Azure Striker GUNVOLT is a pretty fantastic game. While some parts of it may be a bit frustrating, it’s a very solid package all around. Weather you’re itching to get back into hardcore platforming, you’re a die hard Mega Man fan, or you’re just looking to challenge yourself, GUNVOLT is definitely a game worth checking out.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Nintendo 3DS (Reviewed), Nintendo 2DS ; Publisher: Inti Creates Co., Ltd. / 8-4, Ltd.; Developer: Inti Creates Co., Ltd; Players: 1; Released: August 29, 2014; Genre: Platformer; MSRP: $14.99
This review is based on a retail copy of Azure Striker Gunvolt purchased by Hey Poor Player.