Gameplay trumps story
Azure Striker Gunvolt was met with rave reviews when it was released back in 2014, with fans of the Mega Man series feeling right at home with gameplay that was eerily similar to that of Capcom’s iconic franchise. In fact, in some ways it proved to be a bit too similar. For Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, developer Inti Creates has decided to team up with Yacht Club Games and give fans a reason to get excited about stepping back in the shoes of not only Gunvolt, but also his rival, Copen.
I usually try to start off my reviews by going into specific details about a game’s plot and why you should be excited to play through the campaign, but I’m not going to do that here and I need to explain why. Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a fast paced, balls-to-the-wall action platformer that will test your button pressing skills as well as your hand eye coordination, but unfortunately just as you’re getting into the game’s flow, the story will interrupt the action by way of walls of text and character portraits that fill the screen. It does this all while expecting you to shoot a handful of enemies, dodge oncoming bullets, and making sure not to fall into one of the game’s many bottomless pits. Thankfully, Gunvolt 2 does give you the option to disable these conversations and just get straight into the action, but doing this made me completely miss out on the story. The portions of the story I was able to take in were told between stages and weren’t much to write home about, so turning off the conversations in-game didn’t affect my overall enjoyment. I think Inti Creates knew this was going to be a problem since they even give the option to disable these invasive blasts of dialog to begin with.
Once you decide if you can withstand the text and portraits filling up the screen or not, jumping into the actual gameplay is the equivalent of jumping into a nice cool pool on a hot summer day. Gunvolt 2 will make you feel like a total bad-ass as you zip around the screen watching enemies get blasted to smithereens all while attempting to avoid enemy fire and increase your Kudos score. Yep, the Kudos system returns for Gunvolt 2, and it’s up to you to build it up by destroying as many enemies as possible while taking minimal damage. To make things a bit easier on the player, the Kudos you’ve accumulated will be save at checkpoints so it’s not as soul crushing to make a mistake. Once a stage is completed the Kudos that you’ve accumulated will be added to your total score which in turn will determine how many crafting elements you can pick up at the end of the stage to build new weapons and enhance Gunvolt’s or Copen’s abilities.
A nice feature of Gunvolt 2 is the option to play as either Gunvolt or Copen in 2 separate campaigns. I decided to start the game with Copen since I think he’s an overall more interesting character. As previously mentioned, Copen is Gunvolt’s rival and his main focus is to kill each and every Adept he runs into, including Gunvolt. Once I complete both Copen’s and Gun Volt’s campaigns, I determined Copen to be the easier character to use and ultimately the easier campaign. Dashing into an enemy with Copen will “target” that enemy and every bullet fired from his gun will make its way to the target, similar to homing bullets. Also part of Copen’s arsenal is the ability to air dash diagonally making maneuverability one of his strong suits. I found fighting bosses extremely easy due to Copen’s dash/target skill and I was able to zip around with ease, avoiding most obstacles while utilizing Copen’s homing fire.
Gunvolt, on the other hand, offered much more of a challenge due to his inability to maneuver as easily as Copen and jet from one side of the screen to the other. Additionally, his flash field makes a return and will dish out major damage once GV targets enemies with gunfire. However, unlike Copen, he must remain at a closer proximity to his target since his flash field doesn’t cover as much distance as Copen’s homing gunfire. This made enemies that were on smaller platforms a bit more of a challenge due to the player being required to shoot the enemy before the flash field takes full effect. Overall, players will find reasons to love both characters because they’re both easy to control and fun to use.
I felt both campaigns had just enough differences between the two to separate them from each other. Several of Gunvolt’s stages required the player to use his flashfield to activate or deactivate platforms, while Copen’s campaign had enemies placed in perfect spots to fully utilize his dash attacks and homing bullets. If I were to complain about one thing it would be that a lot of the stages all looked similar with the exception of GV’s ice stages. The storylines in both campaigns, like I said before, are very bland and not really interesting at all. Each campaign clocked in at about 3.5 hours.
Aesthetically speaking, Gunvolt 2 looks stunning! The sprite work is beautiful and really pops when the 3DS’s 3D bar is set to the max. Robots will explode in great detail with bits and pieces scattering from one side of the screen to the other. Each step Gunvolt takes emits a small charge of electricity and Copen’s thrusters will emit a nice blue glow from the bottom of his boots. Bosses look detailed and interesting as well as the many grunts that are spread throughout each level. As previously mentioned, all of this can be lost in the copious amounts of text and other unneeded artifacts that fill the screen when the conversations are set to “on” in the options menu. I just felt really overwhelmed when conversations were almost completely taking over the screen as I was desperately trying not to be hit with enemy fire to keep my kudos intact.
To keep with Gunvolt 2′s retro look, an upbeat chiptune soundtrack compliments the gameplay. Fast beats will accompany you as you shoot and dash around the game’s world with Japanese voice actors lending their talents to the story if you have story mode on. Robot explosions sound awesome and the screams of certain enemies made me giggle every time I blasted one away. I did find myself turning the volume down while playing at the office because both Gunvolt and Copen let out an annoying grunt every time they jump and being that this is an action-platformer; you’ll be jumping a lot. One particular boss whose named Ghauri has one of the best voice actors in the game. This boss speaks in rhymes and hearing this in Japanese sounds both amazing and hilarious, especially accompanied by the absurd subtitles. If you can manage to play with the story mode on, you won’t be disappointed with the voice acting as its top notch.
I thoroughly enjoyed Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. Despite the uninspired and often downright invasive story segments, the core gameplay was consistently fun and engaging throughout the 7 hours it took me to complete both campaigns. And the addicting Kudos system added an element of perfectionism that I still try to improve upon even though I’ve already completed both Gunvolt and Copen’s stories. Challenges can also be completed to add to an already robust package that should have players shooting and dashing into enemies for quite some time, or at least until Azure Strike Gunvolt 3 drops.
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: 3DS (Reviewed) ; Publisher: Yacht Club Games ; Developer: Inti Creates ; Players: 1 ; Released: September 30, 2016 ; MSRP: $14.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a copy of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 provided to HeyPoorPlayer by the publisher.