What makes an effective demo? Benny delves into the topic and discusses his favorite game at Anime Expo 2019: Inti Creates’ Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX
Creating an effective game demo is an art. You need to inform any potential players what your game is about. At the same time, you also need to make it concise enough that people can quickly try it out, while being long enough that it’s enjoyable. In addition, you need to make sure it’s not maddeningly difficult, but also not overly simple. You want to leave a good impression and inspire confidence in the title; not make people regret spending half-an-hour in line. This balance is what separates Inti Creates and Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX from every other game at Anime Expo, hands down.
Yes, right off the bat, let me tell you this was the best thing I played at AX this year, bar none. Yes, there were other good games, but Luminous Avenger iX combines these elements in an almost perfect way. Sure, that’s some high praise, but why is a game that some would call a “spin-off” that good? And what about the developers; who exactly are they? We’ll tackle both of those questions starting with the developer themselves: Inti Creates.
Inti Creates: The Artisans of Action Platformers
Inti Creates is one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to 2D platformers. While some of you may not know the company by name, you’ve probably played or at least heard of one of their games:
- Azure Striker Gunvolt 1 & 2
- Blaster Master Zero & Zero 2
- Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
- Gal*Gun: Double Peace & Gal*Gun 2
- Mega Man 9 & 10 (Co-developed with Capcom)
- Mega Man Zero 1-4
- Mega Man ZX & ZX Advent
- Shante and the Pirate’s Curse & Half-Genie Hero (Co-developed with WayForward Technologies)
As you can see, they’ve worked on some high-quality projects. My favorites are Mega Man ZX (my personal beloved Mega Man title) and Blaster Master Zero 2. Still, there’s not a bad game in this bunch. So, already you can have some faith in Luminous Avenger iX based on their resume alone. But that can also work against a developer since it sets expectations high. Especially since iX is part of the Gunvolt universe.
The Legend of the Azure Striker and the Luminous Avenger
Azure Striker Gunvolt was first self-published title by Inti Creates. And the timing of Gunvolt’s release couldn’t have been better. You see, Gunvolt takes a lot of inspiration from Inti Creates’ work on the Mega Man Zero and ZX games. If you recall, around 2014, Capcom wasn’t exactly doing much with the franchise. So, for fans who were hungry for an intense and smooth action platformer, it was a godsend. And the game did well. In fact, it is Inti Creates’ flagship property now. Which makes Luminous Avenger iX all that more important. However, here’s where I have an admission. I’ve never played the Gunvolt games.
Yeah, while I do own the Azure Striker Gunvolt Striker Pack for the Switch, I’ve still yet to play the thing. So, this outing with Luminous Avenger iX would my first experience with the franchise. Which is certainly another hurdle for the demo clear. Thankfully you don’t need any experience with the Gunvolt games in order to enjoy iX. Though, for those curious, let me give you a bit of backstory.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX takes place after the events of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. However, the protagonist of this story is Gunvolt’s rival: Copen. All you really need to know about the world of Gunvolt is that it takes place in a future where superpowered humans known as Adepts exist.
While Adepts were just starting to appear at the start of the first game, by the time of iX they are the dominant force. This leaves the remaining humans, or Minos, as the hunted and repressed. The Sumeragi Corporation are trying to exterminate them in order to further the evolution of Adepts. And if you’re also having flashbacks to Mega Man Zero, you are not alone. Copen’s primary color is even red. Though, unlike Zero he uses guns instead of a sword. Which is as good a segue as any to talk about the gameplay.
Ramming Your Foes Always Works! Especially When It Lets You Lock-On to Them
As I mentioned, iX is a 2D platformer. Like most platformers, you’ll want to take things slowly at first in order to learn the level layout and enemy placement. After all, good platformers are more akin to a puzzle you need to solve. iX is no different.
My first attempt at the demo ended up with me running out of time. This was due to me taking my time to figure out the controls and how Copen moves. Copen’s main method of attack is his guns. While you can just stand there and shoot at an enemy to take it down, there is a much better way to handle your foes: ramming into them!
I’m actually not kidding. By dashing into an enemy, Copen will kick off them and into the air. In addition, he’ll be locked onto said enemy allowing you to just fire away. This is the key to how combat in iX works and the gameplay is centered around it. Something I put to the test during my second attempt at the demo.
This time I made liberal use of the dash/lock-on combo. I found myself not only speeding through the level but often barely touching the ground. Chaining air-dashes together not only felt natural but was a blast. You really feel like some invincible hero dispatching foe-after-foe. The same strategy applies to the stage boss, though don’t expect them to just standstill. Inti Creates bosses belong in a category all their own after all.
When Your Boss Fight Feels like an Anime Brawl, You Know You’re Playing an Inti Creates Title
One of the many charms Inti Creates’ titles have is their ability to integrate over-the-top elements into their games in a creative and fun way. This extends to the various bosses in their titles and their special attacks. Each of the three bosses I faced during the demo had their own unique desperation attack they’d use when their health got low.
As can be expected, they not only look impressive but definitely need to be avoided. And a skilled player can do just that. Thankfully, Copen also has his own super move called “Twin Shredder” which he performs with Lola, his companion, which can also put the hurt on your foes. All-in-all, it makes for some frantic, yet manageable gameplay. But really that is Inti Creates’ great strength: their game design.
If you look throughout their library, you’ll find that many of Inti Creates’ titles are easy to pick up and play. Sure, they may not be the easiest games in the world to beat (I’m looking at you Mega Man Zero 2) but with a bit of practice, you can do it. However, if you stick with it and really polish your skills, you are in for a treat. I suspect iX is no different here.
Even from the brief amount of time I had with the game, I can see this being both a streamer’s and speedrunner’s dream. The air-dash/lock-on combo is practically designed to be exploited by gamers who want to show off their platforming skills. Add in the challenge of trying to clear each stage as fast as you can, while also trying to rack up as many points as possible, and I think you get the picture. For casual fans like me, I’ll just enjoy this for the sheer fun. But for platforming pros? Get ready to push your lightning reflexes to their limit in pursuit of that perfect run. With all that said, let’s wrap this up.
The Chronicles of the Luminous Avenger Is Not One to Be Skipped
As I said at the start of this piece, Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenge iX is my game of the show from Anime Expo. This was magnificent and I left Inti Creates’ booth craving more of the game. Sadly, I’ll have to wait a few months, but that gives me time to play the Striker Pack. As for this demo, it does exactly what a demo should do.
The game is easy to pick and play, but you want to challenge yourself to go faster; to do better. The game doesn’t punish you horribly for messing up but also doesn’t hold your hand. It’s an excellent balance that’s just a joy to play. Seriously, if you’ve never played an Inti Creates title, this may be the perfect one to start with. Definitely keep an eye out for this once it releases.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX will be released on September 26 for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Steam. In the meantime, if you’re looking to acquaint yourself with Inti Creates be sure to check out Blaster Master Zero and Blaster Master Zero 2. Two games of theirs I heartily recommend.