Azure Striker Gunvolt Review (3DS eShop)

Mega Man has been laying low for a while now, but his legacy still lives on. The developers over at Inti Creates, along with Keiji Inafune, have melded their collective experience from Mega Man Zero, ZX, and Mega Man 9 and 10 and formed a brand new IP known as Azure Striker GUNVOLT. The results of this collaboration is a daring game that learns from the past while making needed strides towards the future.

Story

The game takes place in a world where an ancient organization called the Sumeragi controls the world. Its main source of is the development of Adepts who threaten the peace. However, in this world, the Sumeragi are the true villains, plotting to use the Muse to gain absolute control and it’s up to Gunvolt and the organization QUILL to stop them.

The storyline is essentially a basic anime plot. A lot of the dialog is outside of the gameplay, though maybe half of the dialog is found within the levels. If you don’t care much for the story or exchanges, a simple press of START will skip the scene, which instantly improves replay value. However, I do find the story interesting enough to at least go through it once. I also appreciate being able to re-read the story by selecting the corresponding level.

A lot of the dialog is found between missions

Much of the dialog is found between missions

Something I found interesting–even though I didn’t notice it in my initial run–is that the bosses appear to be based on the Seven Deadly Sins instead of just the clichéd elements trope. Whether they are perfect representations, however, is another question. You can kind of see these ideas in the quick monologues before each fight, but a few associations are a bit of a stretch, especially Envy. Now that I think about it, the theme probably makes the character even more shallow than my first impressions may have suggested.

I won’t provide spoilers, but the game does end on a cliffhanger unless you collect all the Jewels, so players might feel betrayed by this. I know my first impression was that it was an incomplete story. This might be to help encourage players to search for said gems much like the Chaos Emeralds in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, but at least in those games you were still awarded with an ending even if you didn’t collect them all.

Graphics

The game graphically looks and feels like a Mega Man Zero or ZX entry. There’s detailed artwork seen in the cutscenes and promotional art, but the actual game consists entirely of sprites. I would have liked to have seen a greater evolution of tired 32-bit look, but this is admittedly a smaller-scale game and certainly not trying to reinvent the wheel, as it were.

Before its release, there was a rather comical controversy regarding the coverage of Gunvolt’s abdominal section, but, to be honest, I mostly agree with Inti Creates’ localization. The ponytail alone might make people question if Gunvolt is a girl, but since he’s decently clothed, it helps reinforce that he’s just shockingly cool dude. Though I would have preferred to skip the ponytail as well, I do appreciate the Zero reference.

Gunvolt Belly

The trademark ponytail was left intact in the western release

Sound

Despite its release stateside, the voice clips are solely in Japanese and, honestly, I prefer it that way. When I play a game in my native tongue, hearing the same phrase over and over again quickly becomes annoying. With foreign dialects, however, I am curious about what they are saying, but I can also easily ignore it and focus on the gameplay. I will say though that the simple inclusion of voice clips does add a pleasant layer of polish to the overall product.

The music is fitting if not somewhat run-of-the-mill. You don’t really notice the music too much until one of the eight “Anthems” begin to play, which features vocals and a heavy techno beat. The track captures the feeling of a Japanese anime climax, which makes things interesting since it plays during those blood-pumping moments of intensity. It plays either when Lumen saves you or when you reach a high Kudos combo. I do really appreciate this concept though and think it’s something action anime fans would enjoy.

Gameplay

Anyone who has played any of the Mega Man Zero or ZX games might be wondering what makes this game unique. Frankly, the whole combat system is, well, different. While dashing with L , jumping with B, and shooting with Y might seem familiar, being tied to the central mechanic, lightning-infused powers, is actually quite liberating. Gunvolt’s gun does very little damage as its main purpose is to “tag” opponents, then promptly utilize lightning with the press of R or A–R feeling very natural, might I add–to finish them off.

The core of Azure Striker GUNVOLT lies in the flashfield ability. You have three gauges: HP for health, EP for electricity, and SP for skills. The EP is the main thing you need to worry about as it is essential for your flashfield ability, which is how you attack. After tagging enemies with your gun up to three times, using the flashfield will send a lightning attack with power according to the respective number of tags. Also, any enemy that enters your circle will take damage, which can even stop physical projectile attacks. However, if you use the ability for too long, you’ll quickly run out of EP. As long as you have EP (and if a certain pendant is equipped), you can automatically use a technique called “prevasion” to dodge attacks. With other equipment, you can also use EP for powers like double jumping or air dashing.

Looks complicated but it's really simple

Looks complicated, but it’s pretty simple

Careful players won’t have to worry about refilling the EP as it occurs automatically. If you run out, however, then you have to wait a while before you can use any EP techniques, leaving you completely vulnerable. As a side note, prevasion does not work if you are using the flashfield. If you need to recharge quickly, just double tap Down, though in some situations it’s harder than you might expect. In this regard, you could say this game rewards the player’s skill and patience.

The game features a leveling up system not seen in most platformers: when you level up, you gain extra HP and potentially earn a new skill. Before each mission, you are able to change which skills you have equipped. These skills can be really handy in a pinch, ranging from a devastating attack to recovering full health and everything in between. You have three SP, but they recharge over time, so if you pace it right, you can ultimately use them quite a bit in a single run.

Something that’s fairly unique is the death system in that the player has infinite lives and will retain any gained experience points. The game has optional checkpoints from where respawn after a death, but there is also a chance that Lumen will resurrect you. If you have a good relationship with Joule (i.e. talk to her in the menu), the chances of this happening will increase. As I mentioned above, the music changes into something anime epic, but you also gain super-charged powers. You don’t need to worry about EP, you can just air hop, air dash, and flashfield as much as you want. These moments seem most reminiscent of a thrilling anime–and it’s awesome for it. While you would think this would make things too easy–and to some extent, it does–you can still die just as easily even with “Anthem” in effect.

Azure7

There’s also a pretty satisfying scoring system present in Gunvolt. For example, the final level score is based off the score you gained in the level and multiplied by a factor based off your clear time. I personally have only gotten one S and one A rank through my playtime and that’s because it’s a real challenge to achieve these higher marks. One way to improve your score is to gather Kudos. When you attack enemies for a long time without getting hit using any offensive skill, hit a checkpoint, or complete a mission, you tally up a combo meter. If you accomplish any of these three tasks, the amount is calculated and added to your score. I personally have trouble getting to 1000, but there are multiple ways to earn Kudos.

Even though you can go through the whole game with the gear you begin with, you might want to synthesize some new ones. Even though the store begins with only a few items, synthesizing one item would unlock more. Something cool the developers implemented was a system for unlocking materials at the end of each mission. However, like Monster Hunter, the chances of obtaining the materials you want ban be slim. Fortunately, you can increase the chances by collecting medals during a mission and earning a good rank while another way of acquiring materials and money is to take on assigned challenges.

Before you do a mission, you can select three challenges to take on. And since there is no penalty for failing said tasks, players might as well select them. The critique I have with this is that you cannot select challenges associated with a specific mission until after completing the mission once. I think this is to help players feel comfortable with exploring the level first before attempting to do speed runs (which comprise of a lot of the challenges), but for something like blowing up crates, I did that instinctively during my first attempt.

Can you get to 1000 Kudos without getting hit? That's one challenge

Can you get to 1000 Kudos without getting hit?

Speaking of the bosses, if you played Mighty Gunvolt, you will recognize a three of them. Even the patterns of attack are the same though there are a few extra moves. I found the other bosses to be well varied. In the classic sense, sporadic attack patterns seem impossible to dodge at first glance, but then you begin feeling out the rhythm of battle and those patterns are identifiable. There were a few occasions where I felt it truly was impossible to dodge an attack but using a well-timed offensive skill or prevasion would help rectify the situation.

To reach the postgame, you’ll need to collect Jewels–seven to be exact, one for each main Sumeragi mission. As I mentioned earlier, these are required to get the game’s true ending. They are often well hidden, though there’s at least a few Jewels in plain sight. If you pick up one up, you need to successfully complete the level in order to collect it. In my first run-through, I found four of seven and–with a few more replays–I eventually found the other three. I do appreciate that the hunt for Jewels makes plodding through challenges more enticing and effectively doubles as an avenue for an added layer of exploration that is really reflected in the game’s overall level design.

She likes Jewels

Jewels are a girl’s best friend

Replayability

Despite the main campaign being under five hours long, Inti Creates constructed a highly replayable product. In older Mega Man titles, once a boss was defeated they were eliminated from the stage select until a new file was created. GUNVOLT alleviates all this by keeping stages completely intact including bosses even when you’ve completed the level. Add in the easy to skip dialog, challenges, various gear, and tricky Jewels and you’ve definitely got some solid replay value here and a truly enjoyable game to master. Even after you unlock the real ending, there are four additional special missions to unlock for the hardcore players. And if you want to start from the beginning, you have four save files you can choose from.

Overall

Despite being a fairly short and concise game, Inti Creates crammed quite a lot of content into Azure Striker GUNVOLT. I’d say the main selling point here is the spiritual successor nature of the title–GUNVOLT really feels like Mega Man‘s weird distant cousin, but in a good way. Those who enjoyed the Mega Man Zero games and action anime fans should especially dig Inti Creates’ new action-platformer. Not only can you tell the developers put a lot of effort into GUNVOLT, but they certainly did their homework in terms of molding the Mega Man formula into something entirely different and fresh.

 

Azure Striker Gunvolt Review (3DS eShop)
Despite being a fairly short and concise game, Inti Creates crammed quite a lot of content into Azure Striker GUNVOLT. I'd say the main selling point here is the spiritual successor nature of the title--GUNVOLT really feels like Mega Man's weird distant cousin, but in a good way. Those who enjoyed the Mega Man Zero games and action anime fans should especially dig Inti Creates' new action-platformer. Not only can you tell the developers put a lot of effort into GUNVOLT, but they certainly did their homework in terms of molding the Mega Man formula into something entirely different and fresh. Perfect for people who want to feel like they are in an anime
Story8
Graphics8.5
Sound8.5
Gameplay9
Replayability8
8.5Overall Score
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About The Author

Feature Writer/Game Reviewer

Blogger in the IGN community and no longer for Always Nintendo. You can find him still blogging in the IGN community as FalconRise