Azure Striker Gunvolt Review

I think I have to begin this review by stating that I’m probably a bit what people might call “nostalgia biased” in that I’m a huge Mega Man/x fan. While I know there’s always differences in games, there’s expectancy of improvements or failings,in comparing these games to each other as well. That being said, here are my thoughts on Azure Striker Gunvolt.

Our Protagonist
Our Protagonist

When I first saw the reveal for it, I thought it was pretty nice with what I saw: Good aesthetics, nice sprite art, what looked like fun 2d-scrolling action.  Having Keiji Inafune introduce it didn’t hurt at all either.

I would’ve waited a bit before getting it too, but then I saw it came with a bonus game with Beck from Mighty No. 09, so I had to have it ASAP. Bonuses all around.  It goes without saying that I was happy to try this game out.

The story sets up telling you about the world where new types of psychics have started to appear. The Sumeragi Group quelled a lot of fears surrounding these “Adepts”, as they’re being called, by essentially kidnapping them, and torturing them to use their powers for themselves. Here’s where our Protagonist comes in.

Gunvolt works for the Quill organization, Anti-Sumeragi militants, and the game starts with GV rescuing a girl named Joule, whose adept power is a virtual entity named Lumen, whose song can be used to control adepts.  The rest of the game consists of you fighting the Sumeragi Group Adepts a’la Mega Man style. Yeah. It’s one of those games with the overly dramatic plot.

Quill, they serve no purpose to you.
Quill, they serve no purpose to you.

 

The gameplay itself seemed competent in controls; standard movement worked well, a new-ish type of combat with the tagging system, and the kudos system to keep track of how many hits you can get without taking damage.

Tag! You're it!
Tag! You’re it!

The tagging system works as follows: shoot a target with your gun and then you hit the RB on your 3ds, and ZAP, whats called your EP Field is enacted, hitting all the tagged targets, as few as 3 (and you can stack up to three on a single target) with your first weapon and as many as eight with weapons procured by progressing through the game.

Zap, Mofo!
Zap, Mofo!

There are some RPG elements as well: Leveling up and item farming.

Leveling up is fairly straight forward. You level up, you get higher HP, and at certain levels you get Skill abilities. Some skills give you buffs, some skills attack directly.

Giant electric sword in action!
Giant electric sword in action!

The item farming is a bit tiresome. You can “synth” upgrade items to boost your abilities like EP/HP Recharge, double/triple jumping/airdash, defense modification, etc.

I feel that these elements Pad the hell out of the game unnecessarily, especially synthesizing items. Each upgrade takes multiples of different Items, which are given at random, or in an uncovering bonus at the end of the stage, so you have to run through all the stages multiple times in order to get a single upgrade. I think I was about two-thirds of the way through the game before I was able to make my first one. Stage Ranks affect how many chances you can get at the end of the stage to uncover more items.

As for moving around, it’s standard 32bit-era 2d-sidescrolling: Jump, dash, jump dash, some double jumping to dodge. There is a wall jump, but there’s no place where you really use it. There’s no real secret areas to look for, you just find jewels, one in each main stage, and one in a secondary level. To give to Joule the jewels. Jewels for Joule.

Bouncing around
Bouncing around
"I'll help when I feel like it," She said obstinately.
“I’ll help when I feel like it,” She said obstinately.

One more bit about Joule. There’s a system where talking to Joule will allow her to help you in the game. If you die, and she so wills it, Joule will use Lumen to give you her “Anthem” which enhances your powers (unlimited air jumping, infinite EP gauge)and the music changes to a very J-poppy tune. The problem with this is that it happens only after you talk to Joule between levels, and even then is completely at random, so it’ll probably never happen when you actually need it.

The level design… I really didn’t care for much. There’s some interesting things to do, like one  but so much of it was just uninteresting, or needlessly complex. The Sinner’s Row stage has you flipped upside down, with reversed vertical controls, which I thought was interesting.  An example of complex would be the Subaquatic Base, where at one point you’re running away from rising water, only to be stopped by multiple barriers, and the water shorts out your EP field if you try to use it, and you drown if you’re not quick enough. It’s not “hard” its just a bit annoying.

Purest, most refined Bullshit right here folks/
Purest, most refined Bullshit right here folks/

There’s not a whole lot to say about in-stage enemies. Pretty standard fare for this type of game. I would say that there’s just not enough of them, and a bit too much space between groups, and not enough variety per each stage.

Generic enemies in their natural habitat.
Generic enemies in their natural habitat.

SS3

The Mini-bosses, when they show up, are neat, like a couple of times a tank-like mech, or a giant flower, or a spider-tank show up and break the monotony. On the lamer side, there’s mid-level parts where you Just fight wave after wave of enemies just trying to kill a siren.

LASER FACE!
LASER FACE!

The bosses are a bit different in terms of difficulty. None of them were hard as so much as they were cheap. Almost all of them have super moves that are insta-kills or impossible to avoid, and even some regular moves that just have no real window to dodge in. They attack in patterns, and unleash their supermove when they get to their third bar of health. Easy to predict, but hard to cancel/dodge.<Boss Bullshit “Suddenly Bullethell”,Boss Bullshit 3 “Lazy Prick”, Boss Bullshit 2 “Barely escapable bullshit”>

Suddenly, Bullethell.
Suddenly, Bullethell.
Lazy ass  prick.
Lazy ass prick.
Barely avoidable bullshit.
Barely avoidable bullshit.

Graphically, the sprites look very crisp, everything stands out, the backgrounds are pretty, and there’s no visual lag anywhere. Not much else to say really. Well Done.

Stylistically, it reminds me heavily of the later Mega Man X games (x5 and x6 specifically) in both tone and aesthetics, with quite a bit of the Zero series as well. The characters are well styled, and very distinctive visually; nobody feels like a carbon copy of something else.

Characters

The bosses, however, I think are a bit too cluttered. Each one looks less like an “Adept” and more like a Digimon. They all have individual personalities as, though I couldn’t really tell you what those were, they only give you a couple of lines of dialogue that gives no motive outside of “I must kill you” but each saying it in their own way. As heavy as the story is, I’m sorry to say that’s really how all of the characters come off outside of Gunvolt himself, but only barely.

Digimon
Digimon
Digital Monsters
Digital Monsters
Digimon Are
Digimon Are
Our Champions
Our Champions
Herpesmon!
Herpesmon!
Mintyleafmon!
Mintyleafmon!
Sternfacemon Digivolve to...Magneticbullshitmon!
Sternfacemon Digivolve to…Magneticbullshitmon!

The game functioned very well, but didn’t fully use any of its functions, and wasn’t very difficult. I finished the game around 9 hours,  but that was because after reaching the final stage, I went back to up my rank in some stages, and farm items for upgrades before finally beating the last, multi-staged boss. I heard there’s more stages after that, but you have to meet certain criteria,  like beating the last boss using certain equipment, so I’ll keep playing for a bit longer, and try for the “True ending”.

At the end of the day, Azure Striker Gunvolt isn’t by any means bad: The story, while nothing special, is dialogue heavy, but has some nice twists, the gameplay has some problems, but still works well enough to be mastered,  and the characters, while kind of flat, are visually interesting.  It has some flaws, and quite a bit more padding than I’d like, but I found the game mildly enjoyable. I’d give it a 6/10 if I used such a metric… but I don’t.

I give Azure Strike Gunvolt an “Eh..” out of “good” .  TTFN Readers.

-Mega

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