Azure Striker Gunvolt (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Lex Firth 09.04.2015 4

Review for Azure Striker Gunvolt on Nintendo 3DS

There's been a lot of buzz in the last couple of years for Keiji Inafune's Mighty No. 9. Announced following his exit from Capcom as something of a spiritual successor to his own classic Mega Man games, it's seen a tremendously positive fan reaction and was funded by over four times its original goal on Kickstarter. All this pre-release hype has, however, overshadowed Inafune's other Mega Man-inspired project, and it's one that absolutely shouldn't be ignored.

Azure Striker Gunvolt is to Mega Man X what Mighty No. 9 is to Mega Man. Its fast-paced gameplay and smooth controls hark back to the SNES platformer, while its crisp sprite-based graphics are reminiscent of recent entries, such as the DS' Mega Man ZX. Coming from a producer with such a pedigree as Inafune, such comparisons to his older works are inevitable, but it's important to note that Gunvolt is incredibly worthy of standing up on its own.

The game stands out from the crowd with the eponymous hero's electricity-based powers. Gunvolt is an 'adept' - a person who has developed 'septimal powers' granting him superhuman abilities; his in particular give him control over electrical fields and as a result he's able to remotely flick switches, dash through the air, and engage in the 'tag' system, which makes up most of the combat here. By shooting an enemy, Gunvolt can 'tag' them and then release a large field of electricity known as a 'Flashfield,' rapidly draining the health of potentially several enemies at a time when it hits them.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt on Nintendo 3DS

The Flashfield is a fantastic mechanic that really separates Gunvolt from other platformers on the market. Not only does it encourage point-boosting combos of several tagged enemies at once, but it also has several other uses such as unlocking doors, flicking switches and slowing Gunvolt's fall in order to reach secrets.

Each use of Gunvolt's electrical powers - be it through the Flashfield, an unlockable double jump ability, or by taking damage - saps some of his energy, which, when completely drained, sends him into overheat and prevents him from accessing his abilities for a short time. While energy can be restored before overheating with a simple double-tap of the down button, it still adds a layer of strategy to combat as it's not possible to simply hold down the button and watch everything die instantly.

Of course, the real meat of the combat comes in the form of the boss at the end of each stage. Corrupt organisation Sumeragi provides the plot's main antagonists, and cap off each mission in which Gunvolt works with the QUILL organisation to take down its leaders, the Sumeragi Seven. The boss fights are far more difficult than the regular gameplay (which often borders on too easy) and it's refreshing to see the Sumeragi take a rather active role in the storyline, in comparison to games such as Mega Man X, where the bosses felt like nothing more than roadblocks.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt on Nintendo 3DS

The plot itself is surprisingly deep, considering Gunvolt's short running time - it mainly focuses on the story of Joule, a mysterious girl rescued by the Azure Striker himself at the beginning of the game, dabbling in some rather heavy themes along the way. Each mission is self-contained and the plot is only really expanded on in a handful of extra stages at the game's climax, giving it the feel of a Saturday morning cartoon or anime with an overarching story (albeit one that takes quite a dark turn towards the end).

In fact, it's clear that Gunvolt quite fancies itself as an anime, most notably in its character design and art style, but also within its audio. There's a hefty amount of voice acting present (although it's untranslated, and plenty of dialogue has been inexplicably removed during localisation), and there's even a catchy J-pop number reminiscent of an anime opening that plays when Joule's 'Anthem' is employed.

The Anthem could perhaps be described as the game's equivalent to Nintendo's Super Play mechanic; it essentially unlocks 'Easy Mode' for those having trouble with the normal difficulty level. Although it does have to be turned on (by boosting Gunvolt's relationship with Joule through conversations between stages), it's unlikely to be well-received by a lot of players. It's activated after just one single death in a stage and can't be turned off afterwards; it also completely removes any semblance of challenge by offering Gunvolt infinite jumps and a never-ending energy meter.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt on Nintendo 3DS

It makes a game that's already too short and too easy even more so - Gunvolt only lasts around four hours and players are unlikely to run into too many difficulties within that time; bosses are likely to take a few tries at first, but infinite lives ease frustrations. An unlockable true final boss adds a significant portion of extra playtime and ramps up the difficulty excellently, but it's still not necessarily enough to justify such a hefty price tag when the game's earlier inspirations are available for much less on the Virtual Console.

These are just small complaints in a game that does a lot else right, however. Gunvolt, true to its protagonist's nature, goes by in a flash, but perhaps that's because there's so much fun to be had and there's not a single moment when the action lets up. An absolute gem that deserves just as much success as the blue bomber himself.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Azure Striker Gunvolt is an instant classic for the 3DS. Combining the tried-and-true formula of Mega Man X with a modern aesthetic and a fun, unique combat style was a sure-fire hit from the start, but it's safe to say that Inafune could easily have another major success on his hands. This comes highly recommended to all 3DS owners.

Developer

Inti Creates

Publisher

Inti Creates

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Thanks for the review, Lex. Great to see it turned out as well as I'd hoped after playing the early demo at EGX. Really eager to try this, and with Mighty Gunvolt coming free at the moment, it's the perfect time to buy it!

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I downloaded based on all the good things I've heard about it and jumped on early because of the bonus game. At £11 it didn't seem too bad, but I do feel like it is a tad overpriced though...I like the idea of supporting small developers but paying £11 for this feels a little too much. It should be around the £5-7 mark at the most.

Did you get Mighty Gunvolt free?

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I did, but even though that's a nice little play through it feels like nothing but a small game that I'd expect to be free on iOS anyway. Not knocking it! It's a great little freebie but with these two games being the price point they are I'd expect a little more for my buck. 


( Edited 16.04.2015 16:15 by Flynnie )

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