Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Albert Lichi 28.10.2017 2

Review for Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack on Nintendo Switch

Azure Striker Gunvolt and its superior sequel is the rare instance when a spiritual successor actually manages to succeed its predecessor. Mega Man X and its sequels were, and still are (mostly), amazing run and gun action games. The second and third releases, in particular, were astounding feats in their respective genre and had some of the most stunning boss designs the franchise has ever seen. Naturally, Inti Creates would be the developer to refine this formula after years of experience from making Mega Man Zero titles; it would establish Azure Striker Gunvolt with the first game... but completely master the formula with Azure Striker Gunvolt 2.

Any fan of the Mega Man X releases who hasn't played the games in the Striker Pack is doing themselves a huge disservice, although the first in this compilation is the weaker of the two due to its flat and pedestrian level design, which wasn't helped by a lack of enemy variety, while also recycling the same large mech mini-boss many times. Gunvolt himself is a kind of super-assassin who tags his targets with dart-bullets and then can freely shock them to death with a flash-field of electricity. He saves Joule in the prologue, an artificially created girl who is able to yield vast power to whoever can harness it and both live it up in his shoddy apartment as he does odd jobs. It isn't long before Gunvolt has to get back to doing his dirty work when hired to dispatch the agents of the Sumeragi Corp - a slightly more elaborate version of getting Mega Man to fight Robot Masters. Azure Striker Gunvolt is a very solid game that is bolstered by high replay value but nobody would really be blown away by it.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack on Nintendo Switch

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, on the other hand, is where the series came into its own and becomes more than just being a Mega Man X successor. It would seem that Inti Creates took most of the criticisms from the first to heart and addressed them. The level design is now much more than boring hallways with some bumps here and there. There is now so much more variety and interesting little gimmicks that do not overstay their welcome. Some rooms are vast with various perches with enemies placed on them, moving platforms and many more precarious instances that utilise the wall jumping mechanics that were hardly used in the first outing. As if fixing all the problems from the first wasn't enough, Copen is now playable and has a complete story mode. Copen plays nothing like his rival, Gunvolt; he has a dash attack, homing probes and copies abilities from defeated bosses. It's almost like getting another game since Copen's playability is drastically different than Gunvolt's.

Much like its spiritual predecessors, both Azure Striker games are structured around a level selection with an elemental boss at the end of each stage. A distinction here is that there is a score system in place called "kudos" that rewards risky and skilled play styles. Avoiding checkpoints will allow the score multiplier to go higher, but losing them all becomes that much more likely. There are also three style modes to play as to accommodate some lesser and higher skilled users like playing on "cautious" mode where Gunvolt/Copen is allowed a couple of hits before losing the multiplier. This comfortable middle ground is a fair compromise since both of these titles tend to get really challenging and getting a higher ranking means better rewards after the stage is complete. This means more chances to the get the rarer materials required for the equipment crafting. By far the coolest detail is reaching a combo multiplier over 1,000 and Lumen's "Rogue Shimmer" kicks in - a rocking J-Pop melody that feels so heroic and perfectly embodies the spirit of Gunvolt's determination.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack on Nintendo Switch

The levelling system present in both can be best summarised as a soft difficulty selection. The only apparent stat that is affected is HP but changes for the most part seem insignificant and ultimately this light RPG mechanic is unnecessary. The only substantial changes that can be done to the player-characters are the equipment that adds various things like double/triple jumping or tweaking the flash-field energy usage/power. There really is quite a bit of variables to consider but the problem is that the crafting often requires grinding to get a lot of materials that are rare. This is pure chance for the most part since unless S ranks are earned it is highly unlikely that the required material will be netted. There are alternative means like doing the challenges in stages, but these prove to be an annoyance in the first title since they have to become "activated" in a separate screen, and only three can be active at any given time. Inti Creates must have realised how pointless and annoying this was for the sequel and more or less made all challenges for every stage active and achievable.

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack contains two games with beautiful sprites and character animations. When in docked mode, the pixel art radiates, with every frame of animation very fluid and rich in personality. In both, there is a high level of attention to detail in how the characters' frames are drawn and make every pose matter, and this could not be clearer than with the protagonist Gunvolt. Every pose makes him look really cool and he moves with purpose. Everything needed to be known about his character and persona is expressed in his design and animation. His electrical burst attacks are huge and flashy, filling the screen with thunderous splendour. Knowing when to recharge and expel a bolt is what makes this a more complex action game than others of its ilk: the split second decision and timing.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack on Nintendo Switch

Both titles look and run amazingly, easily being the highest mark of craftsmanship the developer has ever reached but there is one artistic fumble that persists in both: character portraits are high definition. Normally this is not really a problem but in a game that pushes pixel art and animation, the sharp and high definition assets hideously clash with the pixel art. This is somewhat of a nit-pick but it is so confusing that since the team has such talent in sprites, why not keep the visuals consistent?

These are two really epic action experiences with a lot of character and effort put into them. Anyone interested in importing the physical edition will be happy to know that the cartridge contains full English dialogue and menus with Japanese audio. What is surprising is that the translation is the same exact one as the Western localised versions that are digital only on the eShop, as evident by the character names being the English versions. This is a bit unusual since the characters will speak Japanese in cut-scenes and will still refer to each other in their original Japanese names. This package will satisfy all fans of the Mega Man franchise, and will heal the sting from the repugnant Mighty No.9. The Shovel Knight amiibo is also compatible with this version and he is the hardest boss in the entire game.

Screenshot for Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack contains the high points of Inti Creates' oeuvre. The sequel included is easily the headliner of the two, bursting with content and generally being the much better designed title. The action is really addictive with playability being very tight and responsive. It's hard to let go of the game because it feels so good to play it. To find any big flaws in these would entail mostly petty nitpicks as they stand to be exemplary entries in the run and gun genre. Them being on Nintendo Switch only means that the action does not have to stay at home.

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

I rarely give out high scores but this is one of the few I agree with.  This is such a good game, the story is surprisingly competent as well.

Dragon0085 said:
I rarely give out high scores but this is one of the few I agree with.  This is such a good game, the story is surprisingly competent as well.

it really caught me off guard with how much effort was put into the lore and world building in these games.

it all ties together to the gameplay thematically too.

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