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Azure Striker Gunvolt Review

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On 11/07/2014 at 12:00 PM by Matt McLennan

Full disclosure, there are no electricity puns within this game review.

Those wanting a new Mega Man X/Zero fix will find much to love in Azure Striker Gunvolt and free game Mighty Gunvolt.

I would call Azure Striker Gunvolt two things; one would be the perfect replacement for a lack of a new Mega Man X/Zero title, and the other being a very meaty 3DS eShop release with high production values. With easy to understand gameplay, a fantastic graphical style and a slew of abilities and optional gear to collect, Azure Striker Gunvolt is a great call back to the 16-bit era of action games and an all around great game despite some design flaws. It even comes with the free game as well!

The Mega Man X/Zero inspirations for Gunvolt are very easy to spot if you have an understanding of the aforementioned series. X/Zero were much faster paced 2-D action platformers which took the basic Mega Man formula and added elements like dashing and wall jumping, and the level design encouraged the use of these moves to find hidden goodies. These games were also known for having very tight and responsive controls. Gunvolt takes these things that made Mega Man X/Zero great, and it serves as a fantastic throwback to the intricate simplicity and hidden depth of these games.

Where this game diverges and builds on those older titles is in the attacking and tagging system. Gunvolt’s main attack, his gun, is not exactly ideal for damaging enemies; that is because it plays into the gimmick of enemy tagging. When an enemy is tagged, a dot underneath your score with flash. Depending on what weapon you have equipped, you can tag one to three enemies at once or one enemy three times, which will allow Gunvolt’s EMP field to send electricity to heavily damage these tagged enemies. There’s a risk and reward element to the EMP, as depending on it too much can overheat Gunvolt, causing the EMP field to be offline for a few seconds. As such, this brings an excellent level of strategy to many in-game battles that harkens back to some of the best side-scrolling action shooters on the SNES and Genesis.

The amount of content in Gunvolt is quite impressive. The level select menu allows you to choose up to three side-challenges, which will unlock items for customization and new abilities if you succeed.  Gunvolt also has light RPG elements; defeating enemies gives Gunvolt experience and leveling up unlocks touch screen skills to use in the heat of battle. Eventually Gunvolt acquires a massive EMP super attack, faster charging of his skill meter, and even basic healing. Also, the dialog within the game is very charming, thanks in part to the localization team at 8-4 Ltd who also worked on Fire Emblem: Awakening, fleshing out character personalities.

But taking inspiration and trying to form a new identity can leave some lingering problems within the gameplay. While the game expects you to learn from your mistakes, which I myself have no problem with, players new to this genre or younger players may end up being frustrated by the boss battles and certain moments within some stages. Some heavily damaging attacks seem unavoidable, such as one boss who’s super attack is akin to a bullet hell shooter. Late in the game I came across a jump that could only be made using a special double jump item. To make these items, however, you need to gain item drops from a bonus lottery at the end of each stage which in turn can lead to grinding if you do not attempt any of the secondary missions. Also, the ES moves are only activated via the touch screen, which can lead to some deadly mistakes during heated battles or boss encounters.  These are minor frustrations, but they can add up if you haven’t honed patience after playing similar games.

I would be lying if I said Gunvolt wasn’t anime inspired, because it really tips the scales with its graphical and audio design in spades, but this isn’t a bad thing. All the in-game character sprites, from Gunvolt to the enemies and bosses are well designed and nicely animated.  Level foreground elements and backgrounds also help each level stand out on its own, and there is hardly any slowdown. While turning the 3-D slider up causes the foreground sprites to pop-out, I found it didn’t help the game look better than it already did. I was less enthusiastic about the HUD, which can cover up parts of the action, especially in places where dodging projectiles is crucial.

When it comes to audio, I definitely get a Mega Man Zero vibe from it. The in-game music is fast paced and upbeat, but does change in tone depending on in-game story events. The sound effects were hit and miss for me; while the addition of voice clips is nice, I’m a guy that likes the option of English or Japanese. The Japanese-only voice track may not turn most people off, but I would have liked the choice for a good dub.

All in all, Azure Striker Gunvolt is a top-notch action game worth the asking price despite some of the gameplay issues which are not too egregious. The action is fun, the game world is very well developed and the production values are impressive. If you are fans of the Mega Man Zero games, give Azure Striker Gunvolt a shot!

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.

Side By Side - Mighty Gunvolt Mini-Review

Mighty Gunvolt is offered for free with purchases of Azure Striker Gunvolt until November 11th, and does offer a bit more value even though I find the main game worth the asking price. Don’t expect a big full-fledged game; however, Mighty Gunvolt is a Mega Man spoof from Inti Creates with four full levels and a final boss battle at the end.

The Mega Man spoof is done in a cartoony faux 8-bit NES sprite style; you can choose from three playable characters each with their own unique abilities, playing through the game just like it was an NES Mega Man. Controls are tight and solid and the level design within the four main stages offer up fun platforming. The main playthrough can take up to an hour or so, but with three different playable characters and the fact the game saves your high scores and time, there's a reasonable amount of replay value. Its biggest flaw is that it's too short - I would've loved to see more levels.

The graphical and audio styling calls back to Inti Creates and Inafune’s previous 8-bit inspired titles, Mega Man 9 and 10, which is not a bad thing. As someone who loves great NES graphics and tunes, Mighty Gunvolt excels in this with great sprite work for both playable character and enemy sprites, to the backgrounds and stage theme songs.

If you are a fan of the 8-bit era, Mighty Gunvolt offers up a nice distraction from the main game despite being an obvious Mega Man spoof.



Cary Woodham

11/10/2014 at 07:30 AM

I got Mighty GunVolt for free at PAX Prime.  It's all right, especially since it's free, but I really wasn't that impressed with it though.  Capcom's faux NES game: Dark Void Zero, a DSiWare title, was much better. I haven't gotten the main GunVolt game yet because it looks pretty hard.

Matt McLennan Staff Alumnus

01/10/2015 at 05:12 PM

Capcom's faux NES game: Dark Void Zero, a DSiWare title, was much better.

No, it wasn't. It's like Other Ocean and Capcom tried to mix Metroid, Contra and Bionic Commando together and forget to add fun into the finished product.

Just because a good "looks" hard doesn't mean you avoid it because it might pose a challenge.

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