4cr Plays – Azure Striker Gunvolt Double Feature

by Francois Joron

First off I should clarify that I have a very vague idea of what Azure Striker Gunvolt’s gameplay is all about and I certainly don’t know what the game’s title could potentially mean. But, from the little I’ve seen of the game, it seems to be a pretty hectic 2D action sidescroller.

Anyway, I’ve been in a Mega Man mood lately, as I’m simultaneously playing both Mega Man V for the GameBoy on my 3DS (go get it now, it’s one of the best Mega Man games I’ve ever played) and Mega Man II on the Wii U’s Virtual Console. So, I’m all in for some heavy action 2D sidescrolling. Although I must admit, I’m cheating my way through the Mega Man games by relying heavily on the restore point features.

Since Eden is already handling a proper review, I thought it would be neat to have first hand impressions of the game and give it the same treatment I gave to Master Reboot a few weeks ago: documenting my first 2 hours with the game. I’m usually kind of awful with those kind of games, so we will all see together how much I can handle. It’ll be raw, unfiltered comments on my first playtime. Maybe I’ll end up hating it. Maybe I’ll even give up after an 1 hour. Anyway, let’s jump into it…

8:25 PM
Pretty neat sci-fi intro screen with fitting music. I’m in the mood for this!

8:29 PM
That villain looks straight out of the Phoenix Wright series

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8:44 PM
Completed the first level. The setup is pretty unorthodox, you shoot to tag your enemies and then you use your electricity to attack them which is like a big spark surrounding your character. You’re pretty much (so far) invulnerable when doing so, but you have a meter that you need to keep your eyes one. Once depleted, there is no way to hurt your foes and you need to wait for it to recharge. Although, you can double-tap down on your D-Pad twice to instantly recharge your meter. The system is unlike anything I’ve tried before and comes off as quite interesting when fighting more complex enemies, like the giant military mech I had to fight at the end of the level.

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Also, each time I shoot at an enemy, the lock-on reticle changes but I haven’t seen any difference so far beyond simply looking different.

8:54 PM
Cutscene. Some girl is talking to me telepathically… this is indeed a Japanese game.

9:09 PM
The story is a bit typical, you’re up against a large government/evil corporation thing and you’re protecting a girl (conveniently named Joule) who happens to have a second personality or some kind of second character coming out her brain. The kind of stuff I don’t pay attention to.

The game has a lot to offer though, including challenges you can pick for specific stages (or missions). Those stages, 6 in all, are structured like a Mega Man game, so you can pick and choose whatever you want in any order you want. It remain to be seen if there is any consequences in choosing one over another or if there is a proper order to tackle them all.

It seems you can also equip your character with new parts as well as adding some special attacks and moves that can be triggered on the touch screen, like healing and some pretty badass attacks that fill the entire screen.

It’s a bit difficult for me to rely on the game’s unique mechanic so far, but I kinda dig it. Especially when you’re up against multiple enemies. Level design is rather straightforward but I’ve only begun my first proper mission.

9:17 PM
Just died underwater. Kinda hard to tag enemies in the heat of the moment.

9:19 PM
Died again. There has to be some kind of double-jump or maybe I’m not doing something properly.

9:20 PM
Just been resurrected by that girl’s psychic alter-ego… and she’s singing some kind of J-Pop tune while I’m, I think, invincible. Does it mean I’m awful at this game? Is that just like those special assist blocks in New Super Mario Bros.?

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9:27 PM
Just died at the boss called Merak, so I was definitely not invincible. I’m not very good at this game, but I’m beginning to master a bit more the game’s mechanic and it’s fun too, since it is designed to both attack and protect, so there’s a certain rhythm to it. Why there was a J-Pop while I was nearly invincible with infinite electricity, I have no idea.

9:31 PM
Died again. That guy is tricky, you really need to strategize about your attacks. Some of his moves are pretty hard to avoid.

9:32 PM
Let’s try it one more time.

9:34 PM
Died again! Argh. I hate the jump momentum.

9:35 PM
One more time. Let’s go.

Oh wait! There’s that J-Pop girl again and that song.

9:37 PM
Got him. Although, it’s a bit unfair. I feel like I’ve cheated my way through the boss. But, I think the jump acts more like if you were floating, not unlike Peach. Knowing that, I might have a better chance with other missions. I’m pretty sure I’ll have an awful grade at the result screen.

9:39 PM
Rank C.

9:47 PM
Second mission, some king of rock or magma themed stage. This one is a bit more complex as I can move platforms with my electric attack. I still cannot get over that jumping thing though, it’s like the game is begging to have a double-jump ability, it’s frustrating. I can wall jump though.

9:51 PM
In the level I’m playing, there are these sort of anti-gravity things I can trigger while generating electricity. A whole section of the level has these and I must use them to navigate through heavily spiked hallways. I died.

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Also, wasn’t this supposed to be a lava-filled rock-thing themed stage? Maybe I’ve misread the intro screen.

10:00 PM
Boss fight! He’s named Carrera. Let’s do it.

10:01 PM
Died quickly at this one.

10:03 PM
Died again when I was just about to get him. I do like how careful you need to be when fighting those bosses. I wish the levels I’ve played so far were more like this. One last time and then I call it quit for the evening (and feature).

10:07 PM
Got it. That was a very fun, satisfying fight. Getting the hang of the mechanic, although I could do much much better. But, I think that is time to give it a rest.

Which reminds me that I haven’t mentioned once that the visuals that are less vivid that I was expecting although the electric effects pack quite a punch, especially in 3D. But I was hoping the 3D effect would be more pronounced. I really like how the UI is designed too. The music is nothing too special though.

Not sure what to make out of this game yet. I did enjoy its unique mechanic and only began to had fun with it in the last 30 minutes or so of my playthrough. The lack of a double-jump really really bugged me. It truly felt missed in numerous occasions and I’m not entirely sure how to gauge the floating ability that is only triggered when the electricity attack is activated. The Mega Man heritage, especially the Zero series, is omnipresent in the game, so I’m sure a lot of hardcore fans will appreciate that.

Except for a few Treasure titles like Astro Boy, I’ve never been a huge fan of high-octane 2D action side-scrollers, but the unique mechanic found in Azure Striker Gunvolt is really fun to play with and there is a very nice feel to it and comes off as being pretty clever, especially during boss fights. If only for that, I’m looking forward to going back to Azure Striker Gunvolt.

This feature has been made based on a Nintendo eShop code provided by Inti Creates. Azure Striker Gunvolt is available to download on the Nintendo eShop for the 3DS for $14.99.

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And now, let the review commence!

As to not go over what Francois has already said, I’ll focus on some extra info you might want to know about Azure Striker Gunvolt (as well as expanding on some of the issues he had, and how they can be avoided by other players).

Let’s start with his request for a double jump. A double jump is nice, but I didn’t find that it was required to finish each of the levels. In order to make longer jumps (or to avoid enemies or any hazard on the way) Gunvolt can dash to gain momentum, jump and activate the electricity field to slowdown his fall, allowing him to clear longer gaps. On top of that, there IS a double jump (and even an air dash!) skill in the game, but they need to be activated by equipping a specific piece of gear that must be built from the materials collected in each level.

Gunvolt - Gear

Something else that doesn’t really come through in an initial, short play session, is that Azure Striker Gunvolt has a few RPG elements under the hood. There is a combo system in place that increases your score and experience depending on how many enemies you defeat at the same time, and how you defeat them. If you get hit your combo will be reset to zero, and you will lose all of your bonus points. Once you reach a checkpoint mark, your combo will be saved and points will be added to your total score, the higher your score at the end of the level, the more free materials you’ll be able to select from blind boxes. Collecting medals in every level will also give you extra opportunities to select more boxes, meaning that collecting all medals in a level and getting an S+ rank will practically guarantee that you get to grab all the bonuses.

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As you level up, more skills will be unlocked for Gunvolt. Some of these recover his health, while others provide a very strong attack. Since skills are so powerful, they have a cooldown timer AND can only be activated if you have enough skill points available (which recharge over time) so they can’t be abused.

Replaying levels is a great way to level up, and receiving extra materials after completing every level makes it possible to improve your gear. In order to make it more fun, you can activate some in-game challenges to, well, make the game more challenging. Some are specific to each of the levels in Gunvolt, but a handful can be completed in pretty much any level you play. The rewards for completing challenges can either be money or materials (several of which are rare),

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I had a lot of fun with Gunvolt, and the game did a great job at keeping me coming back for more. I would have liked a bit more enemy variety, but overall this was not a deal-breaker. The main gameplay mechanic is solid, the music is energetic and the boss fights are great at challenging the player.

But wait, there’s more!

Mighty Gunvolt is a bite-sized 8-bit sorta demake of Gunvolt, distilling the experience into a “this could have been released on the NES” companion to Gunvolt. The game can be completed in 20-30 minutes, but multiple runs are possible thanks to the three different characters you can select at the start of the game.

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Playing as Gunvolt in Mighty Gunvolt feels similar to how the titular hero controls in the main game, showing that sometimes more is less (since you can only use two buttons, just like in the old days). Beck, from Mighty No. 9 (a game funded on Kickstarter and in development by Comcept and IntiCreates) gives us a small look at what he will play like in his own game, which isn’t as Mega Man as you’d think. The final character is angel Ekoro, which was my favorite. Her attacks are weaker in comparison to the other two, but she can hover (think Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. 2) She can also charge her attack to shoot a beam that will charm any enemy it hits (except for bosses, of course). Seeing an enemy floating next to her as a pet from Symphony of the Night really brought a smile to my face.

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If you buy Gunvolt before November 28 you will receive a free copy of Mighty Gunvolt, which makes for a nice bonus on top of a very good game.

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