Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Mighty Gunvolt Burst (NS, 3DS) Review

A second review will be posted later in the evening, but for now let's put our collective focus at Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the latest from developer Inti Creates, known for the Mega Man Zero series of games. Mighty No. 9 was a mess, but can Beck ride of Gunvolt's coattails to salvage his own gaming career?

Action-packed gameplay is bursting at the seams


The whole sordid saga with Mighty No. 9 and its Kickstarter really soured and disappointed a huge legion of fans who were promised something great from Keiji Inafune, a designer partly behind the creation of Mega Man. Instead, Mighty No. 9 ended up being delayed multiple times, the marketing was out of touch at best, the campaign was poorly managed, and the end game was average at best.

However, the development team at Inti Creates worked on a smaller game in preparation for the release of Mighty No. 9 in the meantime, a Nintendo 3DS eShop and Steam release known as Mighty Gunvolt. This game combined the styles of Inti Creates' own IP, Azure Striker Gunvolt, with Mighty No. 9, creating its own unique Mega Man-styled mashup. Now, we see a sequel, exclusive to Nintendo Switch and soon Nintendo 3DS with Mighty Gunvolt Burst. The irony here is that for all the millions of dollars backed into Mighty No. 9, this budget project in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is clearly the superior product in this reviewer's eyes.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst allows you the choice between playing as Mighty No. 9's Beck or Azure Striker Gunvolt's Gunvolt, each with slight gameplay differences that grow as you acquire new customization parts. More on those later. The game is set up like a traditional Mega Man game complete with a tutorial intro stage, eight "Robot Master" stages that can be chosen from in any order, and a trio of final levels that ramp up the difficulty and feature some cool level gimmicks.

The "Robot Masters" of Mega Man in Mighty Gunvolt Burst come in the form of the "Mighty Numbers." They are all the same eight bosses from Mighty No. 9 but with new attack patterns that change as their health edges closer to being fully depleted. Bosses are generally tough to crack at first because they possess so much health, which is a bit draining, but being able to acquire fruit that serves as health refills makes fights easier to adjust to. You can learn their moves, when to dodge, when to attack, and even if you die after using all of your collection of fruit, they return to you based on the fruit you had at gate before the boss.

Beck shows Seismic here that size doesn't really matter.
Stages are themed similar to those in Mighty No. 9, save for the final levels which go in a totally different direction. Places like Countershade's museum stage has a familiar museum with equally familiar enemy types to Mighty No. 9 vets, but the layout, obstacles, and setup are all different. No need to annoyingly chase Countershade through multiple looping hallways where one death means you have to begin the pursuit all over again. Instead, you just have to follow one of three paths to unlock security panels leading to the encounter with Countershade. The level design in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is more like a standard Mega Man game rather than the obnoxious designs of Mighty No. 9. There are quite a few Azure Striker Gunvolt elements in the level design as well, which makes total sense, of course, due to the material, after all.

The levels in Mighty Gunvolt Burst are a blast to play through, and that's exceptional due to the optional ability to replay them. If you're a completionist or just want to get the most out of your purchase, then you'll most likely want to do so, as the rewards are beneficial. Each stage houses multiple secret chips that unlock abilities for either Beck or Gunvolt. Some are out in plain sight, but in difficult to access locations, while others are housed behind destructible walls that have no clear appearance that they can be destroyed. Thankfully, one of the abilities available to Beck and Gunvolt is one called "dowsing", which causes a rumble in the Nintendo Switch controller that gets more forceful as you near the wall in question. Outside of chips to collect (some are only available through multiple completions of a stage), there are 20+ challenges to complete, offering rewards for finishing them off.

The gift of HD rumble brings the gift of finding a secret area.
It's great you can get chips, but what do you do with them exactly, you ask? You can create load-outs for Beck or Gunvolt that alters an exhaustive and ever-growing list of abilities. By consuming CP (which I assume means Command Points), you can equip better variations to your base weaponry, defense, and abilities. At the beginning of a play-through, your character shoots pea-sized bullets without much strength. As you find and acquire new chips, you can shoot larger bullets, raise their attack power, raise your defense, make it so you don't get knocked back by attacks, learn to jump multiple times in the air as Gunvolt or dash several times in midair as Beck, and so much more. Each ability altered or equipped takes up CP, and there's a limit of what you can hold at once -- though this is helped through collecting CP chips that add to your maximum amount available. Thus, there is a good deal of strategy involved, lots of room for experimenting, and a tremendous level of customization on offer here, which can be a bit overwhelming at times.

With Mighty No. 9, Beck could shoot a bunch of bullets to bring a foe's guard down before dashing into them to take them down and score points. In Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the mechanic to stylishly defeat enemies is different. Instead, you need to be in close proximity to a foe when defeating them to earn a Burst bonus that awards extra points and improves your score. Through earning a continued combo of Bursts by defeating enemies without being too far away from them, your score increases to high amounts. Unfortunately, this mechanic is at direct odds with Beck and Gunvolt's method of long-range attacks and shots. It makes the whole Burst mechanic seem like a last minute addition or at least one that wasn't put under rigorous testing enough to make sure it fit the game.

A combo of 26!? You're just showing off now, Beck.
The story of Mighty Gunvolt Burst sees both Beck and Gunvolt trapped within a virtual reality world. While it may be a false reality, so to speak, the danger to them is very real. At first the two are completely apart from one another, and eventually they meet up in unfriendly terms. You can probably guess what happens by the end of the game (spoiler: they decide to be friends and team up against the big bad), but it's sufficient enough of a story all the same. Mighty No. 9 suffered from too much story bloat when I just wanted to get into the game. Mighty Gunvolt Burst alleviates that problem while still presenting a capable story reason to battle through the game's stages.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst is modern retro with hints of NES styling but more leaning towards SNES goodness regarding what the game actually does with its visuals. They're vibrant, colorful, seldom dull, and feature a notable amount of environmental detail for a game modeled after the classics. The music features chiptune variations of themes from Mighty No. 9, though that game wasn't well known by me for its musical qualities outside of the boss theme, which is represented in Mighty Gunvolt Burst. Overall, I was pleased with what I saw and heard out of Mighty Gunvolt Burst, and was also ecstatic not to encounter significant episodes of waning frame-rate.

Add some glasses to these hazards and they're see-saws! 
If anything, all of the trifles, troubles, and disappointment resulting from Mighty No. 9 had one positive come from it, and that's the birth of this game. Sure, Mighty Gunvolt Burst might have existed in an alternate timeline where Mighty No. 9 didn't exist, just under a different skin and franchise, but overall, Mighty Gunvolt Burst is a challenging and satisfying game to play. Just goes to show that out of a negative can indeed come something positive. Though, that three million dollars backed by fans wanting Mighty No. 9 shouldn't have been the price, now that I think about it...

[SPC Says: B]

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