Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS eShop) Review

We, as in all of this site's readers and myself, seldom get other people's opinions on games. I think it's an unspoken rule that if anyone posts an opinion that goes against mine, they are taken out. No, I'm kidding there!

In all seriousness, Bean, who has written content for SuperPhillip Central in the past, is back with a brand-new review to cap off this action-packed month of reviews. His contribution is Azure Striker Gunvolt, a game crafted by Inti Creates of Mega Man Zero and Mega Man 9/10 fame. Is Gunvolt a shocking success or a mighty number disappointment?

Gunvolt's Electrifying Entry

Mega Man games used to be a given no matter what traditional gaming platform you owned. Console owners received Mega Man 9 and 10, Nintendo handheld owners were given no less than four series, and even the PSP managed to sneak in Powered Up and Maverick Hunter X. Yes, you could always count on Capcom to take the series out for another spin... until Keiji Inafune and Capcom parted ways a few years ago, that was. With Mega Man now in hibernation, it's up to the company that used to make the Zero and ZX games in Inti Creates to create a spiritual successor to keep the run and gun gameplay going. With Azure Striker Gunvolt, I can safely say that they have done that and arguably more.

The art is amazing in Azure Striker Gunvolt.
Expected from Inti Creates, but still amazing.
Azure Striker Gunvolt definitely feels like it's another branch of the Mega Man family, most notably the aforementioned Zero and ZX series. Our hero is none other than a teen resistance fighter that goes by the name of, wait for it, Gunvolt. What is he fighting? Well, there is this group in his world named Sumeragi that are trying to both suppress and enslave psychic Adepts to control the world under the guise of peace. In fact, Gunvolt's first mission in the game is to find and eliminate an artificial life form that has the power to control other Adepts with music. As it turns out, said artificial life form named Lumen is the manifestation of another character named Joule. Seeing as how Gunvolt is not into the whole taking down an innocent character, he spares and saves both, effectively leaves his QUILL resistance group and making him the number one target of the Sumeragi.

Meanwhile, the dialogue doesn't mind
having a little fun at times.
If you're going to help Gunvolt hold his own and protect his newfound friend, you'll have to know how to do it. Sure, Gunvolt uses a blaster that isn't unlike the ones found in Mega Man Zero and ZX, but don't think shooting your enemies is the answer to everything because it's not. Instead, Gunvolt himself is an electrical Adept, and he puts his power into every bullet he shoots. When you are able to tag an enemy with a shot, a glowing-colored target will surround said foe. Said colors are blue (one tag), yellow (two), or a full-powered red (three). It's once they're tagged that you want to press the R button to fry those enemies with an electrically-charged current that also turns on a shield around our hero, and believe me, this deals damage way faster than your bullets ever could. Just make sure you keep an eye on how much juice you have left. If you are running low, you can double tap down on the D-Pad to restore your electrical power or EP quickly, but if you run out, you'll be forced to wait for a few seconds while enemies are trying to pick you off. Yikes.

In the beginning, you can only tag up to three enemies with a level one or blue charge, but you will gain guns over the course of your adventure just by completing stages that have different capabilities. Personally, my favorite gun was the one you unlock just two levels in called the Naga as it allows up to five tags. There aren't many opportunities to get that many enemies at once, but you'll be able to tag enemies with more than one shot apiece and get quite a few double or even triple takedowns to help your score out. I really didn't care for many of the other ones as more tags just seems to equal more power, but I bet there are some skilled players that could make good use of the other weapons Gunvolt can wield.

On top of just that, Gunvolt also has a skill set on the bottom screen that you can activate with the touch pad. These moves take special points or SP, and you only have three in the stage. For the most part, the only time you're really going to want to use things like an overly-powered sword stab or an instant heal are against bosses, but this power will recharge as you go along through levels. Basically, you have plenty of ways to put the hurt on your foes, and it's a good thing since some of the bosses in this game can be quite tough if you don't catch on to how their moves work and fast.

While boss battles start out simple...
The Sumeragai Adept fights are interesting in that they have a three-segment health bar. In the first phase of the fight, you'll see them perform basic attacks or weaker versions of what's to come. When they hit the second phase, this is when you'll start witnessing some of the more powerful strikes they have. Get them down to the final phase, and I guess they'll hit the bottom of their own 3DS touch screen to activate their super-powerful attack. In some cases, you'll want to go on the offensive right away and take down the boss or his hands before they try grow too big and crush you like a grape. In others, you'll be forced to stay on the defensive as lasers that are summoned through warp holes try to pick you off or you have to endure a bullet hell type scenario. What I like about these fights are just how many attacks these bosses have and how they build up to a finish. The better you play, the more likely you'll be able to bring a quick end to the fight, but you can always heal up if you have the SP to do so. It's your call!

...They quickly become quite hectic!
I think what makes the game more interesting is that Gunvolt's powers aren't just used for offense and defense. You can also activate the Flashfield with the R button to give you a pseudo-hover jump. In many stages, this can help you safely land on some jumps that would otherwise cause issues. In one particular stage, Gunvolt's shield is used as a magnet to cross up and over large spike beds looming below. That said, spikes aren't even lethal in the Azure Striker's world... barring you don't equip a very specific item that you can get from the shop. Yes, this game even has a Synth Shop that will allow you to equip items to give you abilities like a double jump, a mid-air dash, or a more powerful Flashfield ability. The way to get items to use for the shop is to go through and complete stages before partaking in a post-level card game. You can find medals in stages to give you extra tries as well as earning them by getting a higher grade in levels. Certain materials are specific to certain levels, so there is a bit of a grinding aspect that can come into play if you don't get what you want. It's one of the main gripes I have with this game, actually.

As for grading, the game wants you to basically do a speedy no-hit run while doing as many double and triple takedowns as you can throughout the course of a level. Sounds hard? Well, it is, but the good news is that you don't have to earn a super-high score to get all of the good stuff like you used to in Mega Man Zero. Throughout levels, you'll earn Kudos points which increase in the same fashion as your main score. Doing things like a full-powered tag will get you extra Kudos as well as triple tag takedowns or finishing off an enemy while in mid-air. If you get that Kudos score to 1000 in a level, you'll even have a song pop up from Lumen, and these are some of the better tracks in a game that admittedly has more songs that are just there than are stellar. The gameplay benefit from this is that you can have a chance to be resurrected should you fall in battle, but make sure you don't get hit or use a checkpoint while building your Kudos score up because you will see it drop right back down to zero then. You can increase said chances to be resurrected if you're not feeling confident by talking to Joule between stages at your base, and you'll be doing that anyway when you find seven magical Jewels that you'll want to give to her to help you eventually unlock the true ending. Yes, there's both a normal and true ending to this one. For a Mega Man-like game, there sure is a lot of content here!

Gunvolt asks the age old question,
"Which way is up?"
It wound up taking me over seven hours to get through Azure Striker Gunvolt, and I haven't even touched the bonus stages I unlocked after getting the true ending. So while the music might not be the greatest thing ever, the shop can lead to grinding, and the enemy types aren't all that varied, I had way more fun with this title than I thought I would. The gameplay is fast-paced and suits both newer players that just want to win and expert players that are seeking a true challenge. The dialogue is more hit than miss, and the gameplay definitely follows suit with some great levels that involve some neat little uses of Gunvolt's abilities.

It has been over seven years now since Nintendo handheld owners have received a game like this from Inti Creates. Obviously, Azure Striker Gunvolt isn't a part of the Mega Man franchise, but it certainly plays like it's one while also having its own unique touches to offer. I can't recommend this one enough to those that are seeking a 2D platformer that can either be a mostly fun romp or a highly challenging speed runner's paradise. I personally think is one of Inti's best games to date, and that's a pretty high compliment for a group that's made Mega Man 10, Zero 3, and ZX Advent. Yes, Azure Striker Gunvolt is a great new twist on a classic formula, but considering the developers, I guess it's not that shocking at all.

[Bean Says: 8.75/10]

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