Monday, March 2, 2020

Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX (NSW, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

March comes in like a lion, and so is SuperPhillip Central with a new review to kick the month off! It's Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX, a game that is set in an alternate universe in the Gunvolt series. Be that as it may, it features some of the most enjoyable gameplay within the entire Gunvolt series, so let's check out with the SPC review.

Copen brings the heat to this action-packed alternate story in the Gunvolt series

Inti Creates has had no trouble making it clear that the Gunvolt series is clearly inspired by the dev's past work on the Mega Man series, and Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX very much does not hide this. Between the non-linear selection of levels to the bosses that Copen learns new abilities from, there's a pleasantly familiar feel to the game reminiscent of Capcom's Blue Bomber. However, there's just enough freshness and uniqueness in the gameplay that makes Copen's high velocity adventure stand firmly on its own two feet.

Playing as Copen feels great--he's quick, agile, nimble, and can get around levels with ease. Unlike Gunvolt, Copen targets enemies and locks on to them by dashing directly into them, then he's able to unload a series of homing shots straight at them for a short while. Being able to successfully chain midair dashes from one enemy to another is such a blast, and levels are built for this skill.

Copen's dash isn't just for offense--it can also get him out of some sticky situations rather fast!
As Copen defeats enemies, his score combo increases, and does so just as long as he goes without taking hits from foes. The more enemies destroyed, the greater the multiplier goes up until Copen takes damage. Even when taking damage, as long as Copen has a Bullit stocked, the damage output will eliminate one of his Bullits instead of taking out some of his health. Bullits are used when dashing into enemies, attacking enemies, and when damage is taken. By double tapping downward, Copen's stock of Bullits refills, allowing him to unleash more attacks without the worry of taking damage.

Abilities "borrowed" from bosses can be used to take out some enemies in a jiffy.
If you see that you're not as great of a player at Gunvolt Chronicles as you'd like, even with having a great capacity of Bullits to attempt to endure hits like a veritable teenage tank, then there's some solace for you. Occasionally when all of Copen's health depletes, he's able to be revived back via the Anthem mechanic, though this brings your overall score for the level down to zero.

The most arduous part of Gunvolt Chronicles, but also one of the most enjoyable and challenging--in a positive way--is that of the boss battles. Each level contains a final fight with a Septima boss, one who channels mystical, powerful energy and unleashes it throughout the battle. Each boss has their own patterns and set of three life bars. Each time a life bar is depleted, the next stage of battle commences, having the boss change up and add to its attack pattern. When the final third of health is remaining for a boss, they let loose an ultimate attack, usually impossible for avoid (or at least screen-clearing move) on one's first go against the boss, which can feel mighty cheap. This is especially so because many of them can deplete all of Copen's Bullits, leaving him wide open to losing a significant portion of his health.

This wannabe idol has Copen dead in her sights with her ultimate attack.
Between levels, which can mostly be selected in a non-linear order from sets of three apiece, you can use money dropped from defeated enemies and discovered in special chests to purchase upgrades for Copen. These give boosts like extra Bullit capacity, HP increases from using Overdrive attacks, halved ammo spending when using special attacks, and more. Some of the more costly items will take some necessary grinding to acquire, but you'll find yourself replaying levels anyway to aim for high scores and to uncover bonus emblems of which there are four in each level.

"My, what a big cannon you have!"
"The better to blast you with!"
Gunvolt Chronicles isn't a lengthy game by any stretch of the imagination. The main campaign will last most players just over a few hours, but there is some motivation to keep playing long after the initial credits roll. While there is no difficult to obtain "true" ending like past games in the Gunvolt line, there are a variety of extra missions that unlock after the final boss is eliminated. These extra missions feature familiar but retooled areas from levels from the base game, but the encounters against the Septima bosses at the end of each are impervious to their vulnerable weapons. Then, there's collecting the gold bonus emblems (four in each level) and aiming for S+ rankings in levels via proficient play (the latter is more for those really in tune with the game's deep and rewarding mechanics).

Flashy and frenetic are two words I'd used to describe Gunvolt Chronicles. This goes to the presentation as well, featuring easily distinguishable character models, fluidly animated, and impressively detailed backgrounds and environments. My only real gripe is with the music, offering some forgettable tunes--mostly due to the fact that you're blasting and blowing up enemies too much to hear the music--and J-Pop music that is quite frankly not to my preference. Your musical mileage will definitely vary here, though.

Most of the game is fully voiced, but it's the original Japanese only.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX brings with it tremendously challenging, high octane, fast and fluid 2D action platforming that satisfies greatly. Though the short playtime and sometimes unfair boss battles will sour some, it's a case of action-packed quality over quantity here. Gunvolt Chronicles is at its best when you're running, gunning, dashing into foes, locking into them, and unloading everything Copen has into them--which is essentially every moment throughout the captivating three hour campaign.

[SPC Says: B]

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