Mega Man co-creator Keiji Inafune and Inti Creates team up to release Azure Striker Gunvolt, an action platformer now available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop in North America for $14.99.
Okay, enough of that. I can’t pretend to be the huge admirer of Inafune that many of you probably are; I didn’t actually grow up playing Mega Man games, so just about all I can be right now is indifferent. This means I approached Azure Striker Gunvolt with little to no material I could form prior opinions with. Whether that’s good or bad depends largely on you. So let’s get on with this review!
Gunvolt, our titular hero, is a skilled psychic fighter known as an “adept” in a dystopian future. His specialty is lighting, so he fights using a combination of a simple blaster (different models become available) and his electric “flashfield.” Shooting enemies with Gunvolt’s weapon does minor damage, but the important thing is that it also “tags” them, causing a cursor to appear over them that guarantees lighting from the flashfield will hit them when Gunvolt uses it. This is where the real attack power is at, but the flashfield drains Gunvolt’s EP meter.
Those are the basics of combat, but how do they actually feel control-wise? The controls can be customized to a degree by the player, but the default control scheme involves shooting with Y, jumping with B, and using the flashfield by holding A (or R). The L button gives Gunvolt a burst of speed, but I found it more natural to dash with the Kirby-esque double-tap on the D-pad. The controls are inherently simple, but require a lot of skill to master, adding up to a fun and satisfying endeavor.
Fortunately, you can put your skills to the test on several enemy-filled levels, each of which ends in a challenging boss fight. The levels are fairly linear, but they occasionally deviate in unexpected ways. One level shifts to an upside-down perspective midway through, for example. Together, the gameplay and level design work well with one another…for the most part. I found the pacing to be a tad strange in many spots throughout the game: the level design wasn’t always up to par, and the boss fights ranged from real easy to real difficult, and in no particular order.
As far as story goes, Gunvolt is standard fare; his job is to save the girl and save the world. The boss characters are named and have personalities, but they’re all somewhat forgettable. There are a few standouts who have interesting interactions with Gunvolt and other NPC’s, but I appreciated the vibe given off by the graphics more than anything. The world leaves a favorable impression thanks to the character designs and backgrounds.
For dedicated players, Gunvolt offers a series of challenges, some general, most corresponding to certain levels. These involve killing enemies in certain ways, getting specific rankings on a level, etc. It’s up to you to apply these challenges and report back after levels to collect the rewards. Speaking of rewards, materials found by completing levels and successfully taking on challenges can be used to synth several types of gear to upgrade Gunvolt’s loadout in a myriad of ways. Gunvolt himself also levels up, learning many different skills along the way. When all’s said and done, the game can have just about as much or as little depth and replay value as the player wishes.
Azure Striker Gunvolt is a no-brainer for fans of action platformers. It’s well worth considering even if you’re not an aficionado of the genre, as it’s just plain fun, not to mention cool. The controls and gameplay are solid, which makes wielding the power of lighting as awesome as it should be. The game scores: