home 3DS, Games Reviews, Latest News Azure Striker Gunvolt review – plus Mighty Gunvolt

Azure Striker Gunvolt review – plus Mighty Gunvolt

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS) - mostly mega, man

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS) – mostly mega, man

The creators of Mega Man 9 and 10 return with a homage to Capcom’s Blue Bomber, that also has some clever new ideas of its own.

We’ve already reviewed a Kirby game this month, but there are plenty of other 8-bit franchises that were big in America and Japan but are barely even remembered in Europe. That’s not to suggest their nostalgia is wrong and our indifference is right, it’s simply that the NES wasn’t big enough here to create any large scale following. But perhaps the most extreme example of gaming cultural differences is the Mega Man franchise, of which this new 3DS download is purposefully reminiscent.

For those that are barely even aware of what Mega Man is, it’s a 2D action platform series with a strong puzzle element and a degree of non-linearity that marked it apart from other shooters of the era. More specifically, Gunvolt is a spiritual successor to the Mega Man Zero series, a slightly more involved spin-off franchise with (depending on the sequel) elements of Metroidvania. Which makes sense, as developer Inti Creates worked on both games.

Gunvolt isn’t simply a reskin of an old idea though, and its combat has a key gimmick that makes it enjoyably unique compared to any recent 2D shooter. Although you appear to be armed with an ordinary pistol its bullets do very little damage, but instead are used to tag enemies. You can tag multiple bad guys at once, and then when (hopefully) safely out of sight you then power up an electricity attack that automatically attacks tagged enemies.

It’s a simple and immediately entertaining concept, that has a relative amount of depth in how it’s used. The more times you tag an enemy the harder it’ll get hit, while there are multiple different weapons to collect that add additional effects. Cleverly, you also have an optional gadget that automatically dodges you out the way of an attack, but only if you’re not using your electricity at the time.

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS) - nominative determinism at its best

Azure Striker Gunvolt (3DS) – nominative determinism at its best

The game structure is straight out of old school Mega Man, as you’re given the chance to tackle most stages in any order you like. Each ends with a memorable boss battle, who in many cases has abilities knowingly similar to Mega Man enemies – and, again just like Mega Man, you get to keep their weapons for yourself once you’ve beaten them.

The game also has a role-playing style levelling system which upgrades both your maximum health and grants you new abilities and weapons, like a giant sword or quick heal via the touchscreen. This works fine in principle but none of the extra abilities are ever really needed and you’d swear the game’s level designers had no idea they were actually going to be in the game.

Likewise, the ability to customise your outfit with different rings and pendants, conferring yet more special abilities, is great but the component materials needed to create them are so hard to get it’s easy to completely forget about that aspect of the game.

The combat system and many of the individual elements of Gunvolt are excellent, but overall it’s a very uneven package. The level design is unadventurous and bland, and the enemy variety is terrible – with less than a dozen generic looking robots to last the entire game. And yet at the same time the 16-bit graphics are excellent, and the use of the 3D effect some of the best we’ve seen in a long time.

Although that’s the other problem: Azure Striker Gunvolt is incredibly short, and highly variable in terms of difficultly level – vacillating between almost trivially easy ordinary enemies and the super hard boss encounters. The anime story is also complete gibberish, although at least the intrusive talking head cut scenes can be sent packing with a quick jab of the Start button.

Mighty Gunvolt (3DS) - even more retro

Mighty Gunvolt (3DS) – even more retro

We hate to see good ideas go to waste like this, although oddly the game was released alongside a second title called simply Mighty Gunvolt. It uses 8-bit style graphics and is free if you buy the main game or £3.19 on its own. Init Creates also did the faux retro Mega Man 9 and 10, and this is just as exacting in its recreation of early ’90s Japanese gaming – right down to the intentional translation errors.

Mighty Gunvolt reuses many of the same levels from its big brother but is much shorter, barely half an hour if you know what you’re doing. You do however get to play as three very different characters: Gunvolt himself, who doesn’t have his tag ability but can wave a stream of hot laser death in front of himself. There’s also female character Ekoro, who has a very floaty jump, and Beck from Mighty No. 9.

Mighty No. 9 is the real spiritual sequel to Mega Man, by original creator Keiji Inafune, and this is the first time you’ve been able to play as the character. Since we have no emotional attachment to Mega Man the novelty of this was lost on us, but Mighty Gunvolt is a fun little diversion that’s perfectly worthwhile on its own.

Azure Striker is more problematic though, simply because it’s more expensive and, although it tries to do more, it doesn’t quite hit the mark outside of anything bar the combat and the visuals. For some retro fans that’s enough, but if Mega Man and his spiritual successors are to gain new fans, rather than just pander to the old ones, Gunvolt isn’t quite good enough.

Azure Striker Gunvolt

In Short: A loving tribute to the later Mega Man games and a 2D platformer with plenty of new ideas of its own, but a lack of consistency spoils the overall package.

Pros: The combat is original and fun, with a good variety in weapons and special abilities. Excellent 16-bit visuals and some great bosses. Mighty Gunvolt is also a fun bit of fake retro.

Cons: The level design is unremarkable and the enemy variety very poor. Uneven difficultly and nonsensical story. Very little use for extra abilities and customisation system is wasted.

Score: 6/10

Formats: 3DS eShop
Price: £11.63
Publisher: Inti Creates
Developer: Inti Creates
Release Date: 2nd April 2015
Age Rating: 12

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