Azure Striker GUNVOLT (Nintendo 3DS, 2014)

HIT

Damage Report: Hit or miss, Azure Striker GUNVOLT takes the Mega Man formula in its own direction. Ultimately, the game is a bit too shallow, a bit too simple, but considering the $14.99 price tag for the eshop-only release, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The game is worth playing for the boss fights alone, but there’s certainly more enjoyment to be found beyond those.

SPOILERS AHEAD!


I can’t recall a time in my life when I didn’t love Mega Man. Though I was never good enough to beat the original NES series, I can recall watching my brother and our cousins play it as early as when I was five. Everything about the series has enchanted me since, including some terrible Saturday morning cartoon, the X series (including the terrible ones), and a bunch of imported Mega Man models I wish I still owned. Azure Striker GUNVOLT is definitely not a Mega Man game, but it’s a good example of taking the Mega Man formula in a new direction.

Azure Striker GUNVOLT takes place in some fictional world where people with powers are either recruited or hunted by some large-scale terrorist organization that wants to change the world to fit their vision. GUNVOLT, the game’s protagonist, works along side a rebel faction of specially powered people to oppose these terrorists. It’s all nonsense, but it won’t fry your brain with stupidity or too much exposition.

It also won’t differentiate itself from Mega Man, at least not the X series. We’ve got our Mavericks, our Maverick Hunters, and six stages with six bosses to beat in any order. Unlike Mega Man, however, these stages skip the elements of exploration almost entirely, have the most repetitive assortment of enemies I have ever seen, and are generally super easy.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it isn’t great either. Azure Striker GUNVOLT seems to be a Mega Man game that heavily rewards speed over precision and blindly dashing past enemies over quality platforming. A few stages change the formula enough to be fairly unique, but none of them capture the same flavor of spirit of any of the Mega Man games.

At first, I really hated this departure and thought the game was a poor imitation, but once you get into it and start exploring the game’s Challenges and upgrade system, it sort of makes sense. Unlike Mega Man levels, the levels in Azure Striker GUNVOLT are meant to be replayed and mastered in an arcade-like fashion. You can run a stage with up to three Challenges active – things like beat the stage in a certain amount of time or don’t take damage, etc – with each rewarding you differently. These rewards can be combined with those earned from a mostly random minigame you play after every stage to craft your upgrades.

It all proved to be a bit too shallow, especially since the bosses don’t drop the traditional special weapons of the Mega Man series. Instead, most of them drop different weapons that shoot and tag enemies in radically different ways. The tagging system is yet another departure; perhaps the biggest, as it completely overhauls how combat is done, placing the focus on a combination of maintaining tags rather than shooting down enemies with an accurate stream of shots.

I kind of liked the combat differences, though they are definitely weird. If the enemy types had been as varied as some of the levels or all of the bosses, then the combat might’ve been a real gem. Instead, most levels work best when you skip through everything to get to the boss, and the game has so few bosses that I found little reason to care about my weapon choice the majority of the time.

I know, I know: I have a lot of complaints and doubts about this game. Let me say plainly that I did enjoy it and am happy to have purchased it without any sort of discount. Overall, it’s a fun game and the boss fights are easily worth the price of admission considering their pixel art and variety. When compared to most Mega Man games, the three-stage bosses of Azure Striker GUNVOLT are all more varied and “cool” than even their Mega Man X predecessors.

The thing that I love most about Azure Striker GUNVOLT is that it represents a willingness to break out of the Mega Man mold while still maintaining the spirit of those games. It is one of the more obvious examples of a Mega Man-like genre being formed, especially alongside Shovel Knight. It is always a pleasure to see developers innovate games beyond the cut-and-dry genres, but it can often be even more pleasurable to see them do it with ‘genres’ that haven’t really been formed yet. Azure Striker GUNVOLT proves to be a solid, if not troubled, first attempt.

#AzureStrikerGUNVOLT #Nintendo3DS #Reviews
Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Azure Striker GUNVOLT (Nintendo 3DS, 2014)”

  1. I’ve now played through Gunvolt and I agree with most of what you said. The scoring system is a lot like many recent SHMUPs, where there’s a giant difference between “playing” and “playing optimally”, and that’s weird to adjust to. (To get the best possible score in a Gunvolt level, you have to do the entire level without getting hit or hitting any checkpoints and “cash in” your points by beating the boss with a special attack. I haven’t yet managed to pull this off.)

    Out of curiosity, have you played Mighty Gunvolt? Playing Beck in that is a lot like playing a more traditional Mega Man game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I dabbled a bit with it, but I wasn’t really getting into it when I did. Seemed neat though I have trouble treating it as anything more than a little gimmicky diversion.

      Like

Comments are closed.