Inti Creates Co. unveils their lightning-fast platformer.
By: Tim "Blunder" Redd
Like Megaman X, Gunvolt touts 2D graphics in a way that have me wondering why more games aren't made to look like this. Azure Striker Gunvolt maintains a living, electric pulse to it while I play that had me in awe from the start.
The bright blues and yellows of the main character and even brighter spectrum of purples and reds stick out in my mind as a highlight- pun intended of this title. It's not everyday I see something so bright and shiny and pretty within a video game.
Speaking of the cutscenes, they are portrayed through anime stills and pictures with text boxes, a simple, yet fitting means to move the story along. The artwork on the game brings out a very shōnen feel, having me immersed in this the same way I would be for any action anime.
The cohesion of the two art forms create a stunning array on my 3DS screen when utilizing a special attack, calling in the user's anime image to announce the name of the move. The real beauty of the game lies in these moments as they drive home the message that this over the top world truly attempts to place the player in the middle of an action lover's paradise.
Again, similar to Megaman X and other platformers, Gunvolt utilizes similar techniques. The title character can run, gun, jump, double jump, wall jump, and dash on the ground or on the air. There are collectible items that are used in between levels to upgrade Gunvolt, and boss battles almost always leave the character with an upgraded gun, very reminiscent of a certain Maverick hunter.
These similarities, however, feel so close to the surface when considering the unique feel that Azure Striker Gunvolt maintains during gameplay. Rather than filling every enemy up with gunshots, the core mechanic of the game has the player tag enemies with Gunvolt's gun, leaving them susceptible to high amounts of damage from his secondary weapon: a large ball of electricity that surrounds the player, destroying any tagged enemies nearby.
Yes, tagging enemies still hurts them, and yes they will still be hurt by the ball of electricity if they aren't tagged, but neither of these options deal much damage on their own. The ball also slows Gunvolt's descent and blocks most projectiles, but it also runs out of electricity fairly quickly, forcing the player to recharge.
This, alongside the points system in the game, encourage the player to eliminate as many targets as possible through this method in order to gain the highest score possible. Add in the incentive of finishing the level as fast as you can, and this quickly becomes a speed runner's paradise.
Probably the most enjoyable aspect of the game comes from Joule, Gunvolt's new partner-in-crime and houseguest. When Gunvolt dies a few times in a level, Joule's alterego, Lumen, will appear to sing Gunvolt back to life, complete with unlimited electricity, super speed, and a ton of other awesome buffs that really emphasize the action anime feel this game has.
Outside of combat, items can be synthesized to gain stats bonuses, challenges for certain levels can be turned on for rare items, and there's even a dialog option for the main character and his newfound, schizophrenic roommate that all build upon the replay value and world building established during the actual levels.
While the gameplay and graphics are both wonderful while embracing the anime spirit it tries to embrace, the plot takes too much from the shōnen style in being a little too melodramatic at times to be taken as anything but a sideshow when compared to the rest of the game.
You play as Gunvolt, an ex-QUILL operative who works to free ADEPTS– magic-users similar to Gunvolt– from the evil Sumeragi corporation. With your three former QUILL colleagues sending you on missions to overthrow Sumeragi, and Joule/Lumen to help you through it all, Gunvolt finds himself tackling an entire corporation for the sake of humans and ADEPTS alike.
The story doesn't get much easier to understand from there, though it does conveniently take a backseat for a few levels before the midpoint of the game. Don't worry, no spoilers to be found here.
That confusing mess of words aside, the writing the localization team did for this game is superb, throwing in jokes and witty banter that are all-around enjoyable. Although this doesn't carry the entire story, the plot remains a fun and interesting world to get engrossed in while trying to beat your highest score.
Azure Striker Gunvolt was heralded as the next Megaman title that wasn't a Megaman, an oddly growing subgenre of action platformers. Its nostalgic art style couple with its unique gameplay mechanics definitely deliver on this promise, even though the story isn't the most coherent thing around. It is much more than a clone of our beloved blue bomber.
Game: Azure Striker Gunvolt
Developer/Publisher: Inti Creates/Nintendo
Pros: Beautiful visuals, fresh gameplay
Cons: Lackluster story
English teacher by day, blogger by night! Tim "Blunder" Redd can normally be seen stalking reddit, playing on his 3DS, or writing on his personal blog thedirtycasual. He is also the gaming editor on the start-up, collegiate online magazine, Shuffle!