Review: Azure Striker GUNVOLT (3DS)
This review series is dedicated to new games with a retro look and/or feel. It has become a popular trend to develop games with 2D pixelated graphics and chiptune music in hopes of recapturing and reproducing the look, feel, and sound of the games we are so nostalgic for today. Some of these games take the best of the past and fuse it with the gameplay improvements we have grown accustomed to today, while others have simply attempted to cash in on that same nostalgia that keeps us playing retro games in the present. The goal of these reviews is to identify the retro-inspired games being released today that are worth your time and money.
- Title: Azure Striker GUNVOLT
- Platform Reviewed on: 3DS
- Developer: INTI CREATES
- Publisher: INTI CREATES
- Price: $14.99
- How the Game Was Acquired: Review Download Code from the Publisher
Everyone that knows me, knows that I LOVE the Justin Lin directed Fast and Furious movies (Tokyo Drift, 4, 5, 6). I love them because they are designed to be action packed, fast paced, and pure, unapologetic fun. I don’t care about how practical the car stunts are and I don’t care about how “human” the characters act. All I care is that for those two hours, I had a extremely fun and exciting experience. That is also how I feel about “GUNVOLT.”
“GUNVOLT” was developed by Japanese indie game development house “INTI CREATES.” That name might sound familiar since some of the staff worked on the “Mega Man Zero” games “Mega Man 9,” and “Mega Man 10” in the past. Also they are currently collaborating with Kenji Inafune on “Mighty Number 9.” With “GUNVOLT” it seems like the team listened to feedback received from their previous projects and made some difficulty/gameplay adjustments to make their latest title a lot more approachable and focused on every player having a great time.
In this 2D action-platformer you take control of “Gunvolt,” an “Adept” that has super human abilities. After a falling out with his previous employer (due to questionable morals) as a mercenary for hire he begins working as a freelancer. Gunvolt’s most basic attack is the “Bolt Gun” which allows you to shoot projectiles at enemies and more importantly “tag” them. After you tag an enemy (up to three tags on a single enemy, the more tags, the more damage you deal) you can activate your electricity manipulating ability called a “Flashfield” to infuse them with electricity.
The “Flashfield” is the mechanic that differentiates “GUNVOLT” from other 2D action-platformers. This spherical energy field gives your character the ability to not just damage enemies, but also to dash, hover, and shield Gunvolt from some enemy attacks. All of the “Flashfield’s” abilities drain your “EP meter,” but there is no need to strictly conserve it. You can simply double tap “down” on the d-pad to quickly refill the meter. But, if your EP meter drains completely, you will be stuck waiting for it to “cool down.” After a few stages you will get into a rhythm of “reloading” the EP without even having to look at the meter; much like the active reloading in “Gears of War.”
I was immediately impressed with the screen popping graphics (and I didn’t even use the 3D capabilities of the console) and upbeat soundtrack of “GUNVOLT.” Frankly screenshots don’t do the game justice. With the electricity effects, detailed enemy animations, and colorful backgrounds, in motion “GUNVOLT” is one of the most visually appealing 2D games I have ever played. The soundtrack consists of retro inspired, upbeat tracks worthy of a nice pair of headphone (I really wish Nintendo would put out a 3DS without terrible audio output power). The localization team at 8-4 even put a retro spin on the translation with plenty of lines that will give you a chuckle. Even a specific line about the lack of auto-save. GUNVOLT looks and sounds like it would be right at home on the Sega Saturn along side of its incredible lineup of 2D action games.
As you would expect, each of the main six-stages have a unique environment to blast your way through in addition to an end boss with specific abilities and attacks patterns. Each stage also offers its own particular platforming mechanics and/or obstacles. In one stage you will be using a series of jump pads to ascend, while in another you will get pulled through portals and warped to another area, and in another you will be forced to rush to high ground as the sections below you flood. No matter the layout of the stage, you will be air dashing, jumping off walls, and using the “Flashfield” to hover over wide gaps, all while tagging multiple enemies and shooting gigawats of electricity into them until they explode. To simplify, “GUNVOLT” does a great job of making you feel like you are doing super cool stuff, even if you haven’t mastered the mechanics.
At the completion of each stage you will graded (up to S-Rank) based on your score, time, and amount of respawns. Depending on that grade you are awarded parts that can be used to synthesis upgrades in the Dealer’s Shop. The upgrade process isn’t automatic. Even after completing the six main stages, I was still lacking particular components for some of the upgrades. This is one way the game encourages multiple playthroughs of stages. As someone that isn’t usually tempted to master a stage for a higher letter grade or a faster time, the allure of upgraded equipment was a enough to replay previously completed stages. To my surprise, I enjoyed many of the stages even more the second time around. Now that I was familiar with Gunvolt’s abilities and the layout of the level I was flying through the stages leaving nothing but robot carnage in my wake. The diverse enemies and level design make repeat playthroughs of the stages a delight.
Boss rushes, why must we still have boss rushes? If you don’t know what I am referring to, this is when the previous bosses that you fought and defeated come back to life one after another without giving you a break, checkpoint, or health replenishment. This classic game trope shows up right when you expect it as you are on the final stretch to fight the big bad. Up to this point in the game, the pacing was fantastic. I was clearing stages in under 10-minutes, purchasing upgrades, getting new weapons, just having a great time. Then it was like my tires were blown out. But, it is not all bad. Perhaps INTI CREATE designed the game to encourage multiple play throughs of stage not just for that “S” rank, be also to level up, gain HP, and fully upgrade Gunvolt’s arsenal. After replaying the six main stages again, I had leveled up a few more times and more importantly had more practice against the bosses that I would meet again in the rush. It was like practice before a big game, mastering the opposing teams weaknesses while at the same time getting yourself faster and stronger.
“GUNVOLT” is exactly the type of game I want to see coming from independent Japanese game developers. Taking what made games from that region classics in the past while implementing some of the gameplay standards of the present. The game is not perfect, as mentioned before I could go without the boss rushes, even still it is some of the most fun I have had playing a video game in 2014. I can’t recommend “GUNVOLT” enough. Stop listening/reading this review, go to the Nintendo eShop and buy this game.
5 out of 5
- Over the top, non-stop action
- Great 2D graphics and soundtrack.
- Feels like a Sega Saturn title
- A beneficial reason to replay levels outside of high score
- Free Mighty Gunvolt game download (more on that soon)
- Another bossrush
- No way to buy the soundtrack at this time