Ever since Capcom put their famous Blue Bomber out of commission, die-hard fans have been lusting for a new title for quite some time. Despite the numerous of requests made from Mega Man enthusiasts, Capcom still has not changed their stance toward the iconic mascot. Thankfully, Keiji Inafune came to the rescue and decided to collaborate with Inti Creates to create a spiritual successor to the stellar “Mega Man Zero and ZX” series. Without a doubt, “Azure Striker: Gunvolt” looks, feels, and plays similarly to the legacy “Zero” and “ZX” titles — but it doesn’t necessarily live up to those previous titles either.
In “Azure Striker: Gunvolt,” the setting takes place in a dark gritty city where Adepts that possessed uncanny powers were wanted for concentration camps. The malicious organization by the name of Sumeragi utilized those Adepts for experiments purposes towards their devious plan and essentially controls all the major source of energy throughout the whole city. Moreover, the Sumeragi captured the most vital super being that has the ability to resurrect fallen allies from the dead and manipulate people with her euphoric lullabies. Our hero Gunvolt is on a mission to liberate the energy sources and prevent the angelic song from being globally broadcasted that would lead to a brainwashing epidemic.
The overall plot seems very compelling on paper, however, the way it’s being portrayed is rather poor. Right off the bat, the game begins in a ominous scene that’s very off-putting for the players to grasp. Shortly after, a slew of characters appear without any proper introduction and just happen to fall into place with the given scenario. Needless to say, the dialogues are bombarded with foreign terms that will cause even more confusion as individuals try to piece it together. As the story keeps progressing, you would have thought that the unsolved riddles were going to be addressed at some point down the road — but they aren’t. Instead, the crucial information that’s relevant to the plot is found within the loading screen — which loads simply too fast to even read the whole segment. Once you complete the main story, players will be left with this unsatisfied feeling since there’s so much left to be desired.
Gunvolt boasts relatively familiar but gorgeous sprites that Mega Man veterans fans can appreciate. The visuals is definitely a step up from the “Mega Man Zero and ZX” installments, based on the level of detail that’s incorporated into the characters, enemies, and scenery of the stages. Likewise, the design for the protagonist, allies, and villains have their own unique charm and appeal to them while retaining the signature Mega Man-like art style. With that being said, the 3D functionality throughout the game is simple but yet consistent with the foreground displaying the hud, whereas, the background providing minimal depth of the actual gameplay. Also, the evitable cross-talking within the 3D is there, but it’s very far and between that it wouldn’t spoil your experience.
Speaking of gameplay, Gunvolt is aiming for a traditional 2D side-scrolling platformer that keeps it true to the Mega Man formula. Our hero Gunvolt has to go through an obstacle course that features special gimmicks to maneuver across the stage. Different stages has their own unique twists, like for an example: the airship stage features catapults to soar into the air, whereas, the downtown city stage has warp gates that teleports you into a random sections of the level. Aside the gimmicks, players must avoid hazards in order to get out of harm’s way. Thankfully, touching spikes will only inflict damage, opposed to instant death, however, falling down an endless pit will still result death. This time around, its wise to defeat foes that comes across your path so players can accumulate experience in order to level up. Leveling up slightly increases the maximum HP and occasionally unlocks new skills for the Azure Striker to use; other than that — it does not have much of an impact on the gameplay.
Instead of eliminating foes with your armed weapon, Gunvolt takes it a step further by disintegrating them into ashes. Even though a hand gun is considered a weapon, it’s used more or less like a tool to assist the player in combat and in specific events. The premise of the gun is to tag enemies with the metal needles, so players can unleash the mighty force of Gunvolt’s electromagnetic “Flashfield.” It’s essentially your main method of defeating everything along your journey. Not only that the Flashfield can be used for offense, but it can also be used to deflect certain projectiles from different enemies and gliding across dangerous traps that’s prevalent throughout the stages.
In terms of the overall appearance of “Azure Striker: Gunvolt,” the presentation of the game is rather nice! The theme is loaded with futuristic aesthetics like the honeycomb shaped patterns that pulses with electricity and sci-fi like menus to interact with. The interface is very simple and clean while having the convenience of utilizing the touch screen to navigate through it. What I found to be rather peculiar is that players have to manually save the game themselves, opposed to just having an auto save function. Nevertheless, the soundtrack in Gunvolt is fantastic as it rings a lot of nostalgia to my ears. The playlist consist of catchy upbeat tunes that I found myself from time-to-time humming throughout the day. Also, the controls were easy to grasp and it has an option to modify your personal setup to your own likings as well.
Unfortunately, the game itself is on the short side, but once it’s done — it’s really done. There are a total of ten stages for players to jump, dodge, target, dash, and shock throughout the whole venture. The length between stages vary from being really short to being extremely long. Likewise, the difficulty fluctuates very often due to the amount of cheap enemies that’s being placed in a particular level. On top of that, once you finally reach the boss, get used to dying (or being revived) very often to memorize the near-impossible attack patterns from these fearsome villains. The overall campaign can be finished in a mere four hours by avoiding the brutal challenges and missing out on specials items that’s hidden within stages to unlock an alternate ending. For an eShop title, that’s priced for $14.99, there isn’t much replay value once you reach the tip of the iceberg.
Whether we need to wait on Capcom to release a new Mega Man game or not, Inti Creates provided us a title that’s similar to the legacy “Zero” and “ZX” series. Even though Gunvolt is not on the same caliber, in terms of plot details, character development, and background information — the core fundamentals of the gameplay is still very compelling. Being immersed into the beautiful sprites and listening to wonderful soundtrack almost makes up for the swiss cheese storyline that’s being portrayed. However, the levels are being plagued by cheap deaths with unforgiving traps, and frustrating attack patterns from enemies and bosses. Lastly, once you finished the main story and you have went above and beyond to discover the truth behind everything — then there’s no motive to revisit the game again.
- Stays true to the classic 2D Mega Man formula
- Fantastic controls and catchy soundtrack
- Interesting twist to the combat
- Lack of details within the plot
- Frustrating difficulty from time-to-time
- Very short game overall
Ultimately, should you buy this game…?
[ DEFINITELY YES | YES | MAYBE | NO | DEFINITELY NO ]