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Azure Striker Gunvolt – Review

Azure-Striker-Gunvolt-Promotional-Image-01Let me tell you a little story, reader: As a young lad I would always do my best to be good. Sometimes though, my behaviour would result in some time to play with our old computer. My father had three games available to play on his desktop: Some side-scrolling “Duke Nukem” title, a golf simulator loaded onto a floppy disk, and a demo of “Megaman X”. Each time I’d jump onto that hunk of junk I’d cycle through the three games always ending with “Megaman X”. It was, by far, my favorite. Fastforward to this very day, the day of writing this review, and I’m still a huge fan of “Megaman”, anything created by Keiji Inafune, Inti Creates, and anything else related to the Blue Bomber.

“Azure Striker Gunvolt” interested me at a powerfully visceral level. At the beginning of the month (April, 2015) Nintendo hosted another one of their presentations. Alongside some other announcements that had me shaking in my seat, it was that of “Azure Striker Gunvolt” which had on my 3DS and ready to purchase immediately. It reminded me of “Megaman X”, it reminded me of “Megaman Zero”, it reminder me of the things I’ve enjoyed in the past.

Finding out Keiji Inafune is only attached to this title only at a publicity level shocked me because of how similar it is to some of the titles that came before it. You, the player, take control of the electro-wielding Gunvolt; a mercenary working with a private protection agency against a corporation with nothing but death and domination in their sights, though under the guise that they’re doing what’s best for the world. Gunvolt then takes it upon himself to save not only the known world but the young girl who, at no fault of her own, may actually be the cause of it.

The story is simple and it never delves too deep into the specifics which would have been a nice touch but is one that’s not entirely necessary to the  game’s progression. You’re told what you’re supposed to be told and the rest is up to you to decide. What the story does is justifies Gunvolts existence and that of the Half superhuman half robot enemies he has to face. Most characters are pretty two dimensional, not just in the way they’re visually put together, most personalities are one sided and don’t really stray from the character tropes designated to them. This also can be said about the dialogue of the game; if a character is angry, chances are, their dialogue is going to be all screams and no actual talking.

Gameplay-wise, “Azure Striker Gunvolt” does indeed play like Inti Creates titles that have come before it. It’s a simple run and gun platformer that pairs up nicely with RPG-style gameplay elements like an experience/levelling system and customisable loadouts with special moves and equipment which can be unlocked by completing levels. “Azure Striker Gunvolt” also introduces a new type of offensive manoeuvre not yet seen in games of its type; “Tagging”. Simply shooting enemies wont do very much unless they’re incredibly weak. Tagging an enemy with the handgun and using Gunvolts electricity powers means you can take out multiple enemies at once. It adds another level of strategy to the game that things like the “Zero Knuckle” in “Megaman Zero 4” did. It takes the basic blueprints of a platformer and gives it a little more so to stray from the pack.

Similar to that of another Inti Creates title, “Megaman ZX”, is that of both the setting and visuals of “Azure Striker Gunvolt”. Being set in a dystopian future, most environments look to be cyber punk-esque and very much desolate which, if you ask me, makes for some damn good-looking stages. What reminds me even more of “ZX” is that of the bosses of the game who each feature different powers and hugely different designs. They all looked absolutely brilliant and all brought back the feelings of awe I had while playing games LIKE “ZX” and “Zero”. The animation quality, too, was incredible. Sprite-based animation is still my favorite type of visual style and “Azure Striker Gunvolt” does it wonderfully. That mixed with the 3D capabilities of the console make for one great looking game.

As you’d imagine, “Azure Striker Gunvolt” features a fantastic soundtrack made up of fusion electro-rock songs that fit perfectly in with the dark and edgy futuristic world that the game is set in. While the rest of the game’s audio is indeed enjoyable, it’s the music that takes precedence over the rest because it simply drowns out everything else. That’s not to say it’s the only thing you’ll hear throughout, it just means you’ll be hearing it more. The sound effects, in fact, are very rewarding. The sound when you electrocute an enemy robot into oblivion, ugh…sublime.

“Azure Striker Gunvolt” is a necessary purchase for any fan of “Megaman”, the works of Keiji Inafune, Inti Creates, and that of old-school platforming as a whole. What this game does is it perfects the fundamentals of the genre and then builds on top of that to deliver an experience that is both new and reminiscent of the titles that have come before it. “Mighty No. 9” is on its way and “Azure Striker Gunvolt” is a perfect game to fill in the space between now and its release, but that’s not to say that’s the only reason why it works so well. It is, at it’s core, an evolutionary branch of the “Megaman” franchise that will appeal to audiences that love the series but also to those that know nothing about it. People say Beck is the next Megaman, to a certain degree I believe that too…but he’s backed up by a shock jockey named Gunvolt who has one hell of a chance at taking the title.

Head to the the 3DS eShop now to purchase your copy.

Grade: A

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