Thursday, 24 November 2016

Azure Striker Gunvolt

Gamespot Score: 8.0 (Great)

My Score: 8.3

(+) Pros: - Megaman-esque game play is superb, - Enjoyable, yet simple story, - Solid platforming and shooting mechanics, unique twist on using Electricity to beat enemies is super fun, -That f**king OST, - Fun weapons and skills that don't make you feel TOO overpowered, - Wide variety of missions that encourage replay-value, - Crafting equipment makes and giving Gunvolt upgrades feel extremely rewarding, - Insanely fun boss battles.

(-) Cons: - Too short if you're just going to clear the base game alone, - Requires some hardcore score-attack mindset to get score REALLY good in all of the stages. 

Game play time: 10 hours+ (Including missions and optional content)

One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made, was to neglect this game for such a LONG time. As a long time "Megaman" fan, I kind of lost hope in Capcom and how hard they've neglected the "Megaman" IP. I lost so much hope that I simply gave up on waiting for a new game and let the franchise itself decay away in my memories, almost thinking that it'd never return outside of crossover games like "Project X Zone".  Then a gem came along in 2014, a gem that I would never try until this year, when it popped up on a steam sale for the PC. I jumped into "Gunvolt", and it was like a flame was re-kindled in my heart. After not touching a TRUE "Megaman" game for about 7-8 years (last one was "Megaman ZX Advent" for NDS), "Gunvolt" legitimately opened my eyes. From Inti Creates comes a message and love letter to "Megaman" fans. The franchise is not dead with "Mighty No. 9", in fact, forget that game ever happened. "Azure Striker Gunvolt" is your true savior, and if you've craved for a "Megaman" like I did, this one will more than suffice.

Lot's of weird terms here, but don't let it get you down.

Gunvolt's story is honestly a good point. It's a very simple and easy to follow story that manages to get me interested with its charming characters. The story speaks of a futuristic world that suffers a great divide. Between normal humans and special humans known as "adepts", there can never be equality. Adepts have special abilities and can use their "Septimal Power", which simply serve as regular special abilities like espers in "To Aru Majutsu No Index" or mutants in "X-men". There exists a certain evil, corrupt, government organization known as Sumeragi which attempts to use a certain young girl's voice, which happens to be her Septimal power, to rule the world. Then there's "Black Quill", a terrorist organization who exists to put Sumragi down. Part of "Black Quill" is an adept young boy known as Gunvolt, or GV for short. GV goes on a mission to rescue this special adept girl, known as Joule, who had been used as a tool for her entire life. After that, he leaves Black Quill to get Joule out of potential danger and politic squabbles, and lives alone with Joule, accepting vigilante missions for income to support her.

Being somewhat of a spiritual successor to "Megaman", you can expect many similar aspects in Gunvolt's game. For one, its an action based platformer which has you take control of the game's protagonist, Gunvolt, to go through select stages in the game. Gunvolt can jump, dash, wall climb and shoot, just like old Megaman can, so fans will immediately feel familiar. However, he can become more mobile, getting multiple jumps and air dashes as the game progresses, making him feel a lot more fluid and fun to use. Instead of regular charging buster shots, Gunvolt's shooting mechanics comes from his Septimal Power, which is also the core of the main game play. Gunvolt can shoot enemies, sure, but doing so regular does low damage, pitifully so. He can't charge shot (at least, not at the start of the game) to deal more damage, but instead, enemies that he has shot can be interacted with his Septimal Power.

Even the opening boss feels like something out of
a Megaman X game...

That's right, as the "Azure Striker", Gunvolt is a master of electricity. He can zap his enemies by creating a semi-lightning dome over his body. This thing has minimal range, so alone, it's not of much use. shooting his enemies, he tags them. Enemies tagged by a single one of Gunvolt's bullets can be hit by his electricity, even if they are out of the dome's range. So come the game's main way to deal damage, tag enemies with bullets, then electrocute the SHIT out of them from afar. Multiple bullets tag multiple times, increasing his electricity damage. Since the game is also a score attack game, this is actually the only reliable way to gain points, and as you gain points by rapidly damaging and destroying enemies, the OST even ramps up. Let's be real here, the OST in "Gunvolt" is f**king dope, from old school "Megaman" style themes to cringe-worthy and addictive J-Pop songs that play mid-stage, its a pleasure to my ears the ENTIRE way.

Of course, since the main gameplay mechanic is to shoot enemies to tag them and THEN electrocute them to death, you'd think that the game gets old really fast. Not really, different enemies have you switching strategies, and its not like you don't have to dodge and manage your energy. As long as Gunvolt keeps on zapping, his energy depletes, and once it reaches 0, boop, he needs to recharge for a long time and can't zap while recharging. Ironically, the game also shields Gunvolt from damage, taking damage to his energy bar instead of his health when he is hit, as long as he has energy to spare, of course. This means that your energy runs out quick and leaves you wide open if you just spam it without thought. To keep the game fresh, there are a bunch of weapons and abilities that you can unlock through the course of the game to alternate Gunvolt's attack patterns.

Ah, screw the water stage.

While the default weapon has Gunvolt fire rapidly and can tag enemies multiple times, other weapons change that. Some remove his rapid fire capability, but allow him to shoot in multiple directions. Some let him shoot a piercing shot, going through and tagging all enemies in a straight line. It's pretty fun, and finding a weapon that suits your play style is always really satisfying. There are also abilities, which Gunvolt can use sparingly. There are a couple of different ability types, but its basically split into damaging skills that can be used mid-battle or healing skills. These are honestly, pretty OP for a standard playthrough (though they are essential if you want to get S+ on all the levels...), but you can only use these SPARINGLY, as Gunvolt's skill slots run out fast. Using all of these at your disposal while clearing different types of VARIED stage designs is pretty damn great.

While the main game's stage selection is rather limited, there are plenty of missions that reward you with materials and money for crafting. Missions prompt you to re-do some of the previous stages, clearing them with better ranks, or fulfilling certain set objectives (like that one mission on the Bio-Chemical Plant to destroy hundreds of crates). These don't feel to repetitive, and can justify padding the game a little bit to get the better equipment for Gunvolt. Speaking of equipment, Gunvolt can equip multiple accessories into battle, most of which are crafted during the stage selection. These severely change and improve Gunvolt's play-style, giving him increased defense, speed, multiple jumps or air dashes. Finding the right combination of stuff is crucial to improving your play, especially if you're trying to get high ranks for the stages.

Bosses are a real thrill.

Now we come to the boss battles. True to "Megaman" fashion, these are INCREDIBLY fun (either that or its just been awhile since I've played a TRUE "Megaman" game). Multiple phases, no weaknesses to any weapons (you have to beat them with your skill alone), super attacks when they are near dead, and constantly provoking you throughout the fight. These feel fun as all f**k, and its a pity that there are only 6 select-able bosses unlike the usual 8 in "Megaman" games. There's even a rival battle and the final boss (and I do mean the TRUE final boss) is cheap as f**k, something you'd expect to see in a "Megaman"-esque game. 

"Azure Striker" Gunvolt is extremely fun and all but it does have it's flaws. Mostly, its just the fact that the game isn't built for casuals. I mean, you can jump into it knowing nothing about "Megaman" and still have a blast, but you'd clear the game too quickly and be done with it without doing all of the challenges and optional content. If you decide to just breeze through the game its only about 4-5 hours, tops. All of the challenges and completionist achievements as well, those are well beyond casual standards. Getting S/S+ rankings on levels is extremely hard, needing you to to properly kill enemies in order to get the most points, AND you cannot get hit even ONCE, or your score multiplier goes down, basically nulling your entire run on that stage. Oh yeah, clocking in checkpoints ALSO f**k you up, so if you get hit, you restart the ENTIRE STAGE. The game is brilliant and full of fun, but if you aren't a full try-hard, you won't get the most out of it. 

I can only hope that the sequel is just as good, or even better.

Happy gaming!