Review – Azure Striker Gunvolt (Xbox Series S)
For the unitiated, Inti Creates is a developer/publisher founded by former Capcom staff back in the 90s. After a few mediocre outings back in the PS1 era, the company became well-known for developing high-quality Mega Man spinoffs, namely the Mega Man Zero series. After developing a ton of those, Inti decided to move on their own, making their own Mega Man-inspired titles, with some quality of life improvements possible by not being tied to the series roots. This is how Azure Striker Gunvolt was born.
For all intents and purposes, Azure Striker Gunvolt is a spiritual sequel to Mega Man Zero, but with a handful of gameplay and story elements that make it stand out from Inti’s previous outings. It’s got the same level structure as a Mega Man game, it’s got the same gameplay from the X and Zero series (wall-jumping included). The visuals are somewhat similar, as is the music. With that said, it’s way more accessible than any other Mega Man game out there, thanks to some smart design choices I’ll talk about later, as well as some really amazing weaponry given to you right from the get-go. Originally released as a 3DS eShop exclusive back in 2014, the first game in the franchise, just like its sequels, is now available on Xbox. It’s finally time for me to see what the fuss was all about.
The first thing you’ll notice upon starting a new savefile is that Azure Striker Gunvolt is actually really story-heavy. Like any other game inspired by Mega Man X, there is an introductory level, where you’re taught the controls, and fed the overall background lore of the world around you. You control the titular Gunvolt, an “adept”, or someone who possesses special powers. In his case, he’s able to control electricity, unleashing powerful jolts and force fields onto enemies. In order to do so, he uses his pistol not exactly to kill foes, but to “tag” them, allowing him to unleash his full arsenal of ions and protons onto everyone around him.
Basically, you might be a Mega Man-styled character, but there is a focus to your abilities: electricity. That doesn’t make the game less appealing in the slightest. On the contrary: Gunvolt is seriously overpowered from the beginning, having access to some stupidly strong force fields and screen-clearing special attacks from the moment the game starts. You still get access to more weapons the more levels you clear as well, both in the shape of the classic “boss weapons” (though completing the game in a specific boss order isn’t its focus) and craftable power-ups and pieces of equipment.
Regarding the classic Mega Man formula of beating bosses on a certain order… don’t worry about this in Azure Striker Gunvolt. Sure, specific weapons work wonders against specific bosses, but the game isn’t meant to be hair-pulling impossible. Beating the game is easily doable for anyone with a modicum of experience with platformers. Not only does the game have difficulty settings, but the focus isn’t to make levels and bosses difficult; the focus is to make you work for a high ranking at the end of each level. This is how Inti Creates managed to please both newcomers and veterans. The game itself is actually quite short, but highly replayable.
There are a few things you can do in between missions, namely crafting new pieces of equipment and, most importantly, talking to your waifu/idol sidekick. Not only does this allow you to witness some sweet character development, but the better your relationship with her is, the more she can help you out during missions. She does this by reviving you after dying, giving you additional strength and improving jumping at the cost of a lower ranking at the end of the level. If all you want is to beat the damn game, that isn’t a bad tradeoff. At all.
Azure Striker Gunvolt is, by and large, a 3DS game. For a game developed with said hardware in mind, it’s impressive. Its music is amazing and its spritework is solid. Sadly, it does look a bit too stretched on a big screen, given how this wasn’t developed with console gaming in mind. Furthermore, the game is fully voiced, all thanks to a patch released to other ports a few years ago (PC, Switch, etc). Also really impressive, considering how many characters show up during the game. It’s all in Japanese, granted, but it’s still pretty good. Wasn’t expecting for this at all.
This was my first time playing an actual Azure Striker Gunvolt game, and I have to say: damn, I was missing out on some good stuff. Despite its short length and annoying grind sections, I was impressed with its amazing presentation, slick controls, excellent game feel, and the way the developers balanced out its difficulty by adding rankings at the end of each level, essentially making this game appealing for newcomers and veterans alike. Is this best enjoyed on a portable? Sure thing, as it looks a bit too stretched on a big screen at times, but it’s still very much enjoyable on an Xbox. Time to take a look at its sequels, I guess!
A commendable effort, as the developers tried to make a 3DS game look appealing on a big screen. However… it’s still a 3DS on a big screen. There are moments in which the game looks beyond stretched.
Fast-paced and responsive. You also feel beyond overpowered right from the get-go, something you can’t say about most Mega Man-styled games.
Really good music (for 3DS standards, nonetheless) and excellent voice acting (which was added in versions other than the 3DS one).
Fun Factor: 8.0
It’s more story-heavy than your average Mega Man-esque game. The gameplay is so good and the overall aesthetic is so cool, that you won’t notice how short and actually easy this game is.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Azure Striker Gunvolt is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC, Nintendo Switch, and 3DS.
Reviewed on Xbox Series S.
A copy of Azure Striker Gunvolt was provided by the publisher.