A small game release, Azure Striker Gunvolt is a 2D side-scrolling action title developed by Inti Creates, a Japanese studio helmed by ex-Capcom developers, and produced by Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man and Mighty No. 9. I didn’t know too much about this game going in besides looking at a few screenshots and from what I saw of those, the game looked to be an enjoyable action game that I could get into. In a way, Azure Striker Gunvolt did deliver that in terms of gameplay, but what I was not expecting was the shocking state of the game’s aesthetic qualities.
Aesthetics (Story, Graphics, Sound)
Azure Striker Gunvolt‘s story focuses on Gunvolt, an Adept with special lightning powers, who uncovers a startling secret when he is sent on a mission by his rebel companions. It’s a pretty straightforward futuristic premise that is executed in the worst manner possible, which is a shame because the universe has the potential for more compelling characters and arcs. But right from the start, Gunvolt and his scenarios start hurling anime clichés and tired, worn out dialogue one right after another — stale heroes trading stale words with stale villains. It’s unbearable to travel with characters that hold very little depth and expunge phrases heard over and over and over again. The amount of merit to be found in the game’s story is shocking and flat, uninspired writing does little to invigorate the somewhat interesting universe.
However, what Azure Striker Gunvolt lacks in story, it does redeem itself partially in its art style. The character designs are vibrant and eye-catching as well as the city-scape backdrops, the hub area and a few of the level backgrounds. They lend themselves to be a bit cartoony, favoring a more anime style definition which works well in the game’s tonal parameters. Enemy designs and the music are a bit bland and fall into the forgettable category, but there are a few gems to be salvaged in the art direction and the vivid characters.
Gameplay (Combat, Systems, Mechanics)
As the game is developed by ex-Capcom developers and produced by Keiji Inafune, one could expect that the blue-suited Gunvolt firing electric pellets in a 2D side-scrolling action game would feel very similar to Mega Man — and they would be right, although with a few key differences. First off, Azure Striker Gunvolt‘s main damaging mechanic is different from most games in the genre as it is split up into two stages: first, the player marks a target with their standard attack and then unleashes a flurry of electricity to damage those marked. This, along with the inclusion of powerful sub-skills, presents an interesting take on the 2D side-scrolling action genre that allows players to experiment with their method of progression. It’s a fantastic innovative idea that makes Azure Gunvolt Striker stand out among its peers gameplay-wise. The core gameplay of the game, the fighting and rambling through levels, does get a tad repetitive from time to time, but the polished final product wholly makes up for that.
When not in battle, Azure Gunvolt Striker presents a robust RPG element to the mix. Gunvolt can equip different weapons and accessories that change the player’s stats and energy expenditure and also level up to learn more skills and attribute bonuses. These elements provide a fount of gameplay that is generally well done, but the fact that most of the RPG elements rely on luck, such as collecting materials to make said weapons and accessories, can make it a bit of a chore. Yet the amount of side activities and gear to collect makes it a welcome addition to the game.
Azure Striker Gunvolt is a creature of dual personalities, sort of like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Its atrocious story and somewhat bland visual aesthetics equalize with the stellar gameplay and robust RPG elements. Though not the greatest 2D side-scrolling action game I’ve played, it is by no means the worst in terms of overall enjoyment. For $15, I’d recommend those who are fans of the genre or of games that are reminiscent of Keiji Inafune’s style, but if you’re not one of those, it’s an okay bet to miss this one 3DS digital title.
Final Score: 7 / 10
Written and Edited by Tim Atwood