Game: Azure Strike Gunvolt

Console: 3DS 

Genre: Action-Platformer

So anime, much moe. (Why is his mid-drift showing?)
So anime, much moe. (Why is his mid-drift showing?)

Azure Strike Gunvolt is a redesign of classic Megaman X style gameplay with an evolved sense of difficulty. The bosses are varied and difficult, with is no “preferred kill-order” because power-ups from bosses don’t equate to weakness for later bosses. The platforming is well designed and the new battle mechanic is quite unique, but can get repetitive. What all of this means, I’ll get into in a bit.

The Platform part of the game

runnin’ and jumpin’ and dodgin’ and singin’

The game itself has a solid foundation for its platforming and understanding its many variable mobility mechanics. Dash jump, slow falls, wall hopping, moving platforms, catapult platforms. Most if not all platforming puzzles are easy to discern on your first few passes of a stage. The difficulty, as in most action-platforming games, comes from the creativity in solving these platforming puzzles.

I don’t mean platforming puzzles in a traditional-sense (Braid), of how to get from point A to point B while managing levers and timed doors, but managing the enemies on-screen, the mobility of your character and the options that you have in that management.

Most puzzles only have one or two solutions to solving them, and the variety of options leaves a quick estimation of how to solve each puzzle. An example of this would be, you don’t have many options to jumping long distances so you can dash-jump, jump to a slow-fall, or combine dash-jump to slow-fall (assuming no other platform mechanics available e.g. temporary platforms). If this were a game like Megaman X, you could have a your hover-boots, dash-jump, jump-dash, some attack that moves your forward. Not the biggest issue with the game, but a noticeable one when comparing it to a game like Shovel Knight which gives you many solutions to solving its many on-screen platforming problems. [LTA Shovel Knight]

A problem that I kept finding myself in was a lack of exploration in the game and me expecting there to be some exploration in the game. With multiple means of traversing a stage, and stages that look like they should branch out, the game has little-to-no exploration in the games. There were many times where the game was leading me to a new area, but looked like the path was split so I tried to go the “other way”, the way that would normally have some secrets or bonus items, but there were none to be found. This was weird, especially when in one level actually had multiple pathways.

The Action part of the game

pew pew, zap zap, buzz buzz, crash crash

The battle mechanics in Gunvolt are completely tied to his ability to tag-and-zap his enemies. You get your standard gun which doesn’t deal much damage, but you use it to tag enemies which count as damage amplifiers for your “Flashfield” ability.

Electricity causes an upward draft, even when it's an equal force in all directions.
Electricity causes an upward draft, even when it’s an equal force in all directions.

When you have your electric snow-globe active, any enemies that are tagged in the area get dealt a massive damage. The problem is electric-bugaloo is finite, so much of the game is about managing how much energy your snowball has and constantly recharging it before progressing, because the energy meter that manages the snowball also manages many of the mobility upgrades that you can get in the game. This makes for some very interesting boss fights, but for the majority of mob-lings that you encounter in getting to the boss, it becomes a matter of “how do I get to tagging you” and once you figure that part out, you can get through the game with less problems.

Hah, gotcha bitch! Buzz, buzz (Taze bro too hacky)
Hah, gotcha bitch! Buzz, buzz (Taze bro too hacky)

The boss fights play between the most traditional Megaman X boss fights, with easily telegraphed moves, and finding when the most oppotune time to attack is presented, but there are also moments of bullet-hell shmup dodging. Bullets are flying everywhere on the screen and you need to find the moving “Safe-zones” so you stop catching bullets with your teeth. Some of the solutions are helped with your waterball because it can sometimes stop or deflect the bullet-hell from its collision course behind your faceplate, which helps bring the stress level up when you have to manage the bullets, the boss from side swipping you, and you trying to tag the boss so you can finally start doing damage while all-the-while not losing your energy-meter to poor management.

You want tense? Blindly running into boss fights get tense
You want tense? Blindly running into boss fights get tense

The combat is mitigated in difficulty by the leveling system and Gunvolt’s attack skills. Attack skills are like “Limit Breaks” or Big-Damage-Get-Out-Shit attacks where you become invulnerable for a short time while dealing big damage to anything touching your attack. The Skill Point (SP) meter takes about one-minute to charge 1-bar and you can carry up to 3-bars, so you aren’t penalized from using your SP too harshely, but I found myself only using them on bosses. The leveling system for me wasn’t that useful because I didn’t have that much of a hard time with bosses, but leveling up does give you higher damage and more health to help reduce the difficulty on the bosses as you keep trying and failing. It was one attempt to help the player along in difficulty without actually making the level’s easier and still required the player to have a fair-enough grasp of the stages before saying that they’re proficient enough to get moved onto the next level.

My moves don't work as well unless I say the full name. This is the law of anime.
My moves don’t work as well unless I say the full name. This is the law of anime.

There is a chance for a easy-mode activated when playing a game by when dying, the love-interest resurrects you and for the rest of your life you get a free energy meter so you can keep the disco-light-show rollin’. It does ease some of the tension in fights that are more difficult than others because it completely negates one of the problems that the player is constantly juggling. You only need to worry about dodging and tagging since your laser-light-show can be left on continuously.

The economy

of which there is none

The Gunvolt has a money and upgrade system outside of the leveling system where you collect coins and various scraps and you need X amount of different kinds of scraps before you can purchase an upgrade or upgrade existing purchases.

The problem is that scraps are rare and only collected at the end of a stage via a scratch-lottery system. The scratch-lottery isn’t a problem but each upgrade requires a fair amount of any scrap-piece and there are many roughly 46 kinds of scrap-pieces in the game so being able to buy and upgrade anything is a bit up to chance and a lot up to grind.

I would’ve been much happier running out a stage figuring out which of my muscle twitches need to get me up to the precarious ledge with an upgrade for me to use, or explore areas and may get a set of scraps that would set me closer to getting my new equipment.

The problem I think is a reason to replay old levels. Do I want to get stronger in level? Do I want to get this next upgrade that will let me double jump? For me it was a definite no, since my time restrictions were for the airport and plane ride but if you really want to keep playing with an overpowered character or you are having a tough time with the bosses where you need to spend more time and acquire upgrades, then this system is in place for you.

It is a fun game with some novelty that is worth checking out.

 

If you’ve played the game or have any other comments on shooter-platforming games as a whole, let me know in the jibbles (comments). Any and all discussions are always welcome.

Other LTA’s in the link

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