I am a massive fan of Mega Man, and that’s no secret. The series contains some of the best platformers of all time – and Inti Creates have developed a bunch of these great titles, from the Zero series to even a couple of the mainline entries.
Given my love of the series, it’s surprising then that I have almost no experience with the Mega Man-like Gunvolt series outside of Mighty Gunvolt Burst – a spinoff that fused together Gunvolt with the controversial Mighty No 9 and ended up being really impressive.
With the pedigree Inti Creates have, surely the Gunvolt series has to be good. Right?
Many thanks to Inti Creates for the review code.
As someone new to the series, I was worried that I would quickly get lost with the plot of Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, but thankfully the game does a good job at setting the scene and providing most of the information you need to know in order to enjoy the game.
Set at an unknown point in the future, certain individuals have developed powers that allow them to manipulate the world in a superhuman way. Think of them like the mutants in X-Men, except called ‘Adepts’ instead. The world is at peace thanks to an organisation known as the Sumeragi Group, but unsurprisingly it’s a false one as they do so by experimenting with and controlling these Adepts.
Despite the title of the game, you don’t actually control Gunvolt at all, instead taking on the mantle of the battle priestess Kirin, who is part of the organisation known as the Shadow Yakumo. This organisation created the Glaives, which are used to to restrain an Adept’s abilities. There’s a strange new power emanating from the Sumeragi laboratory, so Kirin takes it upon herself to find out what the hell is going on – although she may find something she wasn’t expecting…
Whilst all the anime names for things were quite overwhelming at first, I got to grips with the plotline surprisingly quickly and found myself rather enjoying it. Things are very over the top, as you may expect, and the story is rather predictable – but it’s also a lot of fun. The dialogue in particular is silly anime nonsense that made me laugh at just how stupid it was at times, but in a good way.
My only criticism with the dialogue is that the default Story+ mode includes additional dialogue during the gameplay sequences, but the huge text boxes and portraits take up a massive amount of screen space. This is especially irritating during boss fights as you can’t see the attacks you need to avoid. Thankfully, you can adjust the transparency of these, so setting them to anything less than 30% should be sufficient enough to play the game properly without frustration.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is, at its heart, an action platformer that plays a little bit like the Mega Man X titles. Like with those titles, gameplay is focused more on fast paced combat rather than platforming. The ninja-like Kirin attacks by throwing her talismans at enemies to ‘tag’ them, which she can then follow up with either a slash or a homing dive. Talismans don’t actually deal damage, but the more she throws at the enemy, the harder your strike will hit. This is more intuitive than it sounds, however, since hitting your foe with a talisman will bring up a health bar showing how much damage you will do when you strike. Softer opponents typically only need one, but heavier ones require a bunch if you want to take them down in a single hit. It’s a really well thought out system that feels unique and also keeps combat flowing at a breakneck speed.
In addition to her main attacks, Kirin will also learn other moves after beating a boss; however, unlike Mega Man, these moves aren’t super effective against other bosses. Instead, these moves will usually do more damage to certain types of foes, such as a Dr**on Punch that hits aerial enemies hard, but is pretty useless against any on the ground. This system means you won’t be taking down any bosses in a few hits by simply playing them in a certain order, but some of the moves may certainly help.
Speaking of bosses, there are quite a few in the game, with each stage ending in a spectacular showdown – and many that have mid-stage bosses for you to take down too!. They’re really well designed and are some of most enjoyable boss fights I’ve experienced in a platformer. Attacks are well telegraphed and fair, whilst also requiring skill to avoid. There are typically three stages to each fight, with each showing the boss getting more and more desperate by using special attacks to make things harder for you. The fights are challenging, but I never died once to a single battle battle due to the game’s relatively easy difficulty.
In addition your standard moveset, you are also able to obtain items known as Image Pulses. These equippable powers grant you either passive buffs, or provide you with more active benefits that have a cooldown times – such as one that drops an array of useful items from the sky, or another than engulfs the area in fire. Some are upgradable, but others are just naturally strong; either way, almost all of them make you quite overpowered. In addition to the laughably broken secondary character you unlock very early on, it robs the game of a lot of its challenge. It’s still hard enough to put up enough of a resistance to keep you entertained, but veterans of the X series will likely never worry about dying.
THREE STRIKERS AND YOU’RE OUT
The game is divided up into an intro stage, 8 boss stages with a mid stage in the middle, and then the final set of stages that make up the endgame. It’s a familiar format, but it’s also quite well-paced. More importantly, the stages themselves are absolutely gorgeous and varied to boot: there’s a shipping port with polluted skies and heavy rainfall in the background as you platform over explosive barrels that rock around in a tumultuous sea; there’s a desert base filled with sand dunes that have you ascending sandy waterfalls with your homing attack on the sinking enemies; and more – there’s just so much variety to the stages and they all look and sound amazing.
Combat is not everything you do either, as many of the levels feature some type of platforming gimmick on other that put your skills to the test. There’s nothing too challenging here, nor are there any insta-kill pit / spike traps present, but it really helps to make the levels more engaging. One of my issues with the Mega Man Zero series was that sometimes it forgot about the platforming part and focused almost entirely on the combat. Thankfully that is not the case here, and there are some great platforming set-pieces too.
The game doesn’t last very long, clocking in at around four hours or so, but it also feels about the right length for this kind of game as it’s typically designed to be replayed for a better score. It feels like a good length, although there’s a lack of any extra bonus content to encourage you to play after the credits aside from unlockable harder difficulties obtained by gaining the true ending, but a boss rush mode or extra unlockable characters would have provided the game with some much appreciate replay value. The main menu has a blatant DLC section, so no doubt some type of extra content is coming – albeit no doubt at a premium.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 reminds me of Mega Man X at its peak with its fast gameplay and fun platforming puzzles to navigate. Likewise, bosses too are a particular highlight, with some really impressive attack patterns for you to learn and avoid. It may be a little easy for some, which is no doubt great for those who aren’t looking for a challenge, but at least there are unlockable harder to help make up for that. Inti Creates have shown themselves to be maestros of the platforming genre, and I hope that we can see more from Kirin in the future!