When this game was revealed during BitSummit earlier this year, I felt a surge of hype running through my body. Coming from Inti Creates, the company that developed Mega Man Zero & ZX series for GBA and DS system, the game has a slight resemblance to those series but at the same time branding its own uniqueness to distinguish itself from all the previous Mega Man series.
For the record, this game is really a score and time attack based game. Not to say that it’s the most important aspect, but those are the stuff that makes the game look boring. You can just play through the stages slowly, but to be honest playing that way will bore you, at a fast rate. Tagging multiple enemies and then zapping them with Gunvolt’s septimal power (which is his lightning) will rack you with bonus points which will improve the score/kudos generation. The challenge in this game lies on how you can zap through most of the enemies at high pace while avoiding those attacks from the enemies. I just can’t express how crowded the screen can be with the enemies in the small screen plus your lightning sphere generated around you just like the screenshot below. Good luck in avoiding any projectiles.
The only worth of having better ranks are just the chance of picking more materials which can be used for making equipments post-stage. Crafted equipments give Gunvolt extra capabilities (when it’s equipped of course). Certain equipment reduce damages, improve Gunvolt’s attack and some of it may enable Gunvolt to perform Multi-jump or Air Dashes. Other than that, the ranks are just for bragging rights. Yeah, who doesn’t want to have all the stages in this game at S+ rank, (The ranks are from C to S+) and then showing off the screen cap over Miiverse. Expect lots of ‘Yeah’ from other users on your screenshots if you manage to get that rank on any stages.
Gunvolt is also capable of manifesting several special skills (which is gained by leveling him up) ranging from offensive (such as Astrasphere) to defensive skills that can either heals or restore Gunvolt’s EP energy. Those skills have a cost to be used and have a cool down time before the same skill can be used again. So you can’t just spam healing skills again & again. But don’t worry, this game doesn’t have limited lives. In other word, you’ll be back by the checkpoint every time you die. If you’re lucky, there’ll be some help from Lumen but this will pull down the stage rank to C. By the way, you can actually avoid from activating any checkpoints in the game. Activating the checkpoint means you’ll be converting your Kudos points into scores. So there’s a risk vs reward in it for those who wants to rack up more Kudos as the higher the current Kudos value, the higher the multiplier that came with it.
In my opinion, the develovers did a good job in designing Azure Striker Gunvolt’s stages. It is a good homage to Zero/ZX stage designs added with its own unique feel. Remove Gunvolt sprite from the screenshot and edit it with Zero/Vent/Aile sprite and you think that’s a legit Zero/ZX screenshot. While most of the stages are linear, there are hidden path in some of the stages. Take your time & explore them even if it will cost your stage rank. It’s a bit sad that 3D effects are a bit subtle and hard to be seen. But hey, it’s good for your eyes isn’t it?
I won’t say much about the story but keep in mind that Gunvolt is originally considered a terrorist before he stopped working directly with his group, but even after that he is still in touch with most of them, and takes contract missions from his former group. The story is quite short with most of the characters in the game, and it doesn’t have much backstory. Plus the removal of Japanese voice acting for the story, makes it less enjoyable although I can see why they remove it. On the bright side, the localization was done by 8-4. The translation of the story and texts are top notch in my opinion. Kudos to them for working on it, and even manage to release it in North America in just less than 2 weeks after the Japanese version release.
Luckily, the removal of voice acting doesn’t mean the eight Lumen songs were removed, it is still there. Racking up Kudos will play one of the songs randomly as long as the Kudos is maintained. The music in this game is quite nice too, considering the one that is handling the soundtrack is Ippo Yamada, the same composer that handles Zero/ZX series. It’s kinda sad that so far there’s no official word whether they’ll release the OST, either in physical or digital form.