Video Version (Text below):
Azure Gunvolt, a cult classic in the making has finally made its’ way to the Nintendo Switch. For those of you who are unaware, Azure Gunvolt is essentially a spiritual successor to the Megaman Zero franchise. The team behind the Azure games is comprised of former members of Capcom, and they definitely know the formula.
Azure Gunvolt was first released in 2014 on the 3DS, with the sequel making way to the same system just two years later. Now, the Striker Pack which contains Azure Gunvolt 1 and 2 is being released on the Nintendo Switch with some slight enhancements to the graphics and added HD rumble. Full disclosure, Inti Creates provided a digital copy of the game for review purposes. Also, this was my first time interacting with the series. I’ve played demos of the games at trade shows, but I missed it the first time around. With this pack, I’m able to catch up with the series, and finally see what the fuss is all about!
Let’s delve into the lore of the game.
Azure Gunvolt centers around the story of Gunvolt, or “GV”. In order to avoid confusion between Gunvolt the game, and Gunvolt the character, I’m going to refer to him as “GV” in this review. GV is an adept with electric based ‘septimal powers’. Septimal powers are essentially super powers — usually elemental based. GV is initially working with a group called QUILL. QUILL is trying to expose the underside of the Sumeragi Group — an international conglomerate that is using adepts to advance their own goals. However, after rescuing Joule / Lumen, a powerful adept who can control other adepts with her singing, he decides to go freelance but still helps QUILL from time to time. Lumen is the form that Joule takes when she cannot express herself properly, or when she uses her power. It’s a bit complicated.
Several months pass and GV and Joule/ Lumen are living in an apartment together and working on jobs. GV is working with QUILL to take out some of the adepts from the Sumeragi Group. Several of the missions can be tackled in any order, just like the Megaman franchise.
In the first game, in order to get the “true” ending, players will need to find several jewels spread across all the levels. It was a bit of a pain as the game doesn’t tell you that until you’ve already beaten the final level once. And the normal ending is quite bad. In order to avoid spoilers, I’ll leave it at that.
The second Gunvolt’s story takes place sometime after the events of the first game. In the second game, players can control either GV or Copen. Therefore the story converges, but then comes together at the end. In order to see the true ending from the second game, players will need to beat both Copen and GV’s story, and then complete the final mission again.
In Gunvolt 2, a group of adepts calling themselves “Eden” have plans to wipe out humanity. In the first mission, GV rescues Mytyl, who is quickly revealed to be Copen’s sister. Eden has huge plans for Mytyl and Joule / Lumen, and it’s up to the player to stop them. Both GV and Copen’s story play out in similar ways with some interesting parallels happening. For example, both GV and Copen have similar reactions to certain places and events.
Overall, I enjoyed the story from Azure Gunvolt 1 and 2. One thing that has remained consistent with both games is the dialogue from the various characters. A lot of care went into localizing the game, and the characters are incredibly quirky and interesting. All of them have their own personality and motives and are overall they are well written. Really, the story of the Gunvolts game is great, and I found myself laughing several times. One my personal favorite moments was the awkward rhyming that occurs on one of the stages when the boss is trying to you know, kill the player.
Let’s talk about the gameplay now.
The gameplay between Gunvolt 1 and 2 is pretty similar. For ‘GV’ himself, players generally “tag” enemies with his gun which will allow GV to use his electric powers on them. ‘GV’ has access to skills which are unlocked by leveling up. Players can level up by defeating enemies and bosses.
Gear can be created by using the materials that are gained after completing a level, or by completing challenges. Materials are then used to create equipment, which can slightly adjust how ‘GV’ handles to suit your needs. Personally, I’m a run and gun type of player so I opted for equipment that increased my EP so I could shock them for a long time without recharging. Players can also gain a second jump and or an air dash through certain equipment. Throughout the level, players can collect ‘kudos’. ‘Kudos’ are gained by shooting or defeating enemies. Defeating multiple enemies at the same time, or while in the air will give you a slight bonus.
Copen has access to weapons inspired by the bosses he defeats, much like Megaman. Copen can tag enemies by dashing into them. Copen took a bit to get used to, but after that initial adjustment, he feels really fun to play. Copen’s equipment has a different format and has less “skills” than GV. However, with a number of weapons he has access to, he doesn’t feel inferior to GV in any way.
Both Gunvolt 1 and 2’s levels follow the same format. Make it through the level, and defeat the boss at the end. I felt like GV’s levels in the second game were some of the best levels in the series. I really enjoyed each of their unique twists. Generally, each level has something that’s completely it’s own. In one particular level, players will have to change the color of the lighting in order to bypass certain lasers. In another level, players will have to deal with icy landscapes. There’s nothing that will wreck player’s brain, but there’s enough to prevent the levels from feeling stagnant.
It’s time to discuss the biggest issue that Gunvolt 1 and to a lesser degree, Gunvolt 2 has. Challenges. In the first Gunvolt game, players must manually select the challenges to attempt before starting a mission. This adds yet another subscreen to go into before the game starts. In the second game, Inti Creates fixed this and made it so players wouldn’t have to manually select challenges between each level. However, there’s still the issue of collecting rewards in Gunvolt 2. When collecting a reward, it will automatically scroll back up. This means players may have to scroll back down to collect the other rewards. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s something I wish they addressed while making this port. Especially Gunvolt 1’s Challenges — they are super annoying.
Overall, Gunvolt 1 is much more difficult than Gunvolt 2. I found myself getting a lot more S/ A ranks in the levels on my first try. Maybe I finally got used to the game by the time I started the second game, but I feel that Gunvolt 2 was streamlined in a lot of minor ways. Getting the true ending which I mentioned before, is another example how Gunvolt 2 improved upon the errors of the first one.
Since I have the Shovel Knight amiibo, I was able to play that battle in Gunvolt 2. After learning the two attacks that Shovel Knight has, the battle was pretty easy. I guess it had to be as it exists outside of players’ save files, so Copen and GV are reverted to level 1 stats but it was a bit disappointing.
Gunvolt 2 comes with all of its’ DLC in the game. In order to access it, players will need to complete the game with its’ ‘true ending’. As far as I’m aware, there’s no extra missions or challenges that weren’t already offered in the original games themselves.
For a game like Gunvolt where players need to be precise with their aiming and jumping, performance is important. Overall, the game has slightly enhanced graphics and plays wonderfully on the Switch. For Gunvolt 1, the loading screens are very short and the game runs very smoothly. I never noticed any frame drops during my almost 20-hour play sessions. I felt like Gunvolt 2 has slightly longer loading screens — the longest I counted was about 10 seconds but the game still runs very well. I’ve played Gunvolt on the TV and in handheld mode for extended periods of time and haven’t noticed any difference in its’ performance.
The music is a joy, and when players get 1,000 kudos or more, Copen or GV will become slightly enhanced and a song will start playing in the background. I really enjoyed the full voice acting. As I mentioned before, the game is really a joy to go through, and having full voice acting really adds to that immersion. The Japanese voice acting is fantastic.
One very minor gripe that I have with the Striker Pack is that it’s impossible to switch between the two games. If you start either of the Gunvolt games, you will need to fully exit out of the software if you would like to play the other. For most players this probably won’t be an issue, I only discovered it when I finished the first game, and wanted to start the second one, and when I was checking things for this review.
The way the language options are written is also inconsistent. For the first game, it says “English / Japanese voices”, or “Japanese”. When it came time for the second game, I felt like I needed to decide the English text, with unfamiliar English voices, or Japanese text with the familiar Japanese voices. In the end, I decided on English but I was delighted to find the voices were still in Japanese. It’s weird that the option for this is inconsistent. There were also some loading screens in Gunvolt 2 that were written in Japanese. I’m not sure if they were never translated, or if it was an error. Oh and the language option can only be selected before a game is selected on the overall main menu.
In summary, I’d like to say this to Inti Creates: work on the menus! The impact to the actual gameplay is very minimal, but it could really enhance the presentation of the game.
As I mentioned before, the second game definitely has some improvements over the first one. It’s really a shame that Inti Creates didn’t go back make those improvements in the first game. For example, players can just turn off dialogue in the missions. This is useful as it will take players multiple play throughs to complete all of the challenges from a level.
Overall, if you haven’t played both Gunvolt 1 and 2, and enjoy fast paced action games, the Striker Pack is essential for your collection. The game has some minor issues that I’ve touched upon in the other sections, but nothing that was so detrimental that it turned me away from the experience. There are some minor tweaks that Inti Creates can do to improve the formula, and I wish they went back and updated or added more content in the port — especially with Gunvolt 1. Despite these minor gripes, I strongly believe Striker Pack is a solid purchase for those who like me, skipped on these games. If you’ve already played one or both, you might be better off purchasing the one you haven’t played, or skipping the Striker Pack, as there isn’t a lot of new or updated content. The graphics look crisp, and the HD rumble is nice but if you’ve already 100% these games, then I don’t think the Striker Pack is a required purchase for your Switch. EIther way, the Striker Pack has made a fan of the series out of me, and I’m looking forward to the eventual Gunvolt 3.
I give Azure Gunvolt Striker Pack (Switch) a 4.5/5.
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