Lightning Strikes Twice
The original Azure Striker Gunvolt released back in the summer of 2014. The title was both a critical and financial success for the Japanese game company, Inti Creates, the developers of the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX franchises.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 released on the Nintendo 3DS on September 29 on the digital eShop and on October 4 as part of a physical “Striker Pack” consisting of both games in the action-platform series. The Striker Pack is the perfect option for players wishing to experience the complete saga told thus far.
It is hard to play a sequel without feeling the need to constantly compare it to its predecessor. It’s also difficult to play Gunvolt without comparing it to past experiences with the Mega Man franchises. Both series feature similar mechanics, but once you delve deep into what Gunvolt has to offer, it truly stands on its own.
All in all, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a heck of a ride that demands precision, quick reflexes, and most importantly, persistence. Its a worthy sequel in an enjoyable series that deserves much more recognition than it gets.
Lasting Design Makes This An Experience Worth Replaying
Following in the quick steps of the original, Gunvolt 2 is the next evolution in the action-platforming genre. This time, there are two playable characters, each with their own special skills, supporting casts, and intricate story-lines. Both story-lines follow a similar framework, but their experiences are entirely different thanks to unique stages, boss placements, and character dialogue.
Gunvolt returns as the game’s electrically primed protagonist. In this installment, he is on a quest to restore his close friend to her former self by acquiring physical pieces of her soul. The second playable character is the anti-hero, Copen. He is on a similar soul-searching journey, but to save his voiceless sister. Copen’s motivations become increasingly complex as the origin of his sister’s condition is revealed.
Each level adds to the intrigue surrounding The Seven, the title’s antagonistic terror team, and their plot of creating world peace through destroying pretty much everybody on the planet.
Gunvolt 2 is a relatively short game if played at bare minimum with each character’s story only taking a handful of hours to complete. Yet, this is not a sign of a lack of content. There are a variety of challenges available for each level that reward skilled players with materials to build better equipment. It is also necessary to replay certain segments in order to experience the entirety of the story. Each character’s “true ending” can only obtained after playing through the final levels twice.
That’s still not everything the game has to offer, either. Five additional missions become available for each character after completing the game’s story. Special “Runner Modes” are also available after completing the main levels. These new modes tweak some of the game’s settings to make it more speedrunner friendly.
Gunvolt is as Solid as Ever but Copen Makes All the Difference
The titular Gunvolt returns with all of his finesse from the previous title with a few more tricks up his sleeve. Gunvolt’s trusty side-arm that shoots bolts that leave electric tags on enemies serves as his primary weapon. The standard bolt allows Gunvolt to utilize three tags at once leaving him able to channel electricity among the three targets to deal massive damage. The electric current also acts as a shield from certain attacks. Gunvolt’s electric charge allows him to glide while airborne, which is perfect for setting up bolts or evading enemy attacks.
Gunvolt is very conservative out of the two playable characters. His play-style requires pin-point accuracy to inflict maximum damage to opponents. Bosses might not fall quickly, but they will fall a lot safer at a distance.
One of the biggest additions to Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is the ability to play as Gunvolt’s esteemed rival, Copen. If Mega Man X was the first evolution of mobility for the action-platformer, Gunvolt 2 brings character movement to a whole other level. Copen zooms, strikes, and shoots enemies with extreme speed. Instead of tagging an enemy by shooting them, Copen must tackle enemies head on.
The character’s jetpack allows him to blast in any direction as long as he has sufficient fuel. Reloading the boosters is simple, it only takes two downward presses. Unlike Gunvolt, Copen receives copy abilities from fallen foes, in true Mega Man fashion. By the end of the game, Copen will have acquired a massive arsenal that caters to any situation.
The game is extraordinarily engaging and rewards are abundant for those who aim to get the highest scores possible in missions.
Stellar Sound Satisfies Through Superb Sequencing
Sound plays a very important role in the Azure Striker Gunvolt series. The soundtrack is fast, fluid, and full of energy. Every chime has the purpose of propelling the player’s character forward. Inti Creates has an established record of creating catchy, high-octane music, and Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is another notch in its belt.
The music also takes physical manifestation as the player’s supportive character. Both Gunvolt and Copen are accompanied by a cybernetic guardian, Joule for Gunvolt and Lola for Copen. These two teched-out females personify the power of music. Joule and Lola possess the power of “The Muse”, the most sought after ability in the series. This enables them to grant extra powers and abilities to the player characters at key moments in the game. The two cyber-fairies can even revive the player, fueling them as they sing their impossibly-catchy theme-song. This level of integrated sound-work makes for a truly unique experience. The music literally moves the player, guides them, and cheers them on.
There is more to sound than hypnotic instruments; voice-overs provide a whole other dimension of characterization. The original Azure Striker Gunvolt did not initially receive fully voiced dialogue in the west. This left the player with many moments of silent discussion told only through text bubbles. Gunvolt 2 released in the west with fully voiced Japanese dialogue.
This allows characters to engage in conversation during levels and it creates stronger personalities for those it presented. Subtitles appear at the bottom of the main screen during conversations. Those who are good at multitasking will greatly appreciate the extra lore added through the dialogue. The subtitles do have the ability to block important elements on the screen, so those worried about an extra handicap are free to turn conversations off at the beginning of each stage.
He gets by with a little help from his friends
Yacht Club Games assisted Inti Creates with the physical distribution of the Striker Pack. As a part of their collaboration, Inti Creates incorporated one of the coolest features of the game. All players need is a Shovel Knight amiibo and a 3DS with amiibo functionality or handy dandy amiibo adapter. The esteemed Shovel Knight, from the Yacht Club Games title of the same name, appears and is ready for battle!
The implementation of this special boss is a pure delight. While it would have been interesting to see Shovel Knight remade to fit the Gunvolt universe, the attention to detail to the original design is enough to make the character come alive in the fast-paced world of the Azure Striker. The Shovel Knight theme also sounds right at home among the rest of the soundtrack.
The boss fight is incredibly quick but that doesn’t mean it’s an easy bout. Shovel Knight is equipped with his signature weapon and special moves from his home game. It only takes three hits to fall to the noble warrior, so be sure to be patient. Players that emerge victorious will earn an special item that will grant a much appreciated assist to anyone having trouble with the main game.
Gunvolt receives the Shovel Ring which allows him to double jump and air dash without penalty. Copen receives the Code of Shovelry, which truly adds Shovel Knight pazzazz. Double tapping down while airborne initiates a very familiar dive attack that would make the Knight himself raise his shovel in pride.
Hopes for the Future of Gunvolt
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is everything that a sequel should be. It added to the formula without losing sight of where it began and created an experience that could stand on its own. Inti Creates knows how to develop a compelling platformer with interesting characters, immersive gameplay, and impactful music.
The Azure Striker Gunvolt series is growing steadily. After two outstanding titles and a solid fan-following, there is still plenty of room for the franchise to grow. Gunvolt needs the continued support of its fans and developers to establish itself among the ranks of platforming legends.