I was the wrong guy to play Azure Striker Gunvolt. I bought the game because it came packaged with a demake of the same game, Mighty Gunvolt, that seemed like developer Inti Creates returning to its Mega Man roots and creating something in the style of the old NES action games they had come to co-opt and perfect. I didn’t make it very far into Mighty Gunvolt, as the charm began to fade and the dialogue blanketed over the screen heavier and heavier. The same happened for Azure Striker Gunvolt when I tried to play it. It was a very dialogue-heavy, exactly what you expect kind of sidescrolling action platformer. It was fine, but I didn’t stick around for long.
Now, a sequel is released and it finds itself on my 3DS thanks to our friends at Yacht Club Games. After the first few minutes of gameplay, I noticed that Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a lot like the first game. I also noticed that I like this game a lot more than the first game.
After playing through Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 and loving it so much, I returned to the original game to see why I disliked it as much as I did and I was surprised to find how similar the two games are. I think what changed between the release of the two was me.
I’m always rambling about how much feeling is important to me when I select the games that I play. There’s a certain “ness” about a game that I can feel, and it just clicks with me. It’s a combination of input precision and character action, with aesthetic and sound. If my hands don’t feel like they’re dictating the action on the screen, I can’t continue to play a game. Once we’ve nailed that piece, I can move to the next part: my affinity for design in a game. Most times, even when a game feels just right, if it isn’t in the right setting or if the art is bad or the music is crummy; I can’t continue with it.
A few years ago, there was something off with Azure Striker Gunvolt when I looked at it. I don’t see it anymore, and its sequel is even better than the first. It is exactly what a trailer will show you: a fast-paced, sidescrolling, action platformer that is littered with dialogue and a lot of anime tropes. This time, you not only play as the eponymous Gunvolt but also as his rival from the first title, Copen. Each character provides a unique play experiences once they begin to level up and acquire more items and skills.
A lot of the stages seemed to run together for me, and I felt like while there was certainly variation between each stage’s design, I was still essentially just running forward and shooting things. Sometimes I had to climb a particular wall, where others I was running back and forth in-between different levels of a stage- but other than a different backdrop and color schema that fit with that stage’s boss, there was little variation in gameplay from stage to stage.
At the end of each stage awaits a boss battle, much like the classic Mega Man formula laid out for us. Here, each of the bosses were like terrifying Power Rangers with weird tendrils and powers. They each have a theme and color to them that makes them easily identifiable, and their attack patterns define and distinguish them further. Individually, they are each really complicated and nuanced once you start to break them apart and see their movesets in action. One uses ice where another uses her hair, and if you have the right amiibo there’s one who uses a shovel…
I think that those who were depressed by Mighty No. 9 should look no further than Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. It really does what Mighty doesn’t and what Capcom hasn’t done with Mega Man in years. It provides you with that arcade feeling of running through different areas and blasting away at random things until you reach the boss, then the satisfaction of learning a boss’ movement and attack patterns until you defeat them and power up yourself. It’s filled with a great cast of characters who continue to carry the story along and help to create something special in a game like this.