Azure Striker Gunvolt struck me out of the blue. Even after being showered with the positive press in North America and Japan, I hadn’t been expecting a gameplay experience that could manage to be quite so electrifying. Literally.
That’s perhaps to be expected from Inti Create who, throughout their illustrious history, has developed the Mega Man Zero and ZX series, Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, before Capcom chose to shelve their battle robot in recent years. The experience drawn from that is clearly leveraged in this Nintendo 3DS exclusive, which is reminiscent in many ways to 2D action-platformers of the past but equally, strives to push the genre in a new direction.
We’re cast in the near future, where special adepts have awakened to a new septimal power. With such powers sowing fear in those that can’t comprehend them, the Sumeragi Group steps in to supervise those that possess them. But while they say that they will shelter the adepts, Sumeragi instead hold them in concentration camps where they perform cruel experiments to unlock the secrets of their powers.
Step in armed resistance force QUILL, who learn of Sumeragi’s sinister machinations and rise up against them to protect the adepts. Your role in this story is a 14-year old boy codenamed Gunvolt, an adept whose Azure Striker septima lets him control lightning.
This is the remarkable ace to Azure Striker Gunvolt, shifting away from well-worn mechanics to inject more creative ideas that make this Nintendo eShop title a particularly enjoyable ride. Gunvolt’s primary attack is that he can emit a Flashfield at will, an electrical barrier that surrounds his body and can strike nearby enemies while negating incoming projectiles.
Targeting the Flashfield’s sparks will require you to tag them with your gun, which as your primary method of firing at foes doesn’t do much damage. It’s, therefore, a necessity to tag enemies multiple times, maximising the damage that your concentrated lightning strikes deal. However, this can’t be used indefinitely, steadily draining Gunvolt’s EP so you’ll need to pace your attacks to allow you time to recharge.
Flashfield isn’t solely used on the offensive either, helping you hover over impassable chasms. Whereas a Prevasion ability, granted by an equipable pendant, will suit players wanting to ease the experience to consume EP to automatically dodge attacks. Those that repeatedly die may be resurrected by Lumen’s Muse ability, livening up the game’s soundtrack and granting you unlimited EP in an effort to help you overcome whatever has you stumped.
You will unlock new guns as you progress that each fire with differing shots, but more importantly allowing you to place more tags on enemies to increase the Flashfield’s damage output. Meanwhile, powerful skills will allow you to expend earned SP to activate special electrical attacks or support abilities that will let you heal or immediately restore EP.
Inti Creates has clearly honed the central mechanics, but everything that surrounds this is particularly variable. Bosses are welcome set pieces but can feel punishing to those without more advanced skills. Players are encouraged to gather materials to synthesise new equipment, although you rarely ever find those necessary to create anything. With no clear way of increasing your chances of survival in this way, Azure Striker Gunvolt can be particularly punishing in places and, while lenient with checkpoints, this will inevitably lead to repeated frustration.
All in all, Azure Striker Gunvolt succeeds where others have failed, amounting to another unique, if not entirely consistent, addition to the Nintendo eShop.