The Nintendo eShop – specifically on the Nintendo 3DS – has been more than generous with its selection of unique platforming games and 2D side-scrollers: Mutant Mudds, Fractured Soul, VVVVVV, Gunman Clive, SteamWorld Dig, Shovel Knight…I could go on, but you probably get the point.
It is time to add another title to the list – Azure Striker Gunvolt, developed by Inti Creates and Mega Man creator Kenji Inafune.
I fully intended to write up a complete review for Azure Striker after I finished it, but its launch date was roughly a week ahead of Super Smash Bros. for 3DS…needless to say, my attention span was pretty quickly diverted once that was released. Regardless, Gunvolt is a fantastic action game with a nifty concept: rather than focusing on precision platforming skills like the Mega Man games, Azure Striker is more about chaining together kills, mad-dashing to the end of each stage, and earning the highest ranking possible – even if it requires you to play through again and again.
The game is often compared to the Mega Man series, but as I just described, it ends up feeling a lot more like a side-scrolling version of games like Devil May Cry. Actually, more than anything, Gunvolt reminded me of Vanquish, the Xbox 360/PS3 sleeper hit from Sega. Like that game, this one rarely encourages you to slow down for any reason – in fact, the more skilled you become, the faster you’ll blast through groups of foes and chain them together for extra points.
Along with using the blaster to ‘tag’ foes, the “Flashfield” ability (seen in images above) allows you to zap multiple foes at once as long as they’re tagged – it also helps you to defend against projectiles and float longer distances across gaps. Using Flashfield depletes your “EP” gauge, which can be refilled gradually over time or manually with the press of a button – EP serves as the limit for your abilities, and managing your energy is important to keeping combos together and earning the highest scores.
Although it isn’t a terribly long game, Gunvolt promises quite a bit of replay value. All of its stages are unique and offer many different obstacles or challenges, not to mention gigantic boss robots and a group of similarly powered-up guardian characters. The bosses are a lot of fun to fight against, especially once you’ve mastered some of the game’s advanced techniques and unlocked some of the best gear. Challenges for each stage offer an extra incentive to go back and play through them again and again, and some can be pretty tricky to complete.