When Azure Striker Gunvolt was first revealed, the first thing that came to my mind, and probably almost everyone else’s, was “this looks like a lot like Mega Man”. More specifically, this looks like the Mega Man Zero and ZX games that were developed by Inti Creates, who were essentially the Mega Man guys for the better part of a decade.
As a huge fan of those games (and Mega Man in general), I was really looking forward to Azure Striker Gunvolt. I’d heard about the concepts and watched some footage, but without playing the game myself I wondered: how much exactly does the game take from Mega Man and how much does it bring to the table on its own? After spending some time with the beginning portion of the game, I have my answers.
To start off, the game definitely plays a lot like the Inti Creates Mega Man games. Moving around with Gunvolt feels almost exactly like the Mega Man Zero games, down to the speed and control over jumps. He also has the full arsenal of mobility from those games, including dashes and wall kicks. I’ve always felt like the later Mega Man platformers had some of the best feeling controls in platformer history, and Gunvolt carries on that legacy proudly.
It’s not all old tricks, though, as Gunvolt also has some unique skills of his own. Screen-covering lightning activates with the press of a button, functioning as Gunvolt’s main mode of attack. I was worried that this mechanic might slow things down too much compared to the fast pace of previous Inti Creates’ Mega Man games, but it actually meshes well as a unique twist on the formula.
Traditionally in Mega Man games, all you have to worry about is blasting enemies that are in your way. While that holds true here as well in a sense, the lightning takes things one step further. GV carries a gun with him that works a lot like the buster gun from Mega Man, but instead of dealing a lot of damage, you use your shots to “tag” enemies. The more you tag, the more damage you do, so the game becomes more about building up shots to chain enemies together and finish them all off with a big electric zap, rather than picking them off one at a time.
Chaining enemies with tags almost turns the game into a 2D platformer-cum-shoot-em-up hybrid. Instead of entire fights focusing around timing your shots, you only need to deal with the initial tag set up and then just let the lightning do its work as you focus on dodging. Large enemies and bosses in particular take advantage of this aspect, as they have a lot of health, so you spend way more time dodging than you do shooting.
Gunvolt’s electric powers also make for a great defense. Summoning electricity creates a barrier around Gunvolt that can be used to block incoming projectiles like missiles. One of my favorite utilities of the electric powers is that it slows Gunvolt’s descent mid-air, so you can use it to float across the screen and over the heads of enemies, or to avoid attacks that cover the ground for an extended period of time. It’s very much a multi-purpose tool.
As far as the feel of the game goes, Gunvolt is a satisfying mix of old and new, but the overall structure stays pretty familiar. The game opens with an introductory stage to get you used to the mechanics, and as soon you finish you’re brought to a boss select screen. A ranking system similar to the Mega Man Zero games judges you at the end of every level, and depending on how well you do, can give you rewards like new weapons or parts to upgrade Gunvolt with.
Playing Azure Striker Gunvolt was a lot like meeting an old friend. It looks a little different and does some new things, but after a few minutes you can pick up where things left off like no time had passed at all. As far as first impressions go, I couldn’t be happier with the game both as a Mega Man successor as well as the start of a new universe. Of course, I’ve only scratched the surface up to this point. I’ll be back later with a more in-depth look at everything else Azure Striker Gunvolt has to offer before the game’s release.
Food for thought:
1. One thing that was kind of annoying but endearing about the later Mega Man platformers, Zero and ZX in particular, is that they would give you a mission briefing with a sizable glob of text before you began a level. Azure Striker Gunvolt also has these, but they’re completely optional and accessible via the bottom screen right before you start a level.
2. The infamous Mega Man spike placement returns, although they’ve been neutered by the fact that they no longer instantly kill you. That’s not to say you can’t instantly die, however, as bottomless pits have no problem doing you in.