There is an entire legacy of action platformer games that owe their existence to the Mega Man franchise. After the NES originals, Mega Man X greatly refined the formula, and from there the genre began to spread into other titles. Azure Striker GunVolt 2 is a modern take on the "Jump and Shoot" style, showing heavy inspiration from Mega Man style games but with its own twist on the essential gameplay.
Azure Striker GunVolt 2 follows directly after the events of the first game. You play as Gunvolt (or GV), an electricity controlling 'adept' who fights for peace between adepts and humans. Along with GV, you get to play as his rival Copen. Copen is a human with technological enhancements and seeks to eliminate all adepts, especially Gunvolt. If you didn't play the first Azure Striker game (like myself) you might be in for some confusion coming into the sequel, because Azure Striker GunVolt 2 does absolutely nothing to fill you in on past events, and assumes from the start that you played the first game.
The lack of any exposition is disappointing and confusing at first, but you realize quickly how inconsequential narrative is. The story follows a radical group of adepts who want to create a perfect utopia for their kind. They do so by kidnapping both the fairy girl living inside Gunvolt's head and Copen's sister. The story is honestly the weakest part of the game, it fills in time with meaningless conversations between characters who have no development. Gunvolt has no personality and yet every female character is enarmored with him, while Copen is an rich brat who wants the genocide of adepts . Honestly, unless this style of storytelling appeals to you personally, it's worth ignoring all together.
The gameplay in Azure Strike GunVolt is fairly unique and if you go into this thinking it's just going to be Mega Man, you're going to be in for a shock. Gunvolt fights by first shooting enemies with his gun, which tags them. Once tagged, he can create a surge of electricity which auto targets all tagged enemies. It's awkward at first but eventually, it becomes second nature to dash, tag and shock all the enemies you encounter. Additionally, Gunvolt has an ability called 'Prevasion' which allows him to avoid damage entirely as long as he has energy stored up.
Copen plays very differently. He has the Prevasion ability as well, but unlike Gunvolt who gains skills as he levels up, Copen gains a new ability by defeating bosses. Does this sound familiar? It should.
While Gunvolt is designed to tag and shock as many enemies at once, Copen is about staying mobile and killing enemies without touching the ground. His air dash allows him to hover in the air, and the various abilities he gets can be used for increased momentum. In general, I like the variety of skills that Copen gets over the few additional skills Gunvolt uses, however, the stages designed for Gunvolt incorporate his electricity better than anything Copen plays through.
There's a lot of creativity in how both Gunvolt's and Copen's powers are used. In some stages, the environments act differently based on if you're using your electricity as Gunvolt. One stage I particularly liked had platforms that caused me to fall depending on if I was using electricity or not. Copen's stages allow for a lot of mobility. I can fly through some at my leisure, and some are more than just a straight line, offering more exploring than Gunvolt's.
The one gameplay aspect I really don't care for is Prevasion. It took me a long time to figure out exactly how it works, but once I did, I realized I could just avoid damage entirely by keeping my energy up. It takes all the tension out of those flashy boss attacks. You don't have to dodge anything, and I feel this takes the challenge out of this genre of game entirely. There were some boss fights where I didn't take any damage at all, not because I'm skillful, but because I just kept my Prevasion charged. The revasion ability as a game mechanic is supposed to allow for more complicated fights, fights that have situations where you can't dodge, something Mega Man couldn't do. But what it ends up taking away the incentive to dodge entirely. There is a special skill called Muse which can activate upon getting a high combo score, which only happens when you avoid damage, but I honestly didn't feel it was worth bothering.
You have to fight the same seven bosses (with slight variations for each character) no matter who you play as. Near the end, it's the same bosses again in a boss rush, and then a final boss. Does this sound familiar? It should.
Both campaigns offer a different gameplay experience but they're both relatively short. Azure Striker GunVolt 2 only takes a few hours to beat for each campaign. All in all the addition of a second campaign only served to make the game feel shorter than anything else. Instead of progressing through one eight hour long campaign with a single character, we're given two four hour long campaigns which don't feel satisfying by the end of it.
Azure Striker GunVolt 2 is a solid game, and I've heard it improves upon many of the issues from the first game. It is a unique entry in the 'Jump and Shoot' genre of games, but I can't help but feel it's holding itself back. The story is told in such a cliche fashion that it's not worth following. The characters are given such stereotypical personalities without any real character development that it feels unnecessary. The gameplay, while creative, doesn't feel challenging unless you're actively trying for that high score. If you enjoy Mega Man, Mega Man X or Mega Man Zero games, Azure Striker GunVolt 2 is worth picking up. It's a solid game in its own right, even despite its flaws.
Azure Striker GunVolt 2 was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS with a copy provided by the publisher.
Azure Striker GunVolt 2 is a good game in its own right. It has an amazing art style and solid mechanics, but its emphasis on a lackluster story holds it back and limits it to a specific audience.
- Excellent Platforming
- Two Varied Protagonists
- Unique Gameplay Elements
- Lousy Story
- Worse Characters
- Short and Repetitive Campaigns