When it comes to sidescrolling run-and-gun action platformers, few games are as synonymous with the genre as Mega Man. Inti Creates' roots in the franchise shine strong in its current efforts in the Azure Striker Gunvolt series and its spin-off counterpart, Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX. The sequel stays pretty faithful to its predecessor, with slight tweaks to the formula that make the fast-paced gameplay feel as rewarding as ever. However, the pain points from its prequel -- particularly in its weak storytelling -- haven't seen as much polish. That being said, Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2 isn't here to tell the next big story in gaming; it's here to have fun, which is exactly what players can expect in this action platformer.
All Action, No Filler
The official website for Luminous Avenger iX 2 calls the game "the new apeX of 2D action," a cheeky example of Inti Creates' confidence in its product. Granted, the studio has been honing its 2D action chops for decades now, so the bravado's to be expected. While the studio does all the talking, however, the game itself does the walking -- and dashing, and jumping, and slicing, and blasting.
Like its prequel, Luminous Avenger iX 2 stars Copen, a moody, angsty human-turned-cyborg who likes to tinker with tech as much as he likes to destroy enemy robots. You're equipped with a dash and a gun that creates buzzsaws made of lasers, which sets the tone pretty quickly: This game is all about the rule of cool before anything else. You could rush up to everything and slice them up with a three-hit combo, but the secret sauce of the gameplay loop comes from its Bullit Dash mechanic.
When you dash into an enemy, you mark them, and all your buzzsaws home into them. You quickly fall into a rhythm of jumping, dashing, destroying, rinsing, and repeating until you reach the end. It's engaging and ridiculous, marrying the smooth locomotion with chaotic destruction. As you're dodging one enemy, you're marking the next. This approach makes combat and movement feel like two sides of the same coin instead of two bespoke systems that work in tandem. By focusing on both, you'll find yourself falling into a flow state, similar to other mechanically sound games like Devil May Cry or the Batman Arkham series.
While the previous game let you chain up to six dashes before touching the ground, Luminous Avenger iX 2 limits you to just one. At first, it was a bit of a letdown. After some time with the first few levels though, this change immensely helps with the moment-to-moment pacing. The slower tempo gives you more room to strategize and think. Instead of barely managing the chaotic fun, I eventually learned to control the flow of battle.
Action easily stands as Luminous Avenger iX 2's strong suit, and that's exemplified best in its hectic boss battles. Across its 12 levels, every one ends with a boss fight of some kind. Like its predecessor, these bosses have three-stage health bars and attack patterns to memorize. More often than not, these were the hardest parts of the game, pushing your reaction speed and skills more than the stages. Figuring out how to dodge a move and exploit that window for some damage always feels rewarding, and that's no different here. Upon beating a boss, you get access to an EX Weapon, a system very reminiscent of Mega Man. As you'd expect, each boss is weak to a certain EX Weapon, encouraging the player to experiment while fighting. If you liked doing that in Mega Man, you'll like doing that here too.
A Quick fiX of Action
While the gameplay in Luminous Avenger iX 2 is compelling, it's fairly short-lived. The game certainly has its challenges, but they can easily be overcome by its many guard rails. For one, you can heal wherever and whenever you want. As long as you hit the button in time, you'll theoretically never die. If you do die, whether that's from falling down a pit or taking too much damage, there's a good chance the Anthem mode will kick in. Anthem mode gives you another chance and infinite Bullit Dashes, which can make the game even easier. The game actively discourages you from ever seeing a "game over" screen. On one hand, that makes it perfect for someone who's looking for a quick fix of action, an easy but engaging experience. On the other hand, it's pretty easy to blaze through the campaign, even if the bosses can get you in the red pretty quickly.
It took me a little less than three hours to roll credits. That includes going through cutscenes and watching a fairly basic story unfold. Funnily enough, the story of the first game, which wasn't anything to write home about, had stronger hooks than this one, which immediately transports your character to a parallel universe. Instead of building on established characters, Luminous Avenger iX 2 throws new ones at you, most of whom are painfully one-note. Only one character has an arc based entirely on her name, but it feels so on the nose that it doesn't even elicit any emotion, positive or otherwise. Toward the end, it's pretty easy to tune out the stakes and focus purely on the gameplay.
While some may scoff at the short run time, various guard rails, and weak story, that sort of misses the point of Luminous Avenger iX 2. In a way, you could consider your first run at the game as "easy mode." Beyond that, players can practice and try to set new high scores for themselves. As you defeat enemies, you gain points and a multiplier, and maintaining that score is what cranks up the "difficulty." Every time you use the heal or touch a checkpoint, your multiplier ends. When you die and activate Anthem mode, your score is stuck at zero until the end of the level.
So if you want a high score, you want to avoid checkpoints and Anthem mode, both of which can be turned off in the upgrades menu. As an added bonus and challenge, reaching a certain score threshold activates Overdrive mode, which comes with powerful upgrades you can unlock. It's a smart system for adjusting the difficulty level without having your standard options in the menu. If a player gets hooked on the gameplay, there's more room for them to improve -- and get more time out of the game. After all, it isn't over when you roll credits. A boss rush mode shows up on the menu, along with the option to fight each boss individually. In essence, if you're looking for 2D platforming action, Luminous Avenger iX 2 is ready to serve.
Scratch that Action Game Itch
With Luminous Avenger iX 2, Inti Creates once again proves that it can deliver on the 2D action platformer genre. The story may fall flat, but the gameplay more than makes up for it with its thoroughly satisfying dash-and-shoot system. Once you find that rhythm, it's hard to stop tapping your foot to it. And like any worthwhile endeavor, once you get the hang of things, there's only more to discover beneath the surface. For anyone itching to play something reminiscent of Mega Man, particularly the X series, this might be the fix you're looking for.
TechRaptor reviewed Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2 on the Nintendo Switch using a code provided by the developer. It's also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and PC via Steam.
- Combat and movement seamlessly blend together
- Engaging boss fights are thrilling
- Easy to grasp with a high skill ceiling
- Story is basic and bland
- One-note characters are forgettable