Developer/Publisher: Inti Creates
Release Date: September 29th, 2016
Azure Striker Gunvolt was an unexpected joy for me. It was released at the perfect time as I dove headfirst into the side-scroller genre. When the next entry was announced, I wondered if the gameplay could really carry a sequel in the same way Mega Man could. Can it? With some changes that make the game more accessible and a new playable character, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a worthy sequel.
Thanks to Gunvolt, Sumeragi has been dismantled. Now, a new threat calling themselves Eden takes its place with the goal of completely wiping out non-Adepts. At the helm is Zonda (a villain/villainess of the first game), whose true form is revealed as she captures Lumen in a mirror before breaking her into shards. Two plots begin; Gunvolt sets out to reclaim the shards and restore Lumen, and Copen sets out to gather the shards to find out what Eden wants with them and his sister Mytyl.
Both campaigns are structured similar to Gunvolt 1, but shards gathering serves as a better motivation than just beating bosses. Character interactions also help to enhance the tone. Unlike the first game, Gunvolt’s story has more of a light-hearted tone despite the circumstances. New characters like Lola, Xiao, and Quinn really help this. The love triangle between Gunvolt, Lumen, and Quinn also makes this more interesting.
Copen’s story actually mirrors the first game’s quite accurately. As Joule 2.0, Mytyl is a bit more mysterious. Not only is she wanted by Eden, she is also unable to speak and has a strange influence on Lumen’s shards. So much so that Copen’s robot companion Lola transforms into a Lumen-like Diva form. Copen’s assistant Nora is a bit more straight-faced, but the full cast of each side serves the story well in contrast.
The writing in Gunvolt 1 (most notably dialogue) wasn’t one of its strong suits. It had its moments, but it was distracting more than anything. Thankfully (for the most part) this is fixed in Gunvolt 2.
The variety really comes through. Funny moments are set alongside serious ones, but neither tries to outshine the other. Full voice acting with proper inflection really helps these moments even if it’s all in Japanese. The nice thing about the dialogue is that it can occur during gameplay without stopping the flow.
The downside to this has more to do with the hardware and UI choices. Due to the 3DS screen’s lower resolution, the text and character portraits have to be large enough to be seen. Naturally, this can obscure some of the screen. The effect is made worse by the slanted UI design. While it’s not a major problem in the levels since you’re usually traveling left to right, boss battles are a different story. Not only is visibility an issue, but these tend to have the most dialogue, sometimes not even finishing by the time you’re done.
Gunvolt 2 does much better with the rest of its design, especially when it comes to the characters. While returning characters get design improvements, bosses are probably the best ones.
Gunvolt 1 played it safe with simple color and septima designs like red fire and orange magnet. Gunvolt 2 goes for more outlandish septima like blood and hair. I’m surprised that there wasn’t really a water-type boss in the first game considering its relationship to electricity, but we get one here with the weaknesses you would expect.
The music is still high quality and catchy, but it doesn’t have much of an impact hearing new compositions in the same style. Brand new vocal tracks for when Kudos kick in are always appreciated. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I hit that threshold with Copen. Thankfully, what I got was something better. The songs have the same tone and lyrics, but Lola’s robotic vocals and their different tempos change them significantly. These are easily my favorite tracks in the game.
Gunvolt 2 runs just as great as the first, albeit with slightly improved load times. Controls are the same as always and can be rearranged, but I’m reminded of how much I dislike playing action games on the OG 3DS. That’s more a fault of the hardware than the game itself. What is a fault of the game is noticeable hitching when using Copen. For some attacks, the hitstop effect when damaging enemies can be jarring and the inconsistency makes them worse.
Since there are two playable characters in Gunvolt 2 that have different play styles, let’s go over the similarities first. Each campaign starts with four stages that can be completed in any order. Only one is shared so Gunvolt and Copen both get unique stages.
As mentioned before, the Kudos system is back with some tweaks. Now there are three difficulty levels; Gutless, Cautious, and Fearless. The last one is the same as the first game where you lose your combo in one hit. Cautious gives you three hits and Gutless gives you unlimited. However, your score multiplier decreases on lower difficulties, meaning S+ rankings are out of your reach on Gutless.
On the same note, don’t expect to ace the bosses on your first go, since many skills that are required need to be unlocked. This may be another sticking point if you don’t go in Gunvolt 2 with the right expectations. It’s designed for replaying stages and is a cakewalk your first time through thanks to the Prevasion ability negating damage as long as energy is stocked.
As for Gunvolt’s gameplay, its essentially the same as Gunvolt 1. Tag enemies with your gun, then shock them with Flashfield, dispatch multiple enemies at once for Kudos bonuses, use you special septima skills for big damage. Loadouts can alter your gun’s projectiles and tag amounts, while various other gear alters your stats.
With its almost identical style, I started to notice one flaw in Gunvolt’s gameplay. The straightforward stages and jobber enemies make levels boring unless your shooting for a high Kudos score. The designer’s intent would fall apart and high scores would be near impossible in Fearless mode if this was changed. Still, newcomers expecting something more akin to Mega Man may be dissapointed.
On the other hand, Copen is vastly different from Gunvolt. The game flow changes from positioning and tagging to in-your-face big damage. Copen’s gun does solid and can auto-aim to enemies if he dashes into them and locks on. Instead of a fluid energy meter, Copen has three pips. Dashing in the air or getting hit with Prevasion costs a pip. This can be cancelled out if you successfully lock-on to an enemy, making it possible to stay airborne by chaining attacks.
Doubletapping Down recharges your pips like Gunvolt. If you’re in the air, however, you’ll come slamming down, dealing damage to anyone unfortunate enough to be in the way. He also has access to boss attacks via his EX Weapons. Like classics of old; beat a boss, get his/her power. Frankly, with the rest of his arsenal being so strong, I just stuck with whatever EX Weapon worked (in my case the Hailstorm Blade).
While Copen is certainly a nice addition, he’s still a Gunvolt character. The two characters’ styles are really just different means to the same end, but Copen is a refreshing change.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, taken most to heart in the game design. However, some much appreciate tweaks aleviates the frustrating moments of the first. Like the gameplay, both the visual and music presentation sees changes for better or worse. I wouldn’t have thought that adding another character would do so much, but Copen’s inclusion and everything that entails takes Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 from “good” to “worth checking out”.
This game is available physically in the Azure Striker Gunvolt Striker Pack for $29.99. This version contains both Gunvolt games.Download from eShop Buy the Striker Pack from Amazon