[Review] Azure Striker Gunvolt 3
Posted on July 27, 2022 by Dennis Gagliardotto(@LyonHart_) in Reviews, Switch
Release Date: July 28, 2022
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: Inti Creates
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost ten years since Azure Striker Gunvolt debuted on 3DS, having spawned sequels and spinoffs since then. All of these games expanded the universe and repertoire of Inti Creates’ expertise in 2D platforming that rightfully feels like a modern spiritual successor and take on the Mega Man formula. Now with Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, the studio has bumped production up tenfold and created arguably the best in the series yet, with tons of optimization, upgrades, and options to make it the most approachable and enjoyable game so far.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 puts things in a slightly different perspective compared to its predecessors, though the flashiness of its effects and combat are still very much in-tact, leaving a spectacle with each passing frame in its levels. While the first two entries had a big emphasis on Gunvolt himself and being able to play as him and go through his story, the latest game highlights a new protagonist, Kirin, and details her story where she tries to continue keeping the Septimas and Adepts from terrorizing and going out of control. In this case she finds herself meeting Gunvolt who himself has lost control and become a Primal Dragon. As her abilities and skills allow her to purify and seal as she’s a member of the Shadow Yakumo – a side organization of the Sumeragi Group the first two games focus heavily on – her specialization on the supernatural gives her the power and capabilities to keep Gunvolt from rampaging further and settling him down enough to regain consciousness, but this causes him to have two forms between his normal human form and now a raiju-esque form resembling a thunder beast.
Multiple characters will make an appearance throughout Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 and expand the storyline further, containing a nice mixture of both old and new to keep the intensity and excitement up for returning and new fans jumping in for the first time. While the plot may seem like it’s a bit serialized as well, there’s really no need to have played the prior entries to enjoy this as these titles have very much been heavily reliant on their excellent gameplay and level design that speaks for itself. The story is truthfully just flavoring in what is otherwise a fantastic fast-paced action platformer, and there’s even an option to turn off what’s known as Story Mode+ to cancel out any dialogue spoken within the actual levels, but even so – much like the rest of the game – Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 still does a great job in still providing worthwhile narrative for those that prefer the story portions above all else. The title is also the first of the series to feature fully-dubbed voices as well, so the care and attention that Inti Creates has done here has certainly been above and beyond everything released prior.
Even with Kirin being a default character, Gunvolt himself is still playable in a sense, and is able to be summoned or “switched” to after a certain amount of the Fetters Gauge underneath Kirin’s health is at a minimum of 100% (this can go well beyond 100%, however, so Gunvolt can be played for a longer duration). This will naturally go up over time through each level from the various things players do (namely defeating enemies), and what’s even better is that Gunvolt’s form can be used multiple times and isn’t a one-time-per-level deal. Kirin’s move set throughout Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is great, though, and she’s a refreshing welcome to the series that changes the strategy up a bit, and all of this can be customized even further in-between levels as there are passives and skills that can be changed out and enhanced if given the resources to do so.
Each level has quite a few drops that can be accrued either through enemies destroyed, capsules, or some slightly hidden areas, and all of these will give various resources, Kudos to initiate Idol songs for maximum boosts, and even other Adepts and Image Pulses that can be attached to Kirin and used in the form of special abilities and passives. This system is always randomized, however, granting a gacha system with certain star rarities for each character that can give a variety of boosts to your skills and Kirin’s capabilities as a whole. Any number of matchups can be made for both passives and skills as well as preferred songs, which can range from bonus experience points to level up quicker, as well as special moves assigned to face buttons to be utilized for the likes of immediate health boosts, a barrage of missiles, or some quick backup. The system of being able to switch in and out of move sets and builds between levels feels wonderful, and it makes replaying levels even more addictive if trying to get perfect ranks on each and making sure to acquire all the bonuses there are in each for a chance at better Image Pulses to tie them to your passives and skills.
What makes Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 so incredibly fun and satisfying much like its predecessors compared to others in the genre is that the game doesn’t mind – and if anything encourages – the excessive use of your powers and doesn’t necessarily penalize you for doing so. It can make the player feel powerful, but of course one still needs to be mindful of the traps and hazards that are riddled in each map, so the environment helps balance things out so the player is still focused on what’s around them. Seeing the madness ensue with such fantastic pixel art and animations is really what keeps everything feeling consistent and fluid, and this personality exudes in and out of levels and is characterized even further through the lobby where you’re able to just speak to everyone you’ve recruited through the story so far and grow closer to them. These bonus conversations really give the game a bit more depth while diving deeper into character backgrounds and they’re involvement in the overarching universe, and it’s a wonderful way to make sure that, despite a somewhat large cast of characters, each is given a purpose for being there and doesn’t feel like an unnecessary add-on for artificial bloat.
For platforming enthusiasts and those that miss the heydays of Mega Man, Azure Striker Gunvolt – and basically everything from Inti Creates – continues to be the new staple at what a masterclass of that formula could be and is in this day and age where pixel art, bullet hells, and side-scrollers are reaching a new height of popularity and coming into their own once more. Whether in handheld mode or on the TV, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 looks and plays marvelously, so at home or on the go the game feels like the current definitive platformer looking to set new grounds while simultaneously raising the bar higher for what a properly polished platformer feels like.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is a familiar yet refreshing take on the method of platforming and boss-rushing that Mega Man popularized decades ago, but Inti Creates has done this in a way that’s modernized, approachable, and most importantly enjoyable while being tailored to the experience of the player. While some levels, moments, and bosses can become challenging in a variety of ways, it’s all done in more or less a balanced manner that feels fair as the plethora of abilities available at Kirin’s disposal can get her out of almost any situation. Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, much like its predecessors, is a visual feast for pixel art enthusiasts, and even though the screen can get busy with enemies, bullets, and items raining down with its fast-paced nature, it’s a fantastic follow up in a series that continues to evolve and reinvent the Mega Man formula for players today. Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is blissfully raising the bar for action platformers.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 copy provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.