When Keiji Inafune left Capcom, I like many others was very disappointed. The Mega Man series had already been on a decline, and with the departure of the main guy behind it… well, it wasn’t great. And of course, several Mega Man titles ended up cancelled, and currently the franchise is practically dormant.
That’s why people were more than happy to kickstart Mighty No. 9, Inafune’s spiritual successor to the series. After all, if we couldn’t have Mega Man, we could certainly have the next best thing. But what we didn’t know at the time was that Inafune was involved with yet ANOTHER Mega Man-inspired game called Azure Striker Gunvolt. The game was announced back in March, seemingly popping into existence from out of nowhere, and last week finally made its debut on the 3DS.
To begin with, he’s definitely azure, and yeah, I’d say he’s a striker too. And there are certainly guns and volts involved. I’m not sure now much involvement Inafune actually had with the game, but it certainly bears a striking resemblance to Mega Man… or, more precisely, Mega Man X. From the blue color scheme of the titular character to the very familiar dash and wall-jump techniques, at first glance it may seem almost like a carbon copy. But beyond these superficial similarities, all it takes are a few minutes of gameplay to show you that Gunvolt is very much its own thing.
The most immediate change is Gunvolt’s weapon. You see, instead of a mega-buster or similar weapon, Gunvolt carries a gun that fires “tracers”. What are tracers, you ask? Essentially, they’re little lightning rods that “tag” an enemy. And when an enemy (or multiple enemies) is tagged, you can then use your electric field to zap them.
The bolts of lightning you emit track every enemy you’ve currently marked, up to a certain distance anyway. Enemies can also be tagged up to three times, which increases the damage you deal. You do run out of electricity if you keep using it, but it recharges pretty quickly. Plus, the electric field itself does some damage to any nearby enemies, slows Gunvolt’s descent when in the air, and also destroys certain projectiles. Basically, it’s the hypest shit.
You also find and unlock weapons and equipment throughout the game, letting you customize your abilities however you want. Speaking of abilities, there’s also useful skills you find along the way. These range from powerful special attacks to health recovery, and again, you can customize which skills you use.
Much like Mega Man, boss fights are a huge part of the game… and they are AWESOME. The bosses are easily the best parts of Gunvolt. Each one brings something new to the table and fights completely differently. While the stages can sometimes feel a bit too straightforward, the bosses are fantastic and really add a lot to the experience.
If there’s one negative thing to say about the game, it’s that the story’s a bit bland and by-the-numbers. The characters are all unique and mostly interesting, but the story itself is nothing we haven’t seen before. Still, the rest of the game more than makes up for it.
All in all, Azure Striker Gunvolt kicks ass and is a must play for any Mega Man fans. It may not be as challenging as the games that inspired it, but it has a lot to offer and quite a bit of replay value to boot. Plus, if you buy it before November, you get Mighty Gunvolt, a crossover with Mighty No. 9, for free. So go buy it!