Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 Review | Second Verse, Same As The First

It behooves me that Mighty No.9 managed to garner more attention than Azure Striker Gunvolt. Both games were developed by Inti Creates (Comcept co-developed Mighty No.9), though ASG somehow fell into the shadows. The shadows are not where this game belongs. Having played the original and now its sequel, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, my belief is firm that ASG is the true spiritual successor to the Mega Man series.

 

This 3DS exclusive will come in two forms upon launch: a digital standalone copy released on September 29th and what’s known as Striker Pack, a physical copy on the 30th. With Striker Pack however, people will be glad to know that not only does it come with the sequel but also the original ASG too. A perfect opportunity to experience a satisfying 2D action side-scroller.

Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 picks up sometime after the events of the first game, though the sequel acts more like a standalone game than serious continuation. Even if people decided to jump into ASG 2 first, nothing of major value would be lost for not playing the original first. Basically, the story takes a backseat to the gameplay because of how much dialogue is missed during said gameplay.

One look at a gameplay video for Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 and you can see how insane the action gets. During the insane action moments, dialogue is spoken between the playable characters and the game’s NPCs. It’s extremely hard to pay attention to what’s being said when enemies are constantly throwing attacks towards the player. The voice acting being exclusive to the Japanese language doesn’t help much either. So even if I  wanted to just listen for the dialogue, I couldn’t understand it anyway.

 

This also hurts the game’s momentum if people are like me and want to read up on what’s being said. I’ve had plenty of moments where I would be speeding through a level, only to reduce my speed to crawl just so I could pay attention towards whatever the characters were saying at the time.

And forget about reading during boss fights; the only way to do that is to constantly keep dodging attacks until the dialogue exchange is done. I’ve had fights where I would finish a boss before the conversation even came to an end.  In short: I really wish an English audio option was available.

However, I wasn’t left out of the loop entirely. Story-wise, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 has a pretty standard plot surrounding it; bad guys want to do bad, Gunvolt and Copen vow to protect their friends and that’s when the bullets fly. In this case, the bad guys are a terrorist group called ‘The Seven’. Lead by Zonda, the enigma Adept from the first game, The Seven want to make an utopia where Adepts can live peacefully without humans. Of course, this means wiping out whoever stands in their way, Adept or human.

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The cast from from Azure Striker Gunvolt has been replaced with new faces assisting the protagonists. On Gunvolt’s team, Joule makes her return as Gunvolt’s muse. Joule accompanies Gunvolt on missions to assist him in combat. As a former QUILL operative, Xiao came to assist Gunvolt in his fight against The Seven. Finally, Quinn is a female human who decided to help GV after the events of the first game.

Copen’s side is nothing but new characters to the series. Lola is Copen’s partner when he goes into battle. This spherical AI unit can be used to perform special attacks and offers insight whenever she feels the need to. Copen’s sickly twin sister, Mytyl, is crucial to both Gunvolt and Copen’s stories. Nori is Copen’s combat instructor who also happens to be a maid working for Copen.

I wished these characters were fleshed out more because as it stands, only Gunvolt, Copen, and their partners are relevant pieces to the story. This leaves the other characters lost in the wind, just only for the ride and offering nothing of importance or worth.

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Gunvolt, or GV as he’s commonly called, handles exactly the same way he did in ASG. He has access to his Flashshield and prevasion, both abilities from the original. Joule (the Adept from the first game) accompanies Gunvolt to occasionally revive him if the Azure Striker falls in combat. And of course, the ability to tag has returned. The key to mastering Gunvolt’s combat style is to understand how tagging works. Bullets from his gun have two functions: first is to cause damage, the other creates a tagged effect on foes.
When tagged, Gunvolt can send out electrical tendrils to envelope foes for constant damage dealing. In the beginning, Gunvolt can tag up to three foes at once but, by utilizing the sync feature, it is possible to obtain equipment allowing for a higher number of tagged enemies.
Truthfully, in regards to Gunvolt, ASG 2 is nearly identical to its predecessor. The only noticeable difference becomes known when the player controls Copen. A major character from the first game, Copen has his own campaign arc and has a skill set completely different from Gunvolt.
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Copen’s gameplay focus is for him to dash into enemies, which enables a lock-on system for his weapons and Lola. Where Gunvolt relies on attacking does from afar, Copen gets right in the enemies’ personal space.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 offers up plenty of homage to Capcom’s Mega Man and this includes a part of Copen’s gameplay. Once bosses are defeated, Copen steals their abilities and adds it to his own arsenal. Abilities can be swapped out in real-time to tackle whatever situation arises. To me, Copen’s aggressive play style was a bit more enjoyable, and I really enjoyed his move list over the skills Gunvolt had to offer.
Each character has their own arcs where it runs parallel to the protagonist. The two arc takes about three hours or so to complete, making for a total of six to seven hours. What really bugged me though was what happened after I finished Gunvolt and Copen’s story. The game has two secret true endings, one each for both protagonists – and in order to find them you must complete obscure, mundane tasks, something I have never found enjoyable. This game doesn’t even give the player a clue as to how the true endings are obtained, but at least they are easily unlocked.
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Once both characters have been ‘cleared’, the game took me back to the main screen where I was left to my own devices. After scouring the internet for answers and coming up empty, I went back to the game and decide to play Gunvolt’s final mission once more. Lo and behold, where the game initially left off, the second time around opened up a new boss fight and revealed the ending I sought after. The same thing happened when I went through Copen’s last mission a second time, so all that’s required is to go back and replay the final missions a second time.

I’m not sure how I feel about the true endings. While they kind of hint at a potential sequel, both endings feel disjointed to the point where either one of them could be canon or neither of them. In truth, I probably would have preferred the game ending off with its standard ending. Though if for some unfortunate reason, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 never occurs, at least the true endings have some form of closure. Though some plot holes were left unanswered like why Quinn can see and hear Joule when Xiao cannot.

When either of the protagonists’ story is fully cleared, a secondary option called “Runners Modes,” made for speedruns, becomes available to the player. Runners modes contain Score Attack mode, which has players trying to earn high scores within the story missions. It is also possible to check out where one stands in the online rankings as well. Players from all over the globe compete for the highest score and time to complete missions.

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Story and Runner modes are the extend of what Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 offers but that’s not such a bad thing. In a time where games can take 40+ hours to complete, it’s nice to experience a short fun romp once in awhile to cleanse the palette. As a successful spiritual successor to Mega Man, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 offers a fun 2D platformer experience. It’s my hope that the game does well enough to warrant for the much wanted, more expansive sequel.

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