Review: Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a grounded game
From 2002 to 2007, Inti Creates made Mega Man games. The Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX installments were wonderful successors to Capcom’s original Mega Man games, allowing people to run-and-gun their way through meatier storylines, enjoying elaborate sprite work and RPG elements along the way. With the original Azure Striker Gunvolt, the developer created a spiritual successor that would allow it to continue its experiments with this sort of game. Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 takes things even further by allowing us access to Copen, a character who gains new attacks after defeating his enemies. The result is a game that is Mega Man in all but name.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 picks up sometime after the events of the first game. Eden, new union by adepts, for adepts, has appeared and offers people with septimal abilities a home and opportunity to take control of the world. Both Gunvolt, who works on his own after cutting ties with the resistance group, QUILL, and Copen, an anti-adept agent fighting for the sake of humanity, find themselves drawn into a fight against Eden’s Seven. The group’s commanders have captured Joule, a synthetic adept who acts as muse that can boost adepts’ septimal abilities and works with Gunvolt, and Mytyl, Copen’s sister, for an unknown purpose. Each character’s storyline brings players closer to wiping out a dangerous and oppressive regime and saving an innocent young woman.
All you really need to know is that Inti Creates has put together a great localization that makes most of these personalities interesting, even if you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on.
But, don’t be too concerned about Azure Striker Gunvolt 2’s storyline. While it is interesting, it may also be a bit confusing to people who haven’t been keeping up with the series’ concepts and characters. Especially since what is there attempts to provide excuses for characters to interact with each other and duke it out multiple times. All you really need to know is that Inti Creates has put together a great localization that makes most of these personalities interesting, even if you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on. It’s both creative and colorful in all the right ways and makes you care about Gunvolt, Copen, Joule and Mytyl.
Speaking of colorful, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a gorgeous game. It both looks and sounds wonderful. The sprite work is amazing, with all kinds of intricate accents and details that make each character and location look unique. I’m a big fan especially of Gunvolt and Copen’s designs, as you can practically feel the power when they use their abilities or have Joule or Lola at their sides. Ippo Yamada, the composer for the original game and the Mega Man Zero series, has returned to create some amazing and evocative tracks to accompany our adventures. The voice acting is incredible, and I can’t think of a single character who may have been miscast.
All of these compliment an adventure where the gameplay absolutely shines. Both Gunvolt and Copen have their own storylines and special abilities. As an adept, Gunvolt’s Azure Thunderclap septima grows in strength as you play through the game. More abilities open up as he levels up, giving you new ways to direct and use his electricity. Meanwhile, Copen is a more technologically-inclined character, relying on his bullets and powers he ends up pulling from defeated foes to improve himself as you play. Gunvolt’s is more about strategically setting up attacks, tagging opponents so you can use his septimal abilities to take them out. Copen feels more like a standard run-and-gun hero who has the option to dash as part of his attacks.
I think the best way of showing how balanced and well designed Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is relies on these two campaigns. While they play rather differently, you can’t say one is more or less difficult than the other. Each one has a Muse, with Gunvolt having Joule and Lola at Copen’s side. Both can use Prevasion to evade attacks or rely on an Anthem to restore their health. They just offer an alternative means of completing objectives and defeating enemies with their attacks. I like to think of each storyline as a series of critical thinking exercises, as you will be facing similar challenges and identical opponents. You grow as a player by going through each route, with levels that gradually grow more difficult and demanding and bosses that require careful observation to defeat.
The opportunity to grow and experience new things is only one reason to see both Gunvolt and Copen’s stories through to the end.
The opportunity to grow and experience new things is only one reason to see both Gunvolt and Copen’s stories through to the end. In addition to unique abilities, storylines, and missions, completing both tales is the only way to see Azure Striker Gunvolt 2’s true ending. Each character has one, which is only unlocked by playing through each route. Since the paths are rather similar otherwise, a conclusion that doesn’t leave you with a cliffhanger is quite an incentive. Especially since, as I’ve noted before, you really begin to care about Gunvolt, Joule, Copen and Mytyl throughout this adventure.
There are times when Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 wears thin. As I’ve mentioned, the two campaigns aren’t all that different. Collecting materials to make equipment means going through the game’s Challenges, which can get a bit tedious. Especially since I found I didn’t really need any of the boosts the items offered; I made it through levels just fine without them. As nice as locations can look, traversing them isn’t exactly exciting. It’s more about enjoying interactions, earning abilities and engaging bosses.
Like a Mega Man game, Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 pulls you in with inviting characters, boss fights and acoustical offerings. It sends you through levels that, while not always challenging, at least look good. This is a game that does its best to make you care about its heroes and heroines, and its wealth of abilities, interesting conversations and multiple endings do enough to make each run feel worthwhile.
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