Thank you Yacht Club Games for sending us a copy of the game to review!
Just a little over two years ago, Inti Creates released their Mega Man inspired title for the 3DS known as Azure Striker Gunvolt. It was extremely well received and to much anticipation the sequel has now arrived.
The story picks up some time after the last game. Gunvolt, having defeated the Sumeragi Group and stopped "Project Muse," is spending time healing and recouping with friends when a new threat emerges. A powerful organization of adepts from across the world known as "Eden" threatens to restart the efforts of Sumeragi and captures Lumen, the muse that is held within the young girl Joules. It's up to Gunvolt and Copen to defeat Eden.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 allows Gunvolt or Copen to be selected at the main menu and their storylines play out differently. Copen returns from the first game and immediately seeks revenge against Gunvolt and every other adept in an effort to save his sister who was also kidnapped by Eden. Copen believes it's his mission from God to destroy all adepts.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 plays virtually identical to the first game. As you move Gunvolt through linear stages, you'll once again have to "tag" enemies before using your Flashfield ability. Shooting enemies will tag them with metal rods, and by tagging an enemy multiple times, more damage will be inflicted when you shock them with Flashfield. A returning feature called Prevasion has now been made permanent rather than being relegated to an equip item. Prevasion nullifies damage Gunvolt takes once as long as he has energy called EP. EP drains whenever Gunvolt uses Flashfield and when it runs out he'll overheat, causing the EP bar to refill exponentially slower. By tapping down on the D-pad twice Gunvolt can refill the energy bar so long as he isn't currently overheated.
Copen handles slightly differently when compared to Gunvolt. Because he's human he doesn't have to worry about overheating like Gunvolt. He must dash through an enemy to tag it before he can unleash a stream of bullets to destroy it. In a way, Copen is like the reverse of Beck from Mighty No. 9. He can also jump diagonally off walls in a zipping motion. Despite their differences, levels are still completed in the same fashion as Gunvolt's.
The story plays out over the course of 10 stages with each stage taking an average of 15 minutes to complete. Stages breakdown into three sections for the most part. You'll platform around the stage and defeat enemies until you reach a midpoint. These points are closed off rooms that requires the player to defeat a certain amount of enemies in order to unlock the door to progress. The next stretch will play out like the first with platforming challenges and baddies to shoot until you reach the end of the stage. A boss battle awaits at the end of each stage, and these encounters with Eden's adepts are incredibly challenging.
Much like the Mega Man games before it, bosses jump or move sporadically around the screen and Gunvolt or Copen are practically guaranteed to take damage the first time you take one on. You'll need to keep an eye on your EP so that Prevasion will activate as well as dash at the right moments. When Gunvolt defeats a boss he'll gain a new type of gun, whereas with Copen, he'll gain a new ability from that boss also like in Mega Man. By using materials gained at the end of stages, the player can craft accessories for Gunvolt or Copen to equip. These can have numerous effects and it can be fun to experiment with new ones. Though, I never actually found enough materials to craft anything my first time through, making the whole crafting system feel unnecessary.
The main reason you'll want to avoid taking damage is because of the Kudos system, which makes a return from the first game, allowing you to boost your score as long as you keep dealing damage and don't get hit. There are three modes by which Kudos can be handled: Gutless, Cautious, and Fearless. Basically Gutless keeps your Kudos even if you're damaged, Cautious takes three hits before Kudos are lost, and Fearless only allows one hit but are worth more. When a certain amount of Kudos is reached the background music will change. There are Kudos based challenges and it's not always easy avoiding damage throughout a stage. This provides a reason to replay levels to try and complete these challenges.
Graphically, this is a real eye-pleaser. Character and boss designs are beautiful and certain areas of stages have immense detail. Cutscenes are definitely the highlight of the game. 3D is used incredibly well and adds the right amount of depth to stages. There's not much to say other than the game is gorgeous. The music is also well done, but it's nothing that will honestly stick with you after you finish the game. The sound effects in the game are also well used. Now because this game is dubbed entirely in Japanese, there are dialogue boxes that will clutter the already jam packed top-screen. To make things even more inconvenient, sometimes these conversations have nothing to do with what's currently happening on screen. Thankfully, the developers allowed players to turn off these boxes in the settings menu.
Morally, there are some things to mention. Firstly, Copen believes God has chosen him to kill all of the adepts. This can come across as blasphemous. Another issue some may have is with the character Zonda. Zonda is extremely open about having both parts of anatomy and has the ability to split into two forms based on both genders. His forms are also depicted as highly sexualized. There is also a fair amount of violence to be seen, with some scenes even depicting blood. I wouldn't recommend this one for the kids solely because of Zonda's dialogue.
Outside of the violent and sexual natures of the game there's a lot to enjoy in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2. The story doesn't last more than 4 hours, but with secret endings for both characters and difficult challenges to attempt, there's tons to do. This one comes highly recommended to Mega Man fans that were let down by Mighty No. 9. If you haven't played the first game and want to get into the series, The Striker Pack contains both games and is available digitally and physically.