Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 Review

Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 by developer and publisher Inti CreatesNintendo Switch review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

For a long time, I had always looked back on the old-school Megaman games and thought "where can I find more games like this?", and then I discovered Azure Striker Gunvolt. Doing a great job of taking the classic megaman formula and adapting it into something new and fresh, the first Gunvolt made its way onto the scene in 2014, or there around, I believe. Now we are receiving the 3rd title in the direct series: Azure Striker Gunvolt 3.

The world of Gunvolt is a slightly futuristic world where certain humans have awakened to a new power called Septima. Humans who have gained the power of Septima are referred to as Adepts. After the events of Gunvolt 1 and 2, Gunvolt had been sealed away, but now a Battle Priestess from the group Shadow Yakumo is tasked with controlling Gunvolt's power in order to stop a potential catastrophe. While having some knowledge of the other titles in the series will certainly help with your comprehension and references, Gunvolt 3 can be purchased as a stand-alone title, so no worries if you haven't played the other titles in the series.

If you've played the previous two main entries in the franchise you'll probably have a decent idea of how the game will play, but I'm happy to note there are some changes made to the formula. For those new to the franchise, Gunvolt is a 2D action platformer in the same vein as the Megaman games, probably closer to Megaman X in nature. The main idea is that you will generally want to "tag" enemies, before hitting them for increased damage.

In the original gunvolt this was gun based, but since Kirin is the new focus, you now have a warp slash after tagging. For a little more description, Kirin can fire off her "fetters", which will stick to enemies. Once you have at least one stuck to an enemy, you can either slash them normally with the attack button, or hit the dash and attack button together to do a warp slash at the enemy, or enemies as you can target multiple. You can layer many fetters on one target, spread them amongst targets, and even charge the fetters later on in the game.

Now, there are a few things to note about the fetters. The fetters also act as your "shield" or "dodge" mechanic, provided you have a specific skill equipped. Basically, instead of being hit, you consume a number of fetters instead, reducing your fetter count. Thankfully you can reload by double-tapping down direction, which will also recall fetters attached to enemies. I actually really enjoyed playing as Kirin more than I did playing as Gunvolt in the first title. I'm not certain why, perhaps I prefer the melee bladed aspect, but I felt a lot more invested as Kirin, and the battles were more fast paced.

Something really cool to note is that the warp attack using the fetters is actually a bit of a core gameplay mechanic for the platforming segment, and a really good way of earning higher scores in stages. What I mean to say is that there are many stages with areas where it is either possible or necessary to use the warp strike to move across pits, or up vertical segments of the stages. In addition to this, using warp strikes is one of the best ways of dispatching foes without getting hit. You also get a score bonus for the more enemies you defeat without touching the ground. Since using a warp strike gives Kirin a second jump, you can chain warp strikes in order to keep off the ground for a long period of time. Fun fact: I actually managed to stay airborne for almost an entire boss fight using the warp strike appropriately.

For those missing Ye Olde Gunvolt, you can actually switch to him mid stage. As Kirin fights out on the front line, she builds a fetter gauge. As long as the fetter gauge is at 100% or higher, you can swap to Gunvolt, although the gauge will decrease over time and as you perform actions. While Gunvolt is rather powerful, he won't earn nearly as many points as Kirin. He does however have the ability to sort of float, as well as jump infinitely, making traversing certain areas much easier. More often than not I found myself only swapping to Gunvolt in order to search for these "skill tokens" that you can collect during stages.

So what are these skill tokens I'm talking about? Well, Kirin has four active skills, and a number of passive skills she can equip, although you'll have to earn them. During a stage you will see these sort of glowing two square emblem things (don't worry, they're pretty big and rather blatant in the first mission). Each one of these represents a skill. Upon completing a stage, depending on your ranking and how many tokens you've found, you'll get some of the skills. Extra skills acquired will be converted into cash. You also earn an extra skill for collecting all the tokens in a stage, as well as meeting a specific condition while fighting the stage boss. Don't worry if you don't get anything good your first time, you can retry the stages again and again in order to build up both money and to earn the skills you want.

As you earn skills you can equip them on Kirin. While the four active skills are mapped to the four cardinal directions on the right thumbstick and can be equipped immediately after earning them, the passive abilities are a little different. See, Kirin has a level value, and increasing her level will both increase her health, as well as unlock new passive ability slots. The abilities will come in different rarities, and will take the form of a "previous memory" of Gunvolt, or essentially cameos from previous games, or characters from Gunvolt 3. If you get the rarer version of an ability, you can actually expend money to upgrade it. As an example, after clearing the first stage you get the passive ability that lets you exchange the talismans for a dodge. It starts at costing four talismans, but upgrading it reduces it to three, and then two, although it does cost a lot to do so.

One of my favourite aspects of the Gunvolt series is how unique the stages and bosses are. Each stage and boss are themed and designed in different ways, and have their own gimmicks and patterns they follow. Let's take a look at one of the earlier stages, what is essentially a floating warehouse. The first portion of the stage has you hopping on boxes and pontoons to make your way inside while avoiding rising and falling water. You need to judge whether you're confident in the warp strike, or if you should swap to Gunvolt more often. Once you reach the boss of the area, they will predominantly use large masses of objects clumped together and throw them around the boss arena. The other stages and bosses don't have similar concepts, making each stage feel fresh and exciting.

Gunvolt 3, and the series by extension, is a very interesting title. While you don't get penalized for taking it slow and exploring, you are rewarded for blazing through a stage, with fast enough times giving score multipliers. Now this isn't to say you should do so right off the bat, like I mentioned you need to find some of those skill tokens, but it is nice to see your abilities in effectively clearing a stage rewarded. Additionally, once you hit 1,000 kudos, and every multiple thereafter, Lumen will appear to sing a song for you that gives you a buff. It's a very neat mechanic.

While Gunvolt 3 is fast paced and can be quite challenging at times, it is by no means especially brutal in what it throws at you. Well, intentionally anyways. The bosses will normally banter with you during a fight, which is all well and good, except their text boxes and character portraits pop up as well, meaning they can be obscured in a corner of the screen if you leave the mid battle text activated. Super annoying, but not unmanageable. Another issue I had was with how finicky Kirin's warp strike can be, or Arc Chain as I think they call it. Occasionally I would find myself either dashing or attacking instead of using the warp move. It isn't super often, and it normally isn't a huge deal, but it can get a little annoying if you do it over a pit.


Overall, I have to say that Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is a great addition to the series, and is easily accessible to both new players and those who have played previous titles. Gameplay and combat is smooth, bosses and stages are interesting, and it's super fun to collect all the skills and see the cameos from previous titles. While there are a few issues here and there, it isn't nearly enough to truly take away from the experience.

If you've been looking for something to meet that old Megaman / Megaman X vibe, you can't go wrong with Gunvolt.

Score: 9 / 10



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