Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, let’s do this.
This review WILL contain spoilers for the first game. Don’t read it if you intend to get the full experience from the previous title as there is quite a lot to cover.
A lot of time has passed since the ending of Azure Striker Gunvolt. After killing the leader of QUILL, Gunvolt quit the organization and couldn’t get over the emotional scars left by the final battle. As he is now spiritually fused with the muse, he is now also the most powerful adept in the world. At some point, he found Quinn, a girl that gave him a place to stay and got him into contact with Xiao Wu, a former QUILL agent that gets Gunvolt back on track.
Copen on the other hand barely survived his encounter with Asimov. He spend the time recovering and gathering the remainings of his gun, while also developing new gear like his combat-support AI “Lola”. The Sumeragi group has been severely damaged thanks to the actions of Gunvolt in the first game.
The actual plot kicks off with the “Seraph”, a giant Sumeragi battleship, losing control and Gunvolt gets tasked by Xiao to stop it as it’s about to crash into the city. At the same time, Copen is storming the same ship to save his sister Mytyl, who was kidnapped by the Sumeragi group. Certain events I won’t go into detail here happen. Zonda seals the muse into shards and gives some of them to his elite units to stale for time. Copen recovers Mytyl. The muse and thus Gunvolt lose the ability to wake his unlimited power, though Gunvolt is still the arguably most powerful adept in the world but not as powerful as he is with the muse’s ability. Copen also aims to collect all the shards as they seem to not only make Lola stronger but they also seem to improve the health of his sick sister.
The biggest change is probably the dual-campaign. Each character has a different story, even though Copen and Gunvolt do run into each other from time to time. This doesn’t mean that the game is twice as long as the previous game as a trained player can complete this game in 5-7 hours with no problems. There are several endings again, the “bad endings” are still horrible, the true endings are pretty good and yes, each character has an ending which are nicely done. They aren’t contradicting each other and show what the characters do after the story ends. However, while the series could potentially end here I don’t think it will. Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is all about Gunvolt and Copen and if this game has proven one thing, then that both of them are antiheroes, though Gunvolt is an antihero in a more positive sense while Copen might even become the primary antagonist at some point.
Nonetheless, the European 3DS version finally has voice acting and I have to give a big “good job” to Gunvolt’s voice, as he’s doing a terrific job all throughout the game. The rest of the voice acting is really good as well. Overall: I found the story to be significantly better than in the previous game and I really hope that the series continues. Knowing the developers, I think that the third entry will have a really dark story, if a third game even comes out but the actual war between humans and adepts didn’t end yet.
If you want to know how the gameplay of Azure Striker Gunvolt works, then please read the review of the previous game. We have two playable characters now, so there’s a lot to talk about. Gunvolt plays exactly the same as the previous game, even his upgrades are mostly unchanged but he has a new outfit. Copen on the other hand… Oh my, that much mobility in one character…
Copen is a beast and probably the fastest 2D side-scroller character I’ve ever played. Not based on his normal movement speed but he can dash, a lot. He dashes into enemies which restores the energy to dash, tags the enemies by dashing into them (contrary to Gunvolt’s gun-tag), he can dash very far in the air and he can even wall-jump-dash everywhere. Add to that his HUGE pool of EX-Skills (weapons that you get from the bosses, which consume a different kind of self-replenishing energy than the dash), his very powerful gun that automatically hits tagged enemies no matter the direction you’re aiming and his evasion-field ability. Needless to say, Copen is the easy-mode. The evasion field comes with the downside that one evasion equals one “bullet”, which is also the same energy that the dash uses but here is the good news: You can quick-reload the bullets by tapping down on the ground twice, they self-replenish either way and unlike Gunvolt, the evasion is active as long as there are bullets.
You have three bullets (which you can further upgrade by crafting more) so Copen has absolutely no negative sides about him at all. In the rare case of ever getting hurt, you have a very potent healing skill and a damage skill which only requires a cooldown to work, yet again contrary to the much harder Gunvolt who requires a cooldown and energy to perform skills, though Gunvolt does have more skills in general.
Speaking of healing, this game is significantly easier than the first game. I died three times with both characters in total: I died with Gunvolt two times during the true final boss and I died with Copen once during the final boss as I wasn’t expecting that kind of special attack. The stages and the bosses are a cakewalk in general. Each character has, not counting the intro-stages and the four final levels, four stages to complete, of which one stage and boss is shared by both characters. I would have liked more stages for each character but only if the boss rush at the end would be scrapped completely, they feel more like an annoyance in this franchise than anything else, which is thanks to the layered boss health, though thankfully the one-hit-kill attacks are gone this time. Although having the eight (to be precise seven but the characters get some variations during the intro and final levels) stages separated to each character feels good as it keeps the story moving at a really fast pace. It also helps that the entire jewel business of the first game was scratched entirely, which was really necessary in favour of the flow.
The new way to reach the true endings isn’t fun though. The new way is to complete the game and see the bad endings with both characters and once you’ve done that, you have to finish the final stage of the game with both characters again to see the two true endings. I can’t relate to one thing here: Why do we have to wait until both characters went through the identical (!) bad ending? We could have skipped one unnecessary final level playthrough by just letting the player see the bad ending once.
Something I didn’t mention during the review of Azure Striker Gunvolt were ingame conversations, the reason was simply that I had no option to have them during the game (European 3DS Version). This game however has them and while they are awesome at delivering lore and fleshing out the characters, the character-face icons are sometimes in the way while playing, which might result in taking damage or dying. You can always deactivate the conversations so it’s not a flaw. The chats within your hideout got an update as well. Now you have more than one general event going on and I enjoyed seeing the characters talk to each other about really harmless things like fashion or cooking, especially since we know how our two protagonists usually behave. Other than that, nothing was really changed which leaves me with one thing left to say: I honestly don’t know if I would have preferred this game to only have Copen as the sole protagonist. I love how Copen plays but Gunvolt can’t be neglected in the main story, besides I really enjoy how unique Gunvolt is even though he’s basically copy&pasted from the first game. I think the most simple solution would be to have more stages for each of the two characters in the next game, oh please let both of them have more stages, I want more.
The music received a major upgrade in terms of lyrical songs but I felt like the other songs weren’t quite up to par. The previous soundtrack was catchier and more energizing while this seemed to focus more on being fitting background music. The music isn’t bad but if someone were to ask me what the best songs of the game were, I would undoubtedly say “listen to the lyrics”.
This game looks a bit better than the predecessor. I had one big frame rate slowdown with Copen once in a non-threatening situation but it never occurred again. The art style is still timeless and the sprites move fluently. All hit boxes are well done but I’m still missing a few more background details.
What this game is doing good:
It’s an incredibly fast paced 2D side-scroller in the style of the old Mega Man X games while improving the entire concept thanks to Gunvolt’s uniqueness and Copen’s mobility. The story is very engaging and the entire universe has tons of potential for basically every medium imaginable (especially manga and anime). The game looks good, the music is overall good and the endings are well made. The changes have been a good choice and improved the entire game.
What could have been improved:
This game doesn’t have that much content and relies on replay value, though there isn’t much to go back for.
Reaching the true endings of the game is much more comfortable than in the first game, though having to complete the final level four times in total when it could have easily been chopped down to three is something that I can’t understand.
The lyrical music is better than in the previous game but the other songs are inferior to Azure Striker Gunvolt as they are a bit too calm for what we experience during the game. The problem about this is that the lyrical songs are never heard thanks to the game being very easy, especially with Copen. In addition to that: Why does Gunvolt get the exact same upgrades from the last game? That’s a bit lazy considering we deal with a new set of bosses. Copen evens it out as he is a very innovative character.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is a great game. If you like 2D side-scrollers in the style of Mega Man X then get this game. However, you should play the prequel or read a story summary of it first because if you go into this with no idea about what’s going on then you’ll be confused all the way through. In return, what you get is worth it and thanks to the easy difficulty, I suggest you to at least take a look.
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