During the great Mega Man drought of the early 2010s, a number of developers stepped up to give gamers hungry for a new entry in the long-running series something to enjoy. One of those companies was Inti Creates, who, in 2014, launched a new franchise of their own: Azure Striker Gunvolt.
Inti Creates was no stranger to this style of game, or the Mega Man series in general, having worked on Mega Man 9 and 10, as well as the Zero and ZX series. They brought a few changes to the formula with Gunvolt though, and the game did well enough to get a sequel and a couple of spinoffs.
Recently, Inti Creates announced a new entry to the series: Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX, which they brought to the PAX West floor in what company producer and translator Matt Papa told me was their largest presence at the show ever. I can attest to that; their booth was one of the bigger ones on the 6th floor of the show (typically dominated by indie devs) this year.
The Gunvolt series does have a bit of a story focus, but as the demo at the show was timed, I opted to skip the story for this hands-on. Gunvolt Chronicles focuses on series character Copen and his unique playstyle of trying to build combos while never touching the ground.
The general gameplay will feel instantly familiar to anyone who knows the genre: run through a stage, destroy enemies, make your way to the boss, learn its pattern, and destroy it. And, sure, you can play the game in a straight-forward way like that, but doing so will make things much more difficult for yourself (and, honestly, not as fun).
If you really want to put the hurt on enemies, you have to make use of Copen’s dash abilities. While just shooting an enemy will hurt a bit, dashing into an enemy while midair will auto-target them, allowing you to shoot them down with much heavier damage. You get three mid-air dashes before you have to touch the ground…but you can refill dashes by dashing into and targeting enemies, or rebounding off of walls or the ground.
Most of the fun here comes from attempting to build massive combos while avoiding having to land. It took me quite some time to get used to the controls (I kept trying to double-tap a direction to dash, when it was actually mapped to the controller’s shoulder button), but by the time I was done with the demo, I was racking up some strong combos.
Gunvolt Chronicles is also the first game in the series built for HD consoles (the previous releases were originally for 3DS), and the game definitely benefits from it. The screen is much less cluttered than the previous two games, and the image (while still in a retro pixel style) is much sharper.
I was able to take two rounds at the demo, playing through a different stage (out of three available) each time. My first run through was in the game’s intro stage, letting me get used to the controls. I left the choice of my second stage up to Papa, with him selecting the one with “an easier stage, but a harder boss.”
And, yup, he was right on the money with that.
I wound up spending much of the end of my play time running my face up against this boss, dying a couple times. By the time I had learned his pattern and was on the verge of finishing him off, the timer went off and the demo automatically ended. So, I may have to stop by the booth again tomorrow and finally take the damn boss down.
Overall, Gunvolt Chronicles feels like more Gunvolt, which is far from a bad thing for fans of the series. Mega Man may have made his return, but Gunvolt has a unique enough identity to stand on its own rather than as “just another clone.” It’s been about three years since the release of the last mainline title and, as the first developed for HD consoles, I think it has the potential to be the highlight of the series.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX is set for release on September 26th, 2019, for Switch, PS4, and PC via Steam.
Screenshots courtesy of Inti Creates.