What started as a 3DS digital-only exclusive back in 2014 has grown to be a three-part series that spans multiple consoles. Even past Azure Striker Gunvolt, there are several spinoff series, such as Mighty Gunvolt and Gunvolt Chronicles. Overall, this series has appeared to have quite a bit of success, which Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 being the most recent release. And while it may be a bit intimidating jumping into the series at the tail end, the game offers a streamlined experience filled to the brim with action.
Taking place after Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, the events of Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 occur in the near future where humans called Adepts have strange powers known as Septimas. A girl called Kirin is currently on a mission for her organization, Shadow Yakumo. A large number of Glavies are believed to be currently held within Sumeragi Group’s facility, which is typically used to help suppress an Adept’s powers. And after storming the base, she faces a Primal Dragon who we later find out is Azure Striker Gunvolt, the world’s most powerful Septima.
From that point onward, the story is trickled to the player via cutscenes at the beginning and end of a mission, as well as moments in-between missions. Along with that, the characters are almost constantly talking throughout a mission, which makes it hard to catch what exactly they’re talking about when you’re focused on platforming and fighting against enemies. While tolerable during the platforming portions, the constant talking edges on being frustrating when fighting against bosses, due to the fact that the speech boxes end up overlapping over a huge chunk of the bottom screen, making it hard to see the enemy (or yourself).
The general storytelling does follow a pattern in that for each mission where you’ll face a new boss character who is part of a group of enemies that you must take down. Once you’ve defeated all of the bosses under that group, you’ll move on to the next group of missions. On top of that, the writing is fairly standard, with it not really being anything to write home about. And while there may be some missing context concerning past games if you haven’t played them, you can easily grasp the general story of the Azure Striker Gunvolt series. And for Azure Striker Gunvolt 3, in particular, you can know nothing about the game and yet land on your feet in terms of the game’s story.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is a side-scrolling action platformer where you can use Kirin or Gunvolt. While outside of missions, you can manage your skills and Image Pulses, as well as view conversations between your characters. Once you select a mission, you’ll be taken to a side-scrolling stage where you must battle against enemies while platforming to the end. At the end of each mission will be a boss, each with their own fight patterns.
Combat and Platforming
Once a mission has been selected, you’ll be taken to the stage that you’ll have to traverse. Enemies will be scattered all across the level and as you defeat them, you’ll gain experience and currency to level up your Images. All of the stages within a group of missions tend to look and play the same, which can result in missions blending together as a whole.
At the beginning of the game, you’ll only have Kirin to make use of in battle. She uses her Radiant Fetters (a projectile that boosts damage and can help you traverse levels) along with a melee weapon in battle. There is a gauge that lets you know how many Fetters you have left before you need to reload. By hitting enemies with Fetters, you will see their health bar turn from green to purple. If you were to hit the enemy normally without using your Fetters, it would take a couple of hits to defeat them. But if you hit the enemy with some Fetters beforehand, you can end up dealing more damage, oftentimes a one hit KO. This helps increase the speed that it takes to clear through missions.
The general flow of using your Fetters is easy to get the hang of, although you may run into scenarios where you run out of Fetters due to spamming them against multiple enemies around you. Another small issue can be aiming Fetter, as you can only aim directly in front of you and diagonally at a 45-degree angle. But once you get the hang of the pattern, it becomes second nature. The second use for your Fetters is using it like a hookshot. There are special lanterns that you can latch one of your Fetters to, which in turn lets you target the lantern and launch yourself in the air. There are a few stages where you’ll need to latch onto multiple lanterns in a row and while it can be awkward to aim your Fetters mid-air, it is doable.
There are several other abilities that Kirin has as well, such as a dash, a dash jump, and a wall jump. The dash unfortunately doesn’t feel particularly useful due to the fact that it’s limited to only a second or two. The dash jump, on the other hand, is handy when you need to make a substantial jump across two platforms, although if the platform on the other side is on the smaller side, you’ll need to make sure you don’t end up jumping too far. The wall jump feels okay and can be a lifesaver if you end up just on the edge of a platform with a pit underneath you.
Through the level, you’ll see some floating purple pods that hold Image Pulses. At the end of the stage, you have the chance of obtaining a couple of Image Pulses to equip. Image Pulses are split into two groups: skill and passive. Skill Image Pulses offer a variety of abilities, such as healing mid-battle or performing an attack based off of one of the Adepts that you’ve met throughout the game. You can also equip passive Image Pulses, which allow you to have powerful abilities like a shield that protects you against attacks at the cost of some Fetters per attack. Passive Image Pulses alone make this game much easier, the point where you’re facing against a boss and end up taking little to no damage. So if you’re looking for more of a challenge, you’re better off not equipping passive Image Pulses.
Along with Kirin, you’ll also be able to use Gunvolt throughout your time playing. Compared to Kirin, Gunvolt is very overpowered. He has an unlimited jump that makes it so that you can end up falling into pits without purposefully doing so. He has a special dart that can latch on to multiple enemies before you use your laser attack, which hits all enemies with said dart. He also has a forcefield that deals damage against enemies. And to top it all off, he doesn’t even have a health bar, so no damage is being done. To counteract all of that, there is a stamina gauge that steadily decreases. Standing around doing nothing will result in the gauge going down slower while spamming his powerful attacks will use up the stamina gauge before you know it. Afterwards, you’ll have to build up the stamina gauge again, which is done by playing a Kirin and landing attacks.
Outside of Missions
Outside of missions, there are a couple of things to do. You are able to chat with your team in order to improve your relationship with them, although truthfully, there doesn’t appear to be an indicator on what advantages this gives you in battle. You can also view and equip skill and passive Image Pulses. You can equip up to four skill Pulses and eight passive Pulses (although you’ll need to unlock later slots by playing through missions). You can also enhance Image Pulses by spending currency that you pick up from fighting enemies, as well as giving up a duplicate version of the Pulse. The rate that you get money feels a bit low (or the price is too high), so if you’re looking to enhance all of your Pulses, you’ll have to grind for more currency.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 uses a mixture of 2D pixel art for its stages, with styling reminiscent of Mega Man, as well as your typical 2D anime character sprites. Both look very nice, with an excellent use of bright colors to make the stages in particular stand out. There are also a few CGs sprinkled throughout the game in cutscenes, capturing the pivotal action moments of the story. Although, for those that are sensitive to flashing lights, there are quite a few moments where the screen flashes bright in quick succession for specific attacks.
The music is very chill, falling into the genre of synthwave/chillwave. For general missions, the music feels right at the home as you’re slowly scaling through the level. But for the boss battles, the music does feel a bit subdued and not as hardhitting. Although compared to the stage music, the boss battle music does tend to be more experimental, playing around with different notes and tones.
Overall, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is a fun, albeit fast paced experience. There is a lot of activity happening on the screen during missions, and it can make it hard to focus on everything. For those who struggling with platforming and/or action combat, making use of Gunvolt in general makes specific sections a breeze. Along with the addition of Image Pulses, you’ll have to go out of your way to avoid specific gameplay features in order to give yourself a more challenge. For those looking for a fun and quick experience Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 delivers well-rounded gameplay with a decent story and chill music.