Backlog Review: Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 (Switch)

The latest entry in the series is another must for fans and action game enthusiasts!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 11/11/2022 12:32 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
1-Up Mushroom for...
Excellent flow of combat that empowers players to pull off ridiculous maneuvers and rack up huge combos; wonderful visuals and soundtrack; the playstyles of Kirin and Gunvolt compliment each other well
Poison Mushroom for...
Narrative is bloated and self-indulgent; Gunvolt should be playable at all times

Welcome to another Backlog Review, where we take a look at an older game that fans might have sitting waiting to be played or are still considering giving a purchase. This time we’re looking at Azure Striker Gunvolt 3.

The Gunvolt series, developed by stalwart studio Inti Creates, began life as a spiritual successor to Capcom’s Mega Man Zero games (which were made by Inti). The DNA of the Mega Man Zero games is still detectable, but Inti has done a great job of making the franchise very much its own thing. Gunvolt, the nominal hero of these games, tears through foes using a variety of weapons along with his powerful Septima abilities. This empowers players with a range of attacks that would make Zero blush. Meanwhile, the narrative, although sometimes bloated, offers up intrigue and twists that keep players invested in the story. With two games under its belt and a spin-off title, Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 has handily served to keep the series fresh, fun, and engaging, although it still suffers from some of the past installments’ failings. The game also makes a critical change to the core playstyle that some longtime fans might find frustrating.

Gunvolt 3 picks up a handful of years after the events of Gunvolt 2. Players are introduced to a new hero, Kirin, who is out to quell the rise of a new Septimal threat where Septima users can lose control of their abilities and turn into enormous, dangerous dragons. It isn’t long before players are shown what’s happened to Gunvolt: he’s the first dragon that players face in the game. After subduing him, Gunvolt reverts back into his normal form and becomes Kirin’s ally. Yes, in this outing players switch between Kirin and Gunvolt throughout the adventure, and it’s this aspect of Gunvolt 3 that might rankle with old school series fans.

To be clear, the gameplay is excellent. Kirin controls differently than Gunvolt, volleying talismans at opponents to tag them and then laying into them with her katana. Players will eventually encounter segments of gameplay where they can maneuver Kirin from foe to foe via a successive string of attacks that send her zooming across the screen without ever even touching the ground. It’s a delightful mechanic that makes combat a joy. Gunvolt, meanwhile, controls much like he always has, shooting enemies with his guns and blasting them with bursts of electricity. This should be a perfect world scenario where players can choose between the two heroes and partake in the playstyle they like most, but sadly Gunvolt is only available periodically.

When playing as Kirin, a meter fills as she takes and dishes out damage. Once full, Gunvolt can be swapped in to fight. His appearance is tethered to his own meter that is slowly ticking away, and as he takes damage it diminishes more quickly. There’s no getting around the fact that it’s a major bummer to not be able to simply outright select Gunvolt throughout the course of the game. Why Inti decided to go this route is anyone’s guess, but it’s disappointing, especially because Gunvolt is so fun to play as. Thankfully, Kirin is also enjoyable to control, but restricting Gunvolt in this way is a design choice that this writer wouldn’t have opted to go with.

Gunvolt 3 as a whole is a relatively short experience. Getting through the campaign can take around five to six hours for most players. Inti manages to squeeze in a lot of story into those five to six hours. It’s not that the narrative is bad by any means, but Inti could stand to reign in the overly verbose, bloated storytelling that the Gunvolt games have become known for. It feels self-indulgent and weighs down an otherwise fine storyline. The real draw of Gunvolt 3 is its tight controls and electric gameplay, but it wouldn’t hurt if the story could do a better job of keeping pace.

Although the game can be beaten quickly, there’s still plenty left to do once the credits roll. Player performance is ranked via something called the Kudos system. The more creative players are with taking out enemies and clearing stages, the better their score will be. Trying to achieve an elusive S++ rating, which essentially means the stage was completed perfectly, is challenging, but is also immensely rewarding feeling. With the buttery smooth combat system in Gunvolt 3 players are truly empowered to pull off earning an S++, but it will take plenty of trial and error to do so. Those who like being pushed to their limits will delight in the Kudos system.

Finally, there’s a healthy dose of player customization available in Gunvolt 3. Four active skills can be selected at a given time, with abilities ranging from shields to large area attacks that can take out multiple opponents. On the opposite end are passive buffs that can do things like increase the player’s EXP intake. It’s a great way of tuning the gameplay experience to the player’s liking, which is handy when going for S++ ranks. However, unlocking these abilities can be a tad tedious as it’s all random—abilities are meted out without any kind of control on the player’s end, so it might take some time to find the setup that works best for you.

Graphically, Gunvolt 3 is a stunner. The intricate backgrounds mesh wonderfully with Inti’s signature, exquisite sprite work. The character animations flow, attacks crackle with energy, and everything on the screen just seems to shimmer with vibrancy. Previous games looked great, but Switch has afforded Inti the opportunity to take the visuals up a notch. The soundtrack is a good match, an eclectic mix of EDM, rock, and even some jazzy pieces that all serve to spice up the gameplay and keep players engaged.

As a whole, Gunvolt 3 is a solid entry in the series. The gameplay is challenging but supported by precise controls that, when mastered, will see players flying across the screen clearing out whole waves of enemies. Striving to get top Kudos rankings in each stage can quickly become addicting. Although the bloated storyline can become tedious at times, and the lack of a properly playable Gunvolt at all times are disappointing, this is still a game that Gunvolt and action game fans won’t want to miss out on.

Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.

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