Perfect Those Grinds Now, ‘OlliOlli2’ Coming Next Year

One of my favorite Vita indies to hit the handheld (and yes, PS3 / PS4) this year has been OlliOlli. Considered a ‘2D Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater‘, it combined quick (and addictive) score-chasing with excellent controls. You needed them too, what with the game’s devious goals— not to mention the ‘Pro’ stages.

Just in case you hadn’t had enough, Roll7‘s miniature skater is getting a new game in 2015. OlliOlli2 goes Hollywood… er… Olliwood, with the sequel, and it’ll once again release on Vita and the PS4. What’s new, you ask, besides the sharper art style and expanded Tricktionary? Go ahead and let the trailer do the talking.

‘Azure Striker GUNVOLT’ Review: Ride the Lightning

Not nearly content to be making just one ‘retro platforming game with modern design that’s heavily-inspired by Mega Man’, developers Inti Creates and Comcept decided to go ahead and build three. The most-anticipated of the bunch (and guaranteed to be the most like the Blue Bomber), Mighty No. 9, is still a ways off, but Azure Striker GUNVOLT, calling the Nintendo eShop its current home, isn’t too shabby for a hold-you-over either.

The game’s protagonist, Gunvolt (or just ‘GV’ to his close friends and co-workers), shares some traits with Capcom’s prolific mascot; he controls similarly, traverses various themed levels filled with cut-and-paste robotic adversaries, and takes on plenty of fiendish end bosses. Though the two games end up remarkably different in summation, it’s still not hard to see the inspirations.

Gunvolt is an ‘Adept’, a superhero / science experiment of sorts that’s able to wield the power of lightning.

He works for the mercenary group QUILL on a freelance basis, taking on their contracts and sheltering ‘The Muse’, a dual-personality (named Lumen / Joule) that’s wanted by the Sumeragi Corportation— world-class bad guys— as a means to control the planet’s other adepts, and therefore, the planet itself. The story isn’t mind-blowing by any stretch, but features enough bits and twists to keep you moving forward. Said Sumeragi Corporation provides your assortment of baddies, which leads into combat and breaks with Mega Man‘s traditional form of fighting. This is one of Azure Striker GUNVOLT‘s defining mechanics.

While your pistol can defeat foes on its own, it will be a painful, time-consuming process. Rather, the game wants you to ‘tag’ targets with your gun, then destroy them with your ‘flashfield’, an electrified attack that shoots bolts of lightning at any marked enemies. This essentially allows you to ‘combo’ targets and clear rooms quickly, tagging them multiple times for even more damage and keeping the pace (and style) up. It’s effective and satisfying, adding a nice layer of depth on top of the core shooter mechanic that everyone’s accustomed to. You level up via combat, all RPG-like, adding to Gunvolt’s health and ‘supermove’1 set. Crafting is also introduced here, allowing you to build accessories to equip to every part of your body. These can range from additional weapon effectiveness to double / triple jumps, or let you take more damage, say, for increased Kudos (ASG‘s in-game scoring).

The way you tackle stages has been slightly tweaked as well. You’re still allowed to visit most in any order you choose (required ‘story’ missions will sometimes interject), but this freedom to pick is intentional.  as you’ll likely have to revisit these stages many times, in order to acquire more components to craft parts, or to complete ‘challenges’— one-off tasks specific to each stage, that award you with even more rare components. It’s the typical ‘carrot on a stick’ type of reward system, handing out its goodies slowly. You don’t actually need any of these upgrades / boosts to complete the game, but they will certainly make your life easier.

Azure Striker Gunvolt - Screen

That kind of grinding naturally gets repetitive, as do the slightly-mudane level layouts. It’s a good thing the boss fights in ASG are a highlight, showing off the developer’s stellar creative design and the game’s personality. Every Adept that the Sumeragi throws at you has his or her own style and way of attack, requiring patience and a strategic trade-off with your flashfield. These fights go through three stages of metamorphosis, adding a new pattern or higher-damage move to your rival’s repertoire each round. It can be challenging.

Azure Striker GUNVOLT is the slickest kind of 16-bit, impressing you with its fresh ideas, while simultaneously frustrating you with some old tricks.

The same can’t be said of the difficulty elsewhere. For all its polish, Azure Striker GUNVOLT is the slickest kind of 16-bit, impressing you with its fresh ideas, while simultaneously frustrating you with some old tricks. Outside of the boss battles, which will test your mettle, it’s really easy to win. Part of this is due to the flashfield. So long as you have electric energy to spare, Gunvolt won’t lose health when hit. Your combo meter will take a dive, but you’re otherwise unscathed, taking away some of the threat and immediacy in each and any battle. Worse (or easier) still, The Muse will occasionally resurrect you when you do die, turning you into a nigh-invisible God. Then there’s the reused enemies, miniboss tanks / mechs2… even its clever bosses aren’t sacred. Like Shovel Knight, another modern / retro platformer, ASG parades some of its more colorful Adepts out for a second fight near the end, forcing to you fight them back to back to back. Much like that aforementioned game, it doesn’t work here either, and feels forced.

Thankfully, these sour points are mitigated by the inventive side of the combat, the otherwise excellent character design, and its tiny 8-bit brotherAzure Striker GUNVOLT still gets a lot right, and it’s (almost) everything you could ask for from a modern platformer. At least until Mighty No. 9 comes out, fingers crossed.

  1. These moves use a ‘card’ system that fills up over time via kills / points, allowing you to pull off super attacks (like a giant sword), or recover a bit of health in a pinch. 
  2. So, so soooo many. 

‘MIGHTY GUNVOLT’ Review: Lightning in a Bottle

A far simpler experience, but excellent in its own right, MIGHTY GUNVOLT is essentially free DLC1, if you’re so inclined. That admittedly might lead to some confusion, as the game is a standalone title. A smaller part of the larger adventure presented in Azure Striker GUNVOLT (this is technically a prequel2, but you’ll hardly know it) MIGHTY GUNVOLT is a demake in visuals— 16-bit to 8-bit— and not nearly the same amount of content. Yet it’s no less competent.

The game stars the same protagonist from Azure Striker GUNVOLT, this time joined by Beck3 (from Mighty No. 9) and Ekoro (hailing from an obscure Japan-only title called Gal Gun). All three come with their own super move and style of navigation, and explore the same handful of stages, albeit in a different order depending on your choice of character. Those stages (with the exception of the ‘School’ level lifted from Gal Gun) are reused environments from ASG, filled with also-familiar enemies / bosses. It’s an extremely short adventure, lasting about a half-hour (or less), featuring a basic core with a very linear style and heavily-simplified gameplay.

If Azure Striker GUNVOLT felt like Mega Man built for modern times, then MIGHY GUNVOLT is Mega Man as you remember.

Shedding all of the seemingly-extraneous parts of ASG, like its RPG mechanics, storyline, and loot grinding, MIGHTY GUNVOLT is a pure side-scrolling platformer. If Azure Striker GUNVOLT felt like Mega Man built for modern times, then MIGHY GUNVOLT is Mega Man as you remember. Short of a few paragraphs of text at beginning and end, and some intentionally bad translation work (…I think), you’ll just be shooting your way through this one, kids.

Mighty Gunvolt - Screen

Which is perfectly fine in this instance, as the game doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a throwback nod to the simpler times of platforming. Rather than reward you with gear / components or slick cutscenes, MIGHTY GUNVOLT tracks your high score just like the old days, with points gained by killing foes and picking up bonuses. It feels and controls as excellently as its sibling, and provides a sample-size serving of challenge, ultimately staying out of your way as you run and gun through each character’s ‘storyline’.

That breezy gameplay and lack of content may turn off some. It’s not meant to be a meaty adventure (hence the ‘free DLC’ bit), but even outside of the promotional push to sell the main game, MIGHTY GUNVOLT is well-worth its smallish price, especially if you have an unquenchable thirst for old-school design and aesthetics.

  1. Until November 28th, you get the game as a free download for buying Azure Striker GUNVOLT
  2. That said, you should really play Azure Striker GUNVOLT first, to properly enjoy the 8-bit incarnation here. 
  3. Your first taste of the character in playable form. 

Who is ‘Shu’? You are ‘Shu’, That’s Who

The storm was angry that day, my friends. Coming mid-2015 to the entire Playstation family (PS4, PS3, PS Vita), Shu is a platformer in two-and-a-half dimensions (2.5D, for you TL;DR folks), set across a varying landscape. As Shu, you are on the run from a terrible storm1 that has swept up most of the villagers. Those same villagers, when found, can offer Shu their unique abilities to escape the storm.

Co-developed by Coatsink Software and Secret Lunch, there even appears to be a bit of roguelike to Shu. Should your faithful companions get caught up in the storm and perish, you’ll lose those abilities for good. Good news is, the game doesn’t end. There will be multiple ways to survive. The moral of the story is, I guess everyone you know and love is expendable. Happy thought.

  1. In some screenshots and the trailer, that ‘storm’ takes the appearance of a monster, so it’s probably a safe bet to assume there’s more to this ‘storm’ than meets the eye. 

‘Bloodred Wyvern 2’ Review: Bumpy Flight

I’m already somewhat acquainted with Mukago Software, having been a fan of the team’s projects on Xbox Live Indie Games, including the incredibly weird (but incredibly fascinating) Undead Syndrome series. I’m less familiar with their PSM efforts. Bloodred Wyvern 2 is their latest release for the Vita, and marks the first Mukago game I’ve played that doesn’t call the Xbox its home.

… Bloodred Wyvern 2 focuses on dragon-based flight combat, not too dissimilar from Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series of games …

Given the ‘wyvern’ in the title, it’s safe to go ahead and say that Bloodred Wyvern 2 focuses on dragon-based flight combat, not too dissimilar from Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series of games—minus the human jockey and interesting storyline. In fact, there isn’t any story or exposition at all in BW2, unless you consider the instructions written in Japanese to be some kind of great novella. Not to worry; even with the language barrier, you can manage the game’s controls, which include your standard shot and a lock-on attack for taking out large groups of enemies in one go.

Levels run strictly on-rails, with you fighting waves of enemies and avoiding the occasional structures / objects that jut out of the environments. Every stage comes with a boss fight, each one upping the ante with its own attack patterns and defenses. At the end your score is tallied up, with a bonus handed out depending on the percentage of targets destroyed. Combat in general is tough, yet satisfying. With flight handled automatically, Bloodred Wyvern 2 throws plenty of firepower on-screen, spawning enemies ahead of you, as well as on your left and right. You’ll have to adjust on the fly (no pun intended), depending on direction.

Bloodred Wyvern 2 - Screen

That shifting viewpoint can be a double-edged sword. Having to deal with threats on three sides is a nice idea, but it forces you to pay close attention to the mini-map / radar, which in turn asks you to take your eyes off the main action, leading to some potential frustrations with cheap hits / collisions. Your health can be refilled via powerups from defeated foes, but the lack of a Save System1 means you’ll need to have a mostly uneventful flight if you want to make it all the way through the game’s seven stages.

Granted, the visuals and the gameplay might not change much2 from level to level (a glorified palette swap), yet simply surviving the game provides some of the same thrills obtained from other old school challenges. If you’re into that sort of thing. It’s still hard to shake the feeling it’s a poor man’s Panzer Dragoon at times, but Bloodred Wyvern 2 is an otherwise decent shooter that could do with some tweaks and difficulty balances.

  1. You do get a pair of Continues, however. And you’ll need them. 
  2. Ditto for the audio. The looping main track got on my nerves. 

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