Monday, June 19, 2017

[REVIEW] Mighty Gunvolt Burst (Switch)

Mighty Gunvolt Burst
Played on: Switch
Genre: 2D Action Platformer
Developer: Inti Creates
Publisher: Yacht Club Games

It's fair to say Mighty No. 9, Keiji Inafune's spiritual successor to the dormant Mega Man franchise, was a disappointment. A successful Kickstarter campaign was followed by numerous delays and bad game design decisions. Mighty Gunvolt Burst, then, is an attempt to salvage the franchise by making a crossover with Inti Creates' well-received 3DS series Azure Striker Gunvolt. The result, surprisingly enough, feels like the game Mighty No. 9 should have been all along.

You can play as either Beck (Mighty No. 9's hero) or Gunvolt, and there are enough gameplay differences to make two playthroughs an interesting proposition. For example: while a certain collectible allows Beck to do an air dash, it makes Gunvolt to do a double jump instead, meaning the player will be required to find different solutions to the same environmental hazards with each character.

Thankfully, the game doesn't dwell too long on the story: there's a small bit of exposition in the beginning, middle, and ending, and that's it. It works just like the NES Mega Man games in this regard, instead of forcing the player to go through copious amount of bad storytelling nonsense like later games in the franchise (and Mighty No. 9) did.

It all begins with a short introductory stage in which some of the game's main mechanics are explained. The main new thing here is a 'burst' combo system that kicks off when you defeat enemies at close range, which is, frankly, kind of forgettable. Otherwise, the game controls just like you'd expect, with responsive inputs and tight physics.

There's true innovation here, though. You start with a simple shooting weapon that can be upgraded by a plethora of modules, which are scattered throughout each stage. Those will, for example, allow you to add a waving property to your shots, or shoot diagonally, or have more bullets on-screen, or any number of cool customizations to make perfect weapons for every situation. There are a bunch of slots for those, too, and you can change between weapons at will.

Whenever you defeat one of the eight robot masters, you get a special module that allows you to add elemental properties to your weapons. So, for example, defeating Cryosphere allows you to add the 'cold' property to your shots, which will be effective in some situations. This is a bit unintuitive when you're playing with Beck, as that character has access to cosmetic changes to his bullets. This way, you can have, say, a fire shot that won't really work as intended without the specific elemental property. This struck me as a very weird design decision; the 'heat' elemental module and the fire-looking shot should be the same thing.

After I got over this small confusion, however, I just lost myself for hours in the customization possibilities. This is really an extremely cool feature that allowed me to perfect each weapon in order make the most out of it.

Here's an example: the fire boss, Pyrogen, is vulnerable to the wind element. His 'ultimate' attack involves summonning fire projectiles from walls, which are very tricky to dodge. So I had an idea: I added a charged-shot property to my wind weapon that made it swirl around me like a shield. And bingo: this allowed me to stay in place during that attack, completely invulnerable to the tricky fire projectiles. It felt awesome.

I do have some pet peeves with the weapons structure. Changing between them takes a few more clicks than it should in the pause menu, and there's no quick-change option. Also, as the bosses have no invulnerability period after being shot, you can barrage them nonstop, making it harder to discern which weapon is more effective against them. An excellent sollution could have been to add different frames of animation to each enemy when they're hit with their weaknesses.

All of this fades to the background, however, in face of another trump card: Mighty Gunvolt Burst actually features excellent level design. Each stage forces you to flex your platforming muscles in different, fun ways, and gone are the unpolished sections and ridiculous difficulty spikes that plagued Mighty No. 9.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst genuinely surprised me with it slick action gameplay. Better yet: it adds true innovation in the options to customize your weapons, allowing your own creativity to take over. Yes, there are interface problems that are reminiscent of Mighty No. 9, but the vastly superior level design makes this a much better game, a must-play for Mega Man fans, and a safe recommendation for anyone interested in action platformers.

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