Mighty No. 9 has been the talk of gaming since it stole the show at PAX Prime, and the release of both Azure Striker Gunvolt and early release of Mighty Gunvolt couldn’t have come at a better time. Mighty Gunvolt isn’t set for a general release until December 1, but as a bonus to early adopters of Azure Striker Gunvolt, you’ll be able to get it absolutely free. As a result, we’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time with the game. While it may be a side game, it’s definitely worth checking out. It’s kind a miniature demake of Azure Striker Gunvolt, with a twist — you’re able to play as three different characters. Beyond Gunvolt, you’ve also got Ekoro from GalGun, and Beck from Mighty No. 9. Each character plays completely differently, and takes their own journey through the game’s five available stages.
Each character plays completely differently and requires a different strategy to use. Gunvolt plays a bit like Bass from Mega Man and Bass, with a double jump that allows him to minimize risking death in tricky platforming sections. He’s got a basic blaster attack and a charged attack that does a ton of damage, but keeps him stationary. If you expect to go running and gunning with charge shots ala Mega Man X, you’ll be in for a bit of of a surprise there. The charge shot does a ton of damage, but does require you to learn attack patterns and is best saved for boss battles where you are going to have to learn those anyway and know where an enemy is at a given point in time.
Ekoro is a little chibi angel girl who uses her arrow gun and has a special charged shot that is very useful. While most charge shots are used to end enemy lives quickly, hers is used to get an enemy on her side. It shoots out a giant homing heart and adds an ally to your arsenal. It does damage at first, but the killing blow gives you an ally for that screen. It’s a useful move if you’re a bit too swamped, and has a longer range than the charged shot of the other characters. She can also float ala Princess Toadstool and is the most maneuverable of the bunch as a result. If you want a lighter take on the Mega Man-style action-platformer, playing as Ekoro is the way to go. Otherwise, she’s just a lot of fun to use and you’ll at least laugh once or twice while playing as her just due to the absurdity of her attacks.
Rounding out the roster is Beck from Mighty No. 9. His inclusion here gives you a chance to see how Beck will play long before his solo adventure is released. Beck doesn’t feature a face very similar to a pixel Mega Man, just with a different helmet, his jump animation is very much like Mega Man. However, his charge shot is the most unique of the bunch. Instead of it involving his buster, it gives him a super-powered shoulder tackle. This might seem useless in theory, but when you spend some time with the character and learn the timing, you’ll find that it’s a great way to take out enemies on higher platforms. You can also using it to make short work of bosses and their extensive waiting periods between attack patterns. He’s also got a shoulder charge that acts as a slide, giving you a way to get to places that no other character can.
No matter which character you choose, you’ll be in for a decidedly 8-bit action-platforming experience. Anyone used to the blue bomber will be right at home here as the jumping feels familiar for Beck and Gunvolt, which Super Mario 2 Princess Toadstool fans will have no problem getting used to Ekoro. Enemy arrangements are challenging, and each character has its own pros and cons for each enemy. Beck’s shots are lower than the other characters, so you need to time jumps perfectly in order to land a shot on an enemy that isn’t directly across from you. The lab area has enemies outside of windows and even though they’re not high up, you still have to hop to kill them. This means that while Beck can get through the stage just fine, it will take more time than with the other characters. The core game is a lot of fun, and it strikes a fine balance between being challenging and fair. Trial and error will win out here, and it’s far less challenging than Azure Striker Gunvolt or the Mega Man X/Zero games.
On the audio/visual front, Mighty Gunvolt perfectly nails the 8-bit style. The pixel art is nice and sharp and it looks on-par with NES Virtual Console games. The characters look nice and sharp, with easy to see black outlines even on a small original 3DS screen. The animation is limited, but that suits things perfectly since it makes attacks and movement so much easier to time. The game is displayed at a 4:3 aspect ratio, although pressing L and R allows you to stretch the game — giving players on the original 3DS a slight break when it comes to reading the small 8-bit-style text, but ruining the overall look of the experience. Musically, the chiptune soundtrack is pretty good, but not as memorable as the earlier Mega Man games — but it’s certainly better than the latter-day music. The sound effects have more depth to them than any 8-bit Mega Man game though, with really violent and rich explosion sound effects, while the buster sounds are each different for the characters and fit the weapons perfectly.
Mighty Gunvolt is an excellent freebie for early adopters of Azure Striker Gunvolt, and will be worth its five dollar asking price upon its final release as well. It combines the classic 8-bit Mega Man style gameplay with a whole new setting and environment, and should satisfy anyone with a desire for something new within that sub-genre. It plays smoothly and controls well, and makes each of the three characters fun to use. They’re each very different, but similar enough to have a small learning curve for each one. It’s fine-tuned in every way, with satisfying gameplay, graphics and sound that accurately represent the 8-bit era they pay homage to.