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Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX Review


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303629321_GunvoltLuminousAvengeriXboxart.jpg.91ac17f9fefe9f5c134fe46457bf19b5.jpgThe latest in the Gunvolt series from developer Inti Creates, Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX carries the same fast-paced, 2D action gameplay that the franchise is known for. Although experienced players and die-hard action game fans may enjoy the flashy combat mechanics, more casual players may find this game to be more style than substance.
In the future, normal humans are controlled and hunted down by a ruling class of enhanced humans called Adepts. You play as Copen—returning from the previous games—who is fighting on behalf of humans to stop the tyranny of the Sumeragi, the organization controlling the Adepts. It's a decent action-adventure set up that is so rapidly blazed through that if you blink you might miss the story completely. Part of the problem just seems to be that the game really expects you to remember everything about the previous games, though a recap would have been useful here. Side characters and boss antagonists are introduced with minimal fanfare or depth, so most come off as weak cardboard cutout characters. It's hard to care about anything happening because these characters are given so little time to develop before you're rushing to the next stage. This is an action game after all though so maybe the light-touch storytelling isn't a big deal, but it's bizarre that there's clearly more backstory and plot under the surface that is just never given time or space to shine.
Copen was a playable character in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, and he largely plays the same here. There are some obvious Mega Man influences but with the speed of the gameplay turned up to 11—instead of just shooting enemies, you'll want to dash into them to lock-on, then blast away with your standard gun or EX skills (you also earn more EX skills from defeating bosses). Unfortunately the game doesn't do a great job of explaining its mechanics to the player. Like the story it really seems to expect you to be able to just dive straight in, which might be fine if you're a huge fan or have played the previous games recently, but anyone else will want to read over the game manual or consult a wiki just to learn some of the core mechanics at play.
The gameplay is also fully aimed at a certain level of skilled player. It's totally possible to progress through the game without mastering its mechanics of dashing, shooting, and dodging, but it makes the gameplay a bit dull. Luminous Avenger is at its best when you're rapidly flying through the air, bouncing from one enemy to the next, and building up a huge score multiplyer—you're even awarded with flashier special effects when you reach a certain score chain. It can take a fair bit of practice to get to that point though, including just memorizing best strategies on some levels, so you need some dedication to actually get the most out of the game. When you're not, some mechanics like Copen's somewhat weightless movements will just feel awkward and sluggish.
Even so, Luminous Avenger makes some generous concessions to inexperienced players. Copen has a Bullit system that allows him to automatically dodge enemy attacks as long as he has Bullits loaded, so even if you're not great at dodging it's actually pretty hard to take damage most of the time. Reloading your Bullits is pretty awkward, even with two control input options, but it's a necessary hurdle. On the other hand, the game will also throw a couple of sharp difficulty spikes at you, especially with the final boss, since some enemies have attacks that cannot be auto-dodged. It's a bit annoying to have this useful crutch the entire game and then lose it when it matters most, but this is an action game that requires practice and skill.
The game is also awfully short, even by action game standards. You can easily finish in under three hours, even if you're not flying through stages as smoothly as possible. There is a decent amount of replay value though, not just in earning high scores but in bonus missions or unlocking all of the upgradable gear, which will take multiple playthroughs to fully complete. It would have been nice to have more variety rather than repeated gameplay though.
The game's presentation, at least, is pretty sharp. The sprite work is clean and the environments are decently stylish, though the special effects can at times be so flashy that you might lose track of Copen on screen. The character designs leave something to be desired as they can feel quite generic at times, but again since the writing doesn't give the characters much depth anyway maybe it doesn't matter. The soundtrack is also the kind of upbeat action music you'd typically expect, and can feel a bit generic at times as well.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX is made for fans of the franchise that already love the fast-paced action centered around perfectly dashing from one enemy to the next to maintain a huge score chain. It also feels like it's simply going through the motions a lot of the time, and the gameplay isn't evolving, nor is the writing expanding on the franchise's lore in a clear, engaging way. Still, if you're looking for some frantic 2D action gameplay, Gunvolt has been a worthy franchise for years now, and Luminous Avenger, for better or for worse, is no different.
Rating: 7 out of 10 Gunvolts
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