In the void left behind by the absence of Capcom’s classic Mega Man series, Azure Striker Gunvolt stepped up to the plate and did a fantastic job of iterating on the original format while also adding in some wholly unique elements that made the game stand out. Then Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 came out, offering up a tighter, more polished experience that improved on the original game in many ways. Now, you can buy both games in one package for the Switch, so the question is: is it worth it?
Let’s get the changes out of the way. The games now support an HD resolution, which allows them to take advantage of deeper colours and other general improvements. In addition to this, the Striker Pack also has support for HD Rumble, and while the feature doesn’t add anything memorable to the experience it does a great job of adding in some extra tactile feedback, like vibration when Gunvolt’s lightning is flashing or a little tap when Copen rockets off of walls. Otherwise, all the extra DLC from both games is thrown in, so you’re getting the full experience. In summary, it’s about what you would expect from a port like this; nothing that blows the bloody doors off, but some nice improvements and additions to sweeten the experience and tempt veterans to double dip.
While you can find full reviews for the original two games here and here, we’ll briefly go over the contents of the duo. Azure Striker Gunvolt is set in a world where people are occasionally born with superpowers — referred to in-game as ‘Septima’ — and the narrative follows the titular hero as he runs, guns, and electrocutes his way through various hazard-filled stages and battles other Adepts, each with their own septimal powers. The original game is excellent in its own right, and is certainly worth a play if you haven’t run through it before, but it does come off as the weaker entry. Animations aren’t as fluid, level designs are rather simple, and features like the mission system aren’t quite as streamlined as they are in the sequel. It’s still a great game full of clever ideas, blistering action and a gripping narrative, it just doesn’t shine nearly as brightly due to how its successor nailed the formula. If this is your first go at the series, we’d recommend you start with this first one, as its sequel passes it up in nearly every way.
Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 is an excellent example of how to do a sequel right. While it doesn’t try to do much new with the formula, it endeavours to improve upon the original by smart level design, interesting and creative boss battles, a deeper narrative, a new playable character with a unique playstyle, and a more rewarding gameplay loop. It’s not perfect, there are still some rough edges to buff out in how missions are handled or how combat works out, but this is an absolute must play for anybody looking for an excellent 2D action platformer. It’s recommended that you play this one second, not just because it’s generally a better game, but because it builds on the gameplay concepts and story of the predecessor, too. If you start here, it’ll take a bit of coming to grips with who does what and how to play the game the way it wants you to.
While the individual games are stellar in their own right, it’s rather evident that the porting job could’ve used a little more time in development. It’s the clash between the new and the old that creates such a jarring contrast. The menus, UI, and some of the text are all mastered and presented in crisp HD, with vibrant colours and sharply defined lines, but it seems that the games have more or less been tossed onto the Switch without much change. Yes, the new 60FPS is a nice addition, but the games are basically the original releases stretched across a much bigger resolution without any proper clean up.
The pixel art of the initial releases looked gorgeous on the 3DS, but when it’s blown up on a TV screen or even the Switch’s screen, the picture becomes grainy and unfocused because the resolution doesn’t scale up as well as we'd like. Granted, it’s not anything that’s deal breaking, but it’s this and other little details — like the button config menu which seems to have been ripped right from the 3DS versions — that grate a little and give a sense that the Striker Pack was hastily tossed out into the world.
All told, we’d give Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack a strong recommendation to anyone who hasn’t yet played these games. Although the two games can be picked up individually on the 3DS for a lower price, this still presents a good opportunity to try them both in a format that can be played on both a big screen or a portable. The two games stand high on their own merits and — when you consider additions like HD Rumble and DLC — they certainly justify the cost, but the porting job is a little sloppy; fans who have already played these out on the 3DS might want to think it over first before buying. If you haven’t played them yet, then this is nevertheless the best way to go.