Review: Azure Striker Gunvolt (**** stars) (Part 2)

Part 1

ASG Boss

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This is no more true than in Azure Striker Gunvolt’s boss fights. Each boss progresses into multiple phases, all with their own unique powers and abilities. Figuring these patterns out, without succumbing to their attacks in some pretty long fights, is one of the game’s highlights. While they contain your traditional boss elements (fire, ice, magnetism, etc), you’ll find that some of their patterns will cause you some trouble. I’ll admit that, in a way, they feel more like giant reflex-heavy puzzles at times, with one solution to any actual problem. Add their giant special attacks on Phase 3 (complete with animated intro and all!) that often kill you in one hit, and I can begin to see why people get frustrated with this game. And yet, you simply respawn right outside the boss room anyway (the game uses a checkpoint system, but sometimes you just need it), so there’s a hidden joy in figuring out their patterns that I’ve not seen in a game like this yet.

Probably the only thing I don’t like derives from the “true” ending boss fight, both obtaining it and actually playing it. The dumb collect-a-thon that follows the first completion of the game doesn’t seem very interesting, as you’re collecting some innocuous item. Then, the game has the audacity to make this boss fight (three phases!) where one mistake pretty much ends the run unless you’re at a high enough level where it doesn’t matter. The leveling also seems problematic to me; this means that most players will experience a different difficulty curve, and not always one they like! Some stages will become harder for them by default, and some players might have a really easy time if they happen to get certain crafting components early. It just doesn’t make sense for upgrades to come from a randomized slot machine approach; why bother having them at all? Also, the random “resurrection” mechanic is kind of a cheat sometimes, with the way it lets you come back from the dead and finish a mission you had no business completing with such a poor performance.

ASG scoring

Honestly, I couldn’t even figure out how ranking works.

These are niggling issues, but issues nonetheless. So, that’s the long and short of Azure Striker Gunvolt. As a surprising compact Mega Man-like platformer (it only took me about five hours or so), the quality oozes from every pore. However, just like Mega Man, it really needs a sequel or two to reach a level of perfection in these new concepts. Just like human beings, sometimes you need some work to get the kinks out, and to make things work right. This especially goes in Christianity, in which every denomination has some notion of “sanctification” – that is, the idea that Christians are people set apart for a purpose, holy children of God. Martin Luther says as much:

Sanctification is the Holy Spirit’s work of making us holy. When the Holy Spirit creates faith in us, he renews in us the image of God so that through his power we produce good works. These good works are not meritorious but show the faith in our hearts (Ephesians 2:8-10, James 2:18). Sanctification flows from justification. It is an on-going process which will not be complete or reach perfection in this life.

Christianity exists in process; it takes time to become a “little Christ”, because the concepts of Christianity appear so antithetical to the world’s common sense. And so, each day, we awake anew, and with the right dedication become a new iteration of ourselves – hopefully, it’s a better one. If we fail, we get back up, knowing that a loving Father has our back. We don’t really lose progress in this venture; side paths just end up with us reaching a dead end, but the straight and narrow always has a way forward.

I like to view video game sequels in this way, since it does give you a perspective on what actually goes on in that process. Developers take a long, hard look at the game they put out (since it’s pretty difficult to be objective when you’re in the thick of it); they criticize themselves to really get at what doesn’t work in a game, and (hopefully) fix it. That takes some courage to figure such things out. You can either stay set in your ways, unable to change, or you find out how to make a good game into a great one.

And that’s why I’m excited to see Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, because there is yet another opportunity for them to really “get it right”!

About Zachery Oliver

Zachery Oliver, MTS, is the lead writer for Theology Gaming, a blog focused on the integration of games and theological issues. He can be reached at viewtifulzfo at gmail dot com or on Theology Gaming’s Facebook Page.