Inti Creates put their best ideas into a blender, and made one of their most satisfying games ever.
With the Gunvolt games, I’ve always found myself playing them in passing. Never was I really deeply invested, but the action was enough to keep me going. Personally, I was always more a fan of Inti Creates work on Blaster Master, which I praised any chance I got. Color me surprised when Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX instantly knows how to get me hooked. The action is instantly satisfying, and gave me an adventure that felt satisfying to a tee.
Copen, the main character, is a rather mysterious figure who doesn’t make his motives very clear. In the technologically-advanced world of Luminous Avenger iX, all humans are required to get special powers. Anyone who disagrees is executed by Sumeragi, effectively the ruling class. Copen objects to this reality and tries to take down whoever is willing to harm the common folk. Sumeragi proves a deadly threat that holds nothing back, employing their toughest bosses and a variety of enemies. The story doesn't go much beyond exploring the optics, which I do think is slightly disappointing, but there are plenty of twists and turns. The various characters introduced provide, at a minimum, a nice backdrop to the proceedings.
When it comes to gameplay, Gunvolt Chronicles is very much a winner. What got me particular hooked was the lock-on attack. By dashing into an enemy and then using your gun or special powers, Copen will directly attack that specific foe. It is a look of beauty to glide past a machine and then throw an energy-sucking ball at it. You can also take a few enemy hits before receiving damage thanks to the bullit system There is a certain flow to combat that I really adore, and I felt more in control than ever before. Speaking of controls, Copen moves in an absolutely stellar fashion. His directional air movement can make some impressive maneuvers happen. The mechanic allows you to jump off walls and mark enemies to get those crucial hits in.
For me, the previous Gunvolt games lacked level design that allowed you to play with the tools given. The tools and levels have never been more intertwined than in Luminous Avenger iX. The destruction of enemies is put at the center of the game's design language and doesn't break up the experience in the slightest. The game encourages you to get up close and personal with these enemies, and equips you with a special Overdrive Mode to reward good play. This will restore health, increase attack power, and just looks flashy. If you aren’t as strong a player, not to worry. When your HP hits zero, Gunvolt Chronicles can sometimes activate an Anthem mode. Companion Lola will give Copen access to all of his abilities and unlimited bullits.
The flow of the game is rather excellent. While the story mode is short, roughly three hours, I felt that I was constantly learning. It is the type of thing I was hoping for in this post-Mega Man X environment. You get new weaponry by defeating bosses, smarter at certain tricks, and perform perfect dodges in no time. It helps that the levels are 15 minutes at maximum, so a new flavor awaits you almost instantly. Beyond the story mode, players will get access to harder levels and score-focused options in the post-game. This kept me going for about 8.5 hours, which isn't too shabby.
The presentation is rather excellent when it comes to Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX. The pixel art looks all sorts of fantastic, with clean-looking character models. The levels and Lola tunes were great as well, and just got me in the right mood. Now where I can kick some more Someragi behinds?
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX was absolutely grand. While the game is somewhat on the shorter side, various gameplay improvements made this one the best in the series. It is clear that the developers focused on swiftness and getting to the cool stuff as soon as possible. The game flows well as a result, encouraging you to go back and improve your performance in certain stages. The level design and gameplay mechanics make for a very sharp 8.5 hours.