PLATFORM: SWITCH (REVIEWED), XBOX ONE/SERIES | RELEASE DATE: JULY 28TH (SWITCH), AUGUST 2ND (XBOX)
Six years after the release of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, developers Inti Creates return to wrap up a story that has taken many twists and turns since the series began all the way back in 2014. In ASG3, Gunvolt is held hostage by Sumeragi, the nefarious corporation which has been conducting experiments on “adepts” – people like Gunvolt who possess extraordinary powers. During his decades in captivity, Sumeragi has been using GV's energy to provide power to the country, although this has had an unexpected consequence – GV's power has the ability to turn other adepts into ultra-powerful “Primal Dragons”. Rescued from his prison by new protagonist, Kirin, the two set themselves up as Dragon Saviors and set out to restore order to the land.
ASG3's overarching plot will definitely make more sense to those who are more familiar with the series in general – there's a lot of long-winded sci-fi reasons for what's going on and it can be quite easy to lose track of what's happening – but despite the potentially confusing plot, the same finely-tuned and satisfying 2D side-scrolling gameplay that the series (and, indeed, the development team as a whole) has become known for is very much present and correct.
Kirin is the primary character who players will spend the most time with, while the ability to swap to GV is granted when a meter builds up to a certain point. Both characters share the same basic controls but have their own unique abilities – amongst other things, Kirin throws talismans to “seal” her enemies, draining their energy before she rushes in with a swipe of her sword or a flashy dash attack, while GV uses his trusty lightning gun to lock onto enemies before unleashing massive amounts of electricity to finish them off. There's a lot of nuance to the various ways that each character can traverse levels and deal with their enemies, and a variety of special attacks and passive abilities add further chaos to the overall mayhem, so there's quite a lot to get your head around and it might take a few levels for things to fall into place. When everything clicks, though, the potential for heart-pounding carnage becomes apparent, giving players the option of either taking their time to explore levels or run and dash through at a frantic pace while causing all manner of carnage and destruction in their wake.
The top notch gameplay is matched by eye-catching pixel art, incredible music (another of the series' hallmarks) and some fantastic presentation. The game's slightly quirky yet gentle sense of humour never strays into that overly irritating territory that a lot of anime-style games can sometimes slip into, while the voice acting – a first for the series – might go slightly over the top at times but generally lands just on the right side of silly. Azure Striker Gunvolt 3 is an excellent finale to a fantastic series and yet another feather in the cap of Inti Creates, a company who by all accounts deserves much more attention and praise than they seem to get. Whether you're a returning player coming back to see how the story ends or a newcomer in search of something a bit different, there are very few games (of this genre, at least) that provide such adrenaline-pumping action as this.