A double serving of one of the best 2D run and gun series of the past five years!
By Robert Marrujo:: Developer Inti Creates has been carrying the Mega Man torch for many years now. Going all the way back to the studio's work on the Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX series, Inti is an expert at crafting luscious, captivating pixel art and producing some of the tightest, most responsive gameplay on the market. With Azure Striker Gunvolt on 3DS, Inti was able to demonstrate that it's more than capable of creating its own original characters and pushing 2D run and gun games forward.
Now, Inti has taken Azure Striker Gunvolt and Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 and combined them into a single package on Nintendo Switch. Azure Striker Gunvolt: Striker Pack boasts both titles running at 60 FPS, all of the DLC that was offered on 3DS, and an improved UI. The two baseline Gunvolt games would have been plenty motivation to give this compilation a look, but with all of these delightful extras Striker Pack is pushed over the top into "must-own" territory.
The Gunvolt series takes place in the future in a world where people called "adepts" have special abilities that they wield via their "septimal powers." A monolithic mega corporation dubbed the Sumeragi Group rules the world but is secretly experimenting on adepts in the background. A rebel group named QUILL fights to overthrow the corrupt conglomerate with the help of former agent Gunvolt. Though the narrative can sometimes be a bit convoluted, overall it's very engaging and helps give Gunvolt its own identity separate from Mega Man.
Both titles feature similar gameplay. Gunvolt is the sole star in the first title, wielding his electrical powers that can be expelled in great arcs from his body, while he also has a blaster that can shoot a number of different shot types. Joined with other special abilities, the action in Gunvolt is tight and satisfying. It's reminiscent of the Mega Man Zero series but adds a lot of its own flair thanks to Gunvolt's unique electric powers and other attacks. The second game takes the action to the next level by introducing Copen as a playable character. He can dash and lock onto enemies, as well as adopt powers from fallen foes. Both titles are thrilling, but Gunvolt 2 does manage to outshine its predecessor by just a tad.
One thing that really stands out here is the exquisite presentation. The soundtrack is wondrous, really underscoring the action and pumping adrenaline through the veins of players. The character designs are also astounding. From the sublime bosses to Gunvolt and Copen, every asset in both games feels very fleshed out and realized. Throw in some solid localization (the first Gunvolt actually got an entire update to its localization as a patch on 3DS!) and anyone would be hard pressed to peg Striker Pack as anything other than a triple-a premium release.
Speaking of the bosses, the fights with them are almost worth the price of admission alone. They're screen filling affairs that show off the fabulous art direction that both titles have to offer, not to mention spot-on game design. Expect to die plenty while playing Striker Pack, but never because the games are cheap. This is a genuine challenge, one that would have been right at home on an SNES back in the day. That it's on a modern console is a testament to how enthralling these types of games still are and always will be.
One of the few nagging issues I had with this collection comes from its visuals. I know, I just said how much I love the presentation, and I meant; what I'm griping about is a technical matter, to be clear. While the majority of what's on screen has been pushed to HD, the actual gameplay itself is not. The result is that menus and dialogue scenes are clear and pretty, but the title's spectacular pixel graphics are left a might bit blurred thanks to the enhanced resolution. It's nothing deal-breaking but I'd have loved to see the same attention to detail that the UI and cut scenes got applied to the entire experience. There's also some extraneous collectathon elements that can sometimes feel superfluous. I enjoy customization in my games, but I felt almost overwhelmed by what Striker Pack has to offer.
Beyond that, however, there's a ton to love about Striker Pack. These are two games that will likely be seen as classics years from now, taking the best elements of '80s and '90s 2D shooter/platformer games and meshing them with modern sensibilities. There are a couple of slight flaws in the collection's execution, but overall this is by far one of the best offerings on Switch right now. There's a physical version of Striker Pack coming this Fall, but whether you buy it in a store or download it from the eShop, be sure to check out this collection!
SCORE: 8.5/10 (GREAT)
Positives: Delightful presentation; HD and 60 FPS upgrades add to the experience; both games are challenging, well-designed, and engaging; full slate of DLC further enriches the experience.
Negative: HD facelift doesn't apply to the actual gameplay, which means the visuals are a little grainy; a bit of a slog to accumulate enough material for upgrades.
Binx was provided with a copy of this game by a third party for review purposes, but this in no way impacted our recommendation. For every review, Binx.News uses a standard criteria.