TMMN Reviews: Mighty Gunvolt Burst

"Maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff," I thought to myself. Not for video games in general, but maybe anything that could be described as "twitchy," or perhaps even just "Nintendo Hard." Maybe my reflexes just weren't what they used to be.

I'd been playing Mighty Gunvolt Burst in the wee hours of the morning, after having received an review code earlier in the week. It being the week of the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3 to its friends, I found myself racing against the clock in trying to make sure I could get far enough through the game to make the noon embargo.

If the game was really as much like Mega Man as it appeared on the surface, then a good few hours ought to be sufficient, right?

Just pretend this is Countershade, and that I'm doing really well against him.

Unfortunately, things were just not going that well. Though I'd managed to fell Countershade well enough -- first, even, just like before -- others weren't going down quite so easily. Some, like Aviator, seemed to be clinging to me just as much as they were clinging to life. All's fair, right?

Others, specifically Brandish -- who I'd just fallen to for around the seventh time (told helpfully by the counter in the lower-left corner that had replaced the lives system) -- had other attacks which seemed like they were just made to get you not on the way out, but back in from off-screen.

All the while, it seemed like I was just chipping away, barely putting a scratch on them compared to what they could do to me in short order. If their life bar had 200 points on it, it wouldn't have surprised me to hear that they required 300 hits.

I was just about to hang it up, at least for the night (well, day by this point), when I remembered something. Up to this point, I'd been playing as Beck, the sibling to the Mighty Number robots who were having their way with me in this in-universe digital facsimile that approximated rather than replicated his previous adventure.

Maybe I should give Gunvolt a try first. After all, his name is in the title, too, right?

I don't know what it was, but something just clicked with me as I swapped out the helmet of the boyish young robot for the long blue trench coat of the Azure Striker. Robbed of the free use of his trademark electric Septimal powers for which he was named, it didn't seem like Gunvolt played all that differently from Beck, and for all intents and purposes, the two do play rather similarly. But there were differences both slight (the way their respective guns react to the same customization options) and significant (whereas Beck can eventually perform horizontal air dashes by tapping the jump button in mid-air, Gunvolt performs a vertical double-jump).

Switching to Gunvolt seemed to really help, and I found myself enjoying the game more and more. Maybe it was Gunvolt's unique attributes which made him feel almost overpowered next to Beck, but maybe it had something to do with me as well. Mighty Gunvolt Burst features an incredibly robust system for customization by acquiring Customization Points (CP) and various skills and abilities to spend them on, something beyond the likes of which I've ever seen in a game of this type before. Perhaps I'd unwittingly zagged where I'd zigged before, and those choices were helping me see the adventure through to the end.

And to the (quite entertaining) end I went. All told, the game did take about as much time as I might expect from a Mega Man game. Maybe my skills weren't quite as rusty as I had thought? It took me somewhere around two and a half hours to complete the game with Gunvolt, whereas I'd been spinning my wheels for two prior to that with Beck. It was almost disappointing; after all, this was Beck's big chance at redemption, right?

Things are looking up.

Things are looking up.

Before putting the game away and preparing to write this review, I decided to give Beck another chance. Many of his options are different from Gunvolt, such as coming with eight different types of bullets from the word go, each apparently a projectile manifestation of one of the Mighty Numbers. Fire turns his shots into fireballs, of course, while the drill option seemed to represent Seismic. Then there was Brandish, who was apparently represented by a gun that could shoot swords, like a Punisher comic brought to life.

Instead of focusing on stuff like that to try to match the right gun to the right foe, I should try playing a little more like I did with Gunvolt. Part of this involved going back to normal bullets, but making them larger, looking like fully-charged Mega Buster shots (another option I'd passed on before due to cost and questionable effectiveness), and then having them move in a wave pattern that resembled the famous Wave Beam of one Samus Aran.

The bulbous shots broke on the floor in a way that Gunvolt's sleeker shots didn't have a problem with, but maybe moving in closer to my enemies would help negate that. Getting in close is a big part of the game after all anyway, as the eponymous Burst Combo points were awarded for finishing foes at point-blank range. Of course, "point-blank" seemed to vary depending on the enemy; some seemed to be more generous in how far away you were when dealing the final blow, while others you'd swear you should be taking damage from by the proximity demanded.

Talk about a close shave!

After tweaking Beck a bit, I decided to give Brandish another shot. Several shots, in fact -- not by the number of lives used, but the number landed on his spinning form before he finally succumbed. Aviator would meet the same fate as well, and that's when I'd put the game down, confident in both my ability to proceed with the ninth Mighty Number later on and to write this review.

I haven't had enough time to truly study the game in-depth to say for certain, but I think the customization system in Mighty Gunvolt Burst is probably what made the difference. Perhaps it was less whether I was better with one character or the other, but more a matter of finding the options which best suited how I play. It's hard not to appreciate that.

Playing Mighty Gunvolt Burst was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster, going between enjoyment and frustration, but in the end, enjoyment won out. The game is far from perfect, mind you -- there are all sorts of little niggling details I could pick at, along with little ways that it differs from the traditional Mega Man games it's meant to evoke (for one, pressing jump on a ladder doesn't drop you, but makes you actually jump unless you're holding Down as well) -- but in the end, I feel like it's a significant improvement over both the original Mighty Gunvolt and Mighty No. 9. It may very well be just the sort of game we were all looking for when Inafune first revealed on stage that fateful day that he would be creating a new game in the mold of the character who'd made him an industry star.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst was released for the Nintendo Switch via the Nintendo eShop on June 15th, 2017 at a price of $9.99 USD/€9.99/£8.99, with a Nintendo 3DS version arriving on June 29th.

A download code was provided by Inti Creates.