As of August 20th, 2014, Azure Striker Gunvolt has just been released in Japan. However, the fine folks at 8-4 and Inti Creates have been courteous enough to not only allow us to give you an idea of what you can expect upon the title's North American release on August 29th, but something more as well.
Having the opportunity to go hands-on with the game, I can say that one of the things which stuck out to me most was how front-loaded the game seemed to be with story, characterization, and other such details. From the time you select your save file (no auto-saving, by the way-- you have to do it manually), you're introduced to a new world, new vocabulary, and even changes in a status quo you never even knew existed until now. It's quite a bit to take in, at least at first, and certainly more than one might be used to from Inti Creates' earlier Mega Man-branded efforts.
By the way: If you've been following footage of the Japanese version (such as this one by Heat Man), you may want to note that there are no voices in this version. Whether that's good or bad is subjective, but it sounds like the voiced version uses it to the fullest. Personally, I didn't think very much of it after I noticed "hey, there aren't any voices here."
As is clearly evidenced by the visual style, though, Azure Striker Gunvolt has the pedigree of Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX written all over it. In particular, the challenge seems especially reminiscent of those titles, though you're given unlimited lives (that, or I've somehow seriously overlooked the lives counter and just lucked out a lot) to do what needs to be done, as well as a host of new mechanics.
In some ways, controlling Gunvolt feels much like controlling Zero, Vent, etc., but in other ways, they're quite different. Just in terms of basics, "Geeves" has a sprint in the place of the lower-riding dash maneuver, and though he can wall jump as well, it's not quite as slick or refined to pull off, nor can he fire from the wall as his predecessors do. Amusingly, it feels sort of like the difference one might expect between a man and a machine trying to pull off that maneuver.
Gunvolt's attacks, of course, are another matter entirely. Rather than the direct approach, he tags enemies with shots from his gun, which allows him to more easily take down foes with his electrical powers. He can also acquire new skills and tools, though fighting bosses can be tricky with both sides filling the screen with ordnance. It's both fun and challenging, though unlike the Mega Man titles, this one notes you can build up your levels via XP, allowing you to come at bosses again with a little more experience under your belt.
In addition to playing Azure Striker Gunvolt, we've also had a chance to go a few rounds with the recently-revealed bonus game, Mighty Gunvolt.
The visual style of this game is heavily inspired by the NES Mega Man titles, and generally speaking, it plays very much like them as well. You're allowed to play through the game's five levels as one of three Inti Creates-related characters: Gunvolt from Azure Striker Gunvolt, Beck from the upcoming Mighty No. 9, and Ekoro from the Japan-only release Gal☆Gun.
Personally, I was drawn towards playing as Beck first, but it was only after using the other characters that I realized that the attacks and abilities of each one also served as a sort of difficulty level for the game as well. Of the three, I found Beck's run to be the most difficult, though I'm not sure whether Ekoro's speed and hovering ability or Gunvolt's raw power made things easier.
(And speaking of Gunvolt, he plays surprisingly unlike his more contemporary counterpart here.)
The visuals and sound feel like they've been taken right out of the 8-bit era, and the graphic style overall... well, let's just say that fans of the NES Mega Man games (and 9 and 10) should feel right at home here as the developers pay a loving homage to their roots. Overall, it's a great bonus for those who buy the game, and a good reason to do so before November 28th, 2014, when it will presumably no longer be available.
Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty Gunvolt will be available in the Nintendo 3DS eShop in North America on August 29th, 2014, and with any luck, you'll find our review ready for you the day before it goes on sale. But better still?
You may not even have to wait that long.
Thanks once again to the good folks at 8-4 and Inti Creates, we're able to bring the game to one lucky reader early! From now until 11:59pm EST on Tuesday, August 26th, one randomly-chosen commenter on this very article will get a code to download both Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty Gunvolt before they go on sale!
To enter, just comment with the reason why you want to play Azure Striker Gunvolt and/or Mighty Gunvolt. Or, just to stretch things out a bit, if you want to share a piece of fan art (it doesn't have to be anything grand, even a stick figure with arrows pointing to the word "Gunvolt" works. Nothing obscene, though; please use good judgment), you can leave that instead. Note that only comments with one of the above will be eligible, and again that the winner will be chosen at random. That means you don't need to kill yourself writing an essay for this, and also that any comments which do not offer one of the above will be ineligible.
Oh, and you can enter more than once, just don't get spammy about it (spamminess determined at my sole discretion, so play smart).
Finally, do note that we are giving away codes for the North American version of Azure Striker Gunvolt and Mighty Gunvolt. That means, as far as I know, that the games will only work on North American NIntendo 3DS units. I assume that if you live in Europe or Japan and have an imported American Nintendo 3DS, you're good to go, but I cannot guarantee that, so if you're not playing an NA Nintendo 3DS in the U.S. or Canada, enter at your own peril.
I think that's everything. Good? Good. Now, get to commenting!