Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2 Review

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Mighty Number iX.

Action-platformers are like the junk food of video games. They can feel great in the moment, but they don’t always leave a lasting impression. Even though I know that I played and finished the first Luminous Avenger iX game, I really couldn’t tell you much more than that it shares DNA with Mega Man. Running, jumping, and shooting have been supplemented with air dashing, floating, and locking on to targets. The end result is an experience that is fun but somewhat fleeting. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a tight couple hours of pixelated explosions and satisfying action.

The story takes a backseat to flying through the dozen or so levels as the hero Copen, a well-armed and speedy robot who tears through all manner of mechanical opposition. The plot revolves around scaling a tower in a world devoid of humanity, but it’s not likely to do much to drive players forward. Fortunately, you don’t really miss out on much if you haven’t played the previous game in the series either. After a tutorial stage where most of Copen’s abilities are shown off, you learn about needing to collect keys from bosses to advance up the tower. From that point, an initial stage selection provides two options before more open up in the next segment of the tower.

Copen’s primary weapon is called the Razor Wheel, and it’s a melee weapon that can be used to take out foes at close range. His other attacks seem much more powerful, though, so I found myself using it sparingly. One of the bosses grants a gatling gun upgrade, and that became my go-to special attack as soon as I unlocked it. Those who played any of the Gunvolt games might remember the lock-on system whereby you dash into enemies to target them and then spray them with ranged attacks for massive damage. Luminous Avenger iX 2 has a similar system, but you have to mash the attack button to keep hitting whatever you’ve locked on to. Dashing isn’t just used for combat either, as much of the navigation within each level involves scaling vertical segments and floating or dashing over long pits. The stages themselves are fairly enjoyable, with four hidden collectables in each one, some of which can’t be obtained until you’ve acquired a specific weapon in another level. Best times, scores, and grades are also kept for each level, further adding to the game’s replay value.

The question of difficulty has to be brought up as well, since Luminous Avenger iX 2 offers the ability to restore your health back to full at any time. While I suppose you could just choose not to do so, it’s hard to resist the temptation to heal up before a boss fight or when you’ve got your opponent down to the last sliver of their life meter. Still, it’s an interesting mechanic that isn’t unwelcome; it just makes gauging the overall challenge of the game a bit trickier. In addition, checkpoints are common and the stages themselves are not overly long, so you’re never losing much progress after a death—did I mention you have unlimited lives? It certainly feels like a game designed to be finished and replayed to improve your records; individual boss fights and a boss rush mode become available after rolling credits, too.

More on the gameplay, Copen collects gems that function as currency and can be spent in the menu between stages to add passive bonuses, like a longer lock-on time or more invincibility frames after taking damage. Destroying enemies also grants experience, with level ups bolstering your health meter. The shoulder buttons get a strenuous work out with the left side used for your dash and the right controlling your special weapons. With all of Copen’s moves, it’s easy to press the wrong button or dash in the wrong direction, but the game is so forgiving that mistakes are never all that punishing. Frankly, it’s a toss up as to whether the attacking or moving feels better in Luminous Avenger iX 2. All in all, the action is just aces here.

Bosses at the end of each stage have that typical cheesy dialogue, but with the addition of voice acting. While most of the voices fit in well enough, especially the main protagonists, others feel mailed in. Fortunately, the sound effects and music are great, and it’s easy to become immersed in the action with the fast-paced background tracks and variety of weapon sounds. The visual effects are awesome in their own right, and really pop on the Switch OLED screen. The retro-inspired look of the game combines with excellent use of color and light to create a memorable aesthetic. Making robots go boom rarely looks this good.

After rolling credits, I feel like I didn’t fully explore all of Copen’s capabilities. The eShop listing for Luminous Avenger iX 2 describes an ability called Overdrive that is earned through banking points in a specific form; I’m not sure I ever saw it. There’s a lot of minor gameplay features for players to explore and try out, but even just fighting through the stages and bosses is satisfying enough on its own. If you’ve ever played a Gunvolt game of any kind, this is a fairly good one of those, even if you’re likely to forget about it after putting it away. Not every game needs to be memorable to be a worthwhile experience, though. If you’re looking for an action-heavy palette cleanser with some kicking visuals and solid gameplay, Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX 2 would make a strong addition to your Switch library.

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