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LONG BLOG

I Get Bored Reviewing Azure Striker Gunvolt and Talk 'Bout RPG Mechanics Instead

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Man, I was so hyped to play Azure Striker GUNVOLT : STRIKER PACK(I'm writing that correctly exactly one time).

I drove myself all the way down to the Best Buy, made myself tackle my long in the making fear of engaging a Best Buy employee in conversation to ask if they had a copy of the game in the back because the website said it was available for in-store pick-up but was not on the shelf and then I had to look the cashier in the eye and say that I, an adult man would like to use my $15.00 in loyalty gift certificates to purchase a copy of a game with an anime character with a braided blonde rat tail on the cover. 

Erik, the cashier, was not impressed. He was even unmoved after I pointed out the value prospect of the collection. "It has both the first game and the DLC, right on there man."

Hedging my bets that this guy was a trve kvlt GAMER not some dirty street walking pleb, I parroted the back of the box claim that the frame rate had been kicked up a notch from 30 frames per second to an eye melting 60 frames per second, noting that "No, bitch ass frame rates are gonna hold back this Azure Striking party!" 

He didn't know what Azure Striking was either. 

So, with all of that said, if you want to try to tell me that didn't give the game an honest chance and that I had it out for it from the start. Nope. No, I did not. 

I do, however, have it out for dead eyed 17 year olds named Erik now though. 

But days later, I'm sitting at home, ignoring my fiance, going crazing 'painting' targets to shoot lightning at like the developer Inti Creates had one team making a Mega Man X rip-off and another a Panzer Dragoon rip-off at the same time, realized that part of the development process is to eventually make money and told Conor and Thad (substitute more regionally appropriate names if that makes you feel better) to move into the two empty cubes next to each other and play nice and the whole time I'm sitting there wondering why I don't feel like I'm actually having much fun.

Gunvolt is 100 percent a game that should have set a pop up shop in my wheel house to sell all over print t-shirts with my smiling face on the front and my social security number on the back.

What are we getting into here? Well, we've got high speed 2d action. We've got guns. We've got silky smooth animation of gorgeously detailed sprite work. We've got a combo system with level based scores and ranking plus time and achievement bonuses. We've got an item crafting AND an item unlock situation going on. Oh and lest we forget, an RPG leveling system in-case the difficulty gets a little out of control, meaning I can beat my head against any difficult sections over and over until I inevitably emerge victorious and with my not-having-to-refer-to-a-faq-because-I'm-a-bad-dude related ego intact. THIS SHIT IS MY SHIT. SHIT.

But, somehow it's just not.

It's not that the game is poorly made and it's not because it's not fun. I had a shit load of fun at the start. But as I kept playing, my opinion of the game, despite throwing newer, doper stuff at me just started to drop off until at the final boss for both games I finally had to just stop because there is a limited amount of time I am going to be alive and I wasn't going to waste any more of that precious resource on ...Stri...VOLT...

Having thought about it for upwards of two days, I think I finally figured out what it is about GUNVOLT that really kicked my enjoyment in the ol' bean bag and it's the previously mentioned leveling system. But not just the prescence of that specific mainstay of Japanese snoozathons, it came down to a simple design choice, namely the decision to allow the player to level up thier character as opposed to their weapons.

Now, I'm accutely aware that the distinction between the two might seem minute at best, but hang with me for a second because what would seem to be small choice in the design process can have a huge impact on a game, especially when the game in question is going to require you to play the same section, boss or whathaveyou over and over.

When you level up the character, you are leveling up the extension of the player that touches the game world, whereas when you level up your weapons in a game, you are leveling up the players tools. This isn't usually a problem in a slower paced title like your garden variety RPG, but when you are working with an action game, you have a number of variables going into the player's success or failure: first you have the situation presented to the player and the difficulty that results from it; you have the skillset, power level and abilities of the player character; and finally the skill level, or lackthereof, of the player. The problem arises in the event of the player's failure, because the blame for that failure has to be placed into one of the three categories: situation, player character/system or player skill. 

The reason a lot of action games focus on leveling weapons as opposed to the player character is that the assumption is, as the player character gets to higher levels, the amount of blame that can be placed on the player character decreases as the more powerful character should be able to achieve success with greater ease.

So if the situation does not change, and the character is constantly becoming more powerful, and a failure state continues, the source of blame for the resultant frustration starts to drift towards the sole responsibility of the player and their skillset. 

On the other hand, if you are leveling up the weapons available to the player, you alleviate the cognitive dissonance of that failure as it can be unloaded onto the tools at the player's disposal i.e. the gun was not powerful enough in relation to other weapon options or was just the wrong selection in relation to the enemy at hand but either way, the player's skill and in turn, their ego remains intact.

Essentially if a carpenter builds a shit house with the only hammer made, he's a shit carpenter. If a carpenter builds a shit house and he had a shit hammer, he still thinks he's a master carpenter, it's just that the goddamn shit hammer won't allow everyone the opportunity to see how fucking radical of a house he could build.

Oh, and 'Zure 'Riker 'UNVOLT: 'Ker 'Ack is pretty good if you are into a somehow more anime version of Mega Man (oh yeah, the game also features just a ton of anime cuts scenes and talking heads, I guess, but you're out of your goddamn mind if you think I paid attention to any of that bullshit). 

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About VVerner Herrzawgzone of us since 7:31 PM on 05.09.2018

I enjoy video games. Also shrimp.