Inti Creates has had an interesting development history, initially comprised of former Capcom members way back in 1996. They’re mostly known for making entries in the Mega Man series, such as Mega Man Zero and Mega Man ZX, as well as unfortunately being involved in the disastrous Mighty No. fiasco. However, their flagship franchises, Gal*Gun and Azure Striker Gunvolt, have amassed quite a bit of a following themselves. Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX is the first part in a spinoff series, an offshoot from the main Azure Striker Gunvolt canon. With a small asking price and a short overall playtime, it’s clear that LAiX seeks to serve as a stopgap while people wait for the third official entry in the main franchise. Does that mean it isn’t worth playing, however? Far from it.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX
Publisher: Inti Creates
Developer: Inti Creates
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC
Release Date: September 26th, 2019
Luminous Avenger iX returns to having one playable character, Copen, in lieu of having both him and Gunvolt like in ASG2. Copen plays about the same as he did in the previous entry, using jets to fly toward enemies and tag them, then blasting ’em to smithereens with homing bullets. This keeps combat fast and fun, with you dashing around all over the place while trying to avoid damage and keep dishing it out.
A lot of the game revolves around the economy of the “Bullit” system, wherein you spend Bullits like mana to either avoid damage or use special abilities. At first, you’ll be reloading like crazy to try and soak enemy fire, but once you get a little more confident with the game, you can play more aggressively and spend Bullits on offensive maneuvers.
Thankfully, the game allows you to customize your playstyle a lot, as you can buy subroutines that change Copen’s equipment in impactful ways. These range from giving you extra Bullits, to even allowing you to lower your max health to make the game more difficult. Letting you personalize your loadout is great, though they have done away with the material system from earlier entries. You now buy everything with credits alone, and enemies are a bit more stingy at coughing them up.
Using Lola, Copen’s AI helper, you can use EX Weapons to simulate the abilities from every Adept you manage to defeat. There’s also a revive mechanic, where occasionally you’re brought back to life by Lola upon dying. It is seemingly random when this happens, though the game does tell you that speaking with your companions between missions makes it more likely to occur. Lola also turns into an adorable waifu when this happens, which is always nice.
Bosses are naturally a big part of a game like this, and Luminous Avenger iX doesn’t disappoint in that regard. Each boss has multiple phases, and can use super attacks like Copen’s Twin Shredders (typically as they’re nearing zero health). They’re a fun challenge, and I had to attempt each of them a few times to win, with one or two exceptions.
The presentation this time around is gorgeous, with higher quality sprites and artwork in comparison to the 3DS entries. Every facet of this game looks impressive, and even Copen’s super attack has extra flashy effects going along with it. Hopefully, now that Inti Creates is no longer limited by the weaker performance of the 3DS in this series, they can really go nuts with the visuals in Azure Striker Gunvolt 3…whenever that comes out.
The sound design in LaiX is great as well, with full Japanese voice acting, as well as jaunty vocal performances in several of the music tracks. The soundtrack is mostly electronic, though it absolutely adds to the experience overall. It makes you feel like you’re actually flying around like a crazy person, shooting bullets every which way. And this time, you don’t get even arrested for it!
The narrative this time around is good, which I didn’t expect. It has a tendency to be all over the place, and some story beats don’t quite hit the mark, but I actually found myself getting vaguely invested in these characters, despite only hearing a few lines from them every now and again. Copen is also an interesting enough protagonist, despite being much less amiable than Gunvolt.
The story begins with Copen and Lola coming across an area controlled by the Sumeragi Institute, a reformed version of the Sumeragi Group from previous games. Their goal now is to hunt humans to extinction, something Copen is vehemently opposed to. After fighting your way through numerous soldiers, he encounters a powerful enemy who nearly defeats him outright. However, he’s saved at the last minute by a smoke bomb cast from an unknown benefactor, who he quickly follows in retreat.
As it turns out, his savior is actually a girl named Kohaku, who leads a group of children living in a hideout where they’ve hunkered down together. They seem to revere him as a savior, knowing of his past deeds, though he doesn’t seem enthused about being praised in such a way. Still, he decides to use their hideout as his base of operations, offering to protect the children in turn.
The story takes off from here, though giving any more away would be getting into spoiler territory. The game, while fun as hell and flashier than any previous title in the Gunvolt franchise, is extremely short. I’m not sure how long it took me to beat, exactly, but I finished Luminous Avenger iX pretty comfortably in one sitting.
Another small complaint I’ve got with the narrative is simple—you have to have played the previous games to have any inkling of what the hell is going on. A newcomer jumping onto the series with this game is going to be very confused about all the terminology they throw around, and even someone who hasn’t played the other games in a bit might find themselves foggy on the finer details.
Apart from those minor scrapes, however, you really can’t go wrong picking this one up. If you’re a fan of the series so far, you’ll most likely love Luminous Avenger iX.
If you’re a new player just getting into the franchise, you might be a little lost with the narrative, but you’ll still have a good time with the fast and frenetic gameplay. For a paltry $15, the game’s meager length can be pretty easily forgiven as well.
Gunvolt Chronicles: Luminous Avenger iX was reviewed on Nintendo Switch using a review copy provided by Inti Creates. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.