Big surprise: Beck is back! After the less than welcome reception of Mighty No.9, remembering that Inti Creates didn’t even dare to sell MN9 merch at cons, I really didn’t see this coming.
The original Mighty Gunvolt was a cheap game Inti developed to advertize various IPs they were working on at the time. Mighty Gunvolt Burst is the evolution of that, with all traces of Gal Gun, one of the games the original was based on, removed, leaving only Beck and Gunvolt. Mighty Gunvolt is a simple Mega Man clone, going after the 8bit nostalgia vibe the game has you sidescrolling, jumping and shooting straight ahead through nearly a dozen stages. Of course most of them can be played in any order. The sequel Mighty Gunvolt Burst is very similar, but comes with twists I haven’t experienced in a Mega Man-like game before.
It starts you off in an introduction stage, which shouldn’t be anything new to fans of the format, and features very simple gameplay in the early minutes. Walking, jumping and shooting straight ahead are your only options. To change that you have to make use of a new feature: Weapon Customization. It’s simple - you got a fixed number of CP (Customization Points) that you can spend freely on various options that make you stronger or weaker. For example you can choose to reduce the maximum number of bullets your character can fire in one go and get some CP back for it to spend on other functions.
As nice as it may sound on paper, the system doesn’t work very well in practice. There’s not much you can do with the base options, and the more interesting features are locked behind collectables hidden in the various stages. When you beat a stage you get to choose between an item that increases your max CP, an item that lets you add an element to your weapon, and a “pixel seal”, which is nothing more than an icon you can choose to be displayed next to your health bar. The good stuff that lets you change the trajectory of your shots is all hidden away and can be missed, although this isn’t a huge problem because they’re easy to find, especially with a cheap dowsing-addon that lets you know when there’s one in the room you’re currently in. The real issue is that the customization adds the unnecessary overhead of constantly having to fiddle around in a menu, and comes with various options to make your character nearly invincible. Increasing your damage and reducing the damage dealt by enemies doesn’t cost much after a couple of stages worth of bonus CP. The stages are very much on the easy side anyways, and the bonuses become trivial too unless you gimp your weapons on purpose. Furthermore there’s fruit lying around everwhere, which can be consumed to restore hitpoints - those are handy in the early game when you can’t upgrade your character, but make the game even easier later on when you’re overpowered anyways. Here’s the kicker: very much like the Gunvolt games, Mighty Gunvolt Burst is all about creating your own challenges by yourself.
Just beating the game can be accomplished without much frustration thanks to all the options you have, but it also makes the game rather boring. Stage design and enemy placement are super simple because the game expects you to go for the extra score you get for destroying enemy robots at close range, a new element that limits you in the way you play, rather than expanding on it. You can ignore the OP weapon customizations or even gimp your character to get more out of the game. The game presents you with checkpoints and unlimited lifes, but punishes you for dying by giving you a score penalty. For fans of speedrunning a counter conveniently keeps track of every moment spent in stages, and there’s challenges that can be cleared by playing speedily.
Mighty Gunvolt Burst is an okay to good game when played casually, depending on the player’s motivation to collect lots of stuff they don’t necessarily need (you have to beat each stage three times to collect all the goodies). It can get really monotone and boring when you make full use of the customization feature, but it’s a fun game if you can abstain from power and limit yourself in order to have some real challenges.
I find the overall artistic presentation rather lacking. It’s a cross-over game, and like so often the story doesn’t have much influence on either franchise. Beck and Gunvolt are trapped in a VR combat simulation where they have to compete against the various bosses from MN9, the culprit seemingly being Gunvolt or Beck, depending on which character you’re playing as. To the player it’s obvious that something is off, but not to the characters, and you can probably imagine where that leads. What I’m getting at is that you’re not playing this for the story. The 8bit visuals are super bland, there’s not much detail in either the backgrounds nor the map tiles. If you’re playing on a HD console you get a super blocky look because there’s no scanline filter whatsoever, which makes the monotone look of the graphics all the more obvious. At the same time there are lots of effects you never saw in a real game from the past, dismissing nostalgic value entirely. What about the music? Since you’re playing the stages from Mighty Number 9, the soundtrack is nearly exactly the same. I haven’t confirmed, but am pretty sure they just reused the 8bit soundtrack of MN9 for at least the regular stages, which is not nearly as exciting as the clasic Mega Man OSTs they wanted you to remember.
The bottom line is that playing Mighty Gunvolt Burst is an experience that’s entirely up to you. Personally I don’t like games that rely too much on self-imposed challenges to be interesting, and this one is definitely one of those. Whenever I replay a game with restrictions to make it more challenging, that’s because I really like the game in the first place. When games force these challenges on me to get anything out of them because they’re lacking otherwise, I honestly don’t even bother. Either it’s just me, or Into Creates misunderstands the incentive that makes people play challenge runs in the first place.
It’s a fun game to kill some time on a long sunday if played casually, and only fans of Mega Man challenge runs get all out of it. My recommendation goes to fans of sprite based 2D games and the hardcore audience they’re going for.