Review Rhythm

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle – Review

If there’s one thing that the Gunvolt series is universally well-liked for, it’s the music. Ever since the very first game, the mix of a hardcore story with idol-like music and aesthetics bewildered players into trying it out. Inti Creates seems keenly aware of this because we’ve now got an entire game centered on nothing but the music. Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle is here to bring the beats in style.

Feel The Electrifying Beat

As a rhythm game, Gunvolt Records’ gameplay is expectedly quite straightforward. With a number of tracks to pick from, you’ll tap buttons and hit notes that correspond to the beat and tempo of the song. Certain motions and actions can also reflect dance choreography seen in the PVs. With the shoulder buttons and triggers, players will quickly tap away at differently colored notes to rack up scores and combos. Using the analog sticks, players will trace slide-based notes as well. If you’re playing the Nintendo Switch version, all of these actions can be done with the touch screen in Handheld Mode if that’s your preference. 

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle - Gameplay

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle seems easy at first, and notes will only ever go down two lanes that are easy to follow. However, all bets are off the second you go on any difficulty above Normal Mode. In Hard Mode or Expert Mode, you’ll be quickly and mercilessly assaulted by an array of notes that are extremely difficult to keep up with. Dropping a handful of notes consecutively will cause you to lose the song right then and there. Just clearing the song at all will be very tough, and that’s to say nothing about actually getting a good ranking and score on it.

Ranks are divided by letter gradings, with the highest being S and S+. S Ranks can be achieved through getting a Full Combo on a song, meaning you played it without dropping a single note. This can be tough by itself, but the real difficulty arises in the ways notes themselves generate points. True to typical Gunvolt fashion, the key to racking up a high score is increasing your multiplier through perfect play. While you won’t drop a combo by slightly mistiming a note, you won’t get a perfect status. You’ll receive slight penalizations on your points for timing an input too early or too late. 

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle - Ergo Sum

These slight point reductions build up incredibly quickly if you’re not very careful with your timing. Even if you get a Full Combo on a song, you won’t be rewarded with an S+ Rank if you get a lot of early or late notes. There is some leeway allowed in not hitting every note perfectly, but the margin for error is razor-thin. I’d say you’d need to hit at least 99% of your notes with a Perfect if you want the highest rank. It even makes getting S+ Ranks on Normal Mode songs a sweat-inducing prospect, never mind Hard or Expert Modes.

Overall, the rhythm gameplay seen here is quite solid and as addicting as one would hope. My poor fingers have been twisted into pretzels trying to go for high scores on higher difficulties.

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle - Music Player

Azure Striker Anthems

Songs from both the main Azure Striker Gunvolt trilogy and the Luminous Avenger titles are featured prominently here. From the iconic Reincarnation and Indigo Destiny to newer songs like Command Prompt and Ergo Sum, it’s got you covered. There’s even a Music Player mode complete with fully translated lyrics for every song. The music in Gunvolt is one of its most important avenues for expressing the story, so this is great for those who want to squeeze more emotional juice out of the series.

However, this is also where Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle’s biggest issue lies. The songs are great, but there’s only a paltry fifteen in the base game. The game stretches this a bit by having both short and long versions of every song available, but that doesn’t change the fact that there just isn’t much here. There is one DLC pack available and will be more in the future, but this doesn’t really mitigate how little there is of the game to enjoy right now. It’s a shame because the gameplay truly is great, you’re just not going to have much of it.

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle - Full combo

The lack of any other modes besides rhythm gameplay and watching music videos means there’s not terribly much in general to be found here. There’s surprisingly no story mode or campaign, and there’s no bonus content to uncover either. Considering this is a celebratory rhythm game, I at least would have liked to see some dialogue between the Divas prominently featured in it. Unfortunately, what you see is what you get here, and you’re out of luck if you feel that it just isn’t enough. 

Nostalgic Blue Notes

With each song featured in Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle comes a PV to match. These PVs can be either elaborate dance CGs or compilation clips taken from every game featured. 

Compared to the likes of Hatsune Miku, the dance PVs are definitely not winning any awards. They’re not all that distinguished from one another and kind of give off the vibe of being shot by an indie studio. There is a certain charm in that, I suppose, but I would be hard-pressed to say that I really remember them all that well. This is the first time any Gunvolt characters have been depicted in 3D, and the divas all look great, I just wish their dances had more pomp to them.

I also wish there was an option to swap out costumes for the characters as well. Lola and Lumen in particular have had several designs over the years, some of which are even shown in the PVs. But there’s no option available to customize them on the menu or for results screens, when I feel there really should have been.

On the other hand, the AMV-like video compilations feel like more celebratory montages propping up each game featured. Spoilers beware for rhythm game fans who know nothing about Gunvolt: nearly every boss, big story beat, and climax is shown throughout these videos. Combined with the excellent music and fun rhythm gameplay, I’m reminded of why I got so invested in Gunvolt to begin with. It’s hard not to get swept right back up in the emotion of it all. For a moment, it even made me wonder if I cared about Gunvolt 3’s story more than I really do. That alone speaks to the series’ consistently excellent music and imagery.

Verdict

Gunvolt Records: Cychronicle is a rhythmic walk across memory lane. Because of the generally low amounts of content on offer, I would say that this game is best enjoyed by Gunvolt fans rather than general rhythm game players. With gratifying and intense rhythm gameplay coupled with a loving look into the series’ history up to this point, it can satisfy the cravings of diehard fans quite easily. At its best, it serves as a good reminder of why I liked the series to begin with. Meanwhile, at its worst, it’s still a perfectly decent rhythm game that falls short on things to see and do. Inti Creates’ first foray into the rhythm game genre gets a thumbs up from me.

WAIT FOR SALE ON GUNVOLT RECORDS: CYCHRONICLE

Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4|5

If you would like to see more rhythm games, you may be interested in our review of DEEMO -Reborn- or Space Channel 5 VR.

Many thanks go to Inti Creates for a Nintendo Switch review code for this title.

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