When I asked Inti Creates producer and localisation specialist Matt Papa who his favourite Inti waifu was, he was initially hesitant to answer, saying it was a “REALLY hard question”.
I can understand that response; over the course of the Cover Game features and our previous exploration of Gal*Gun Double Peace, it’s become abundantly clear that not only is Inti Creates a company good at producing high-quality games inspired by classics of the past, it also has plenty of people on staff with a formidable talent for creating waifus.
“I’m gonna have to say Joule/Lumen from the Azure Striker Gunvolt series,” Papa finally decided. “Because she is just the cutest, sweetest character, she was a big part of the first game I ever worked on, her voice actress Megu Sakuragawa is an absolutely delightful person, and the list goes on.”
Joule and Lumen are important characters throughout both Azure Striker Gunvolt games; introduced in the very first level of the first game, they continue to play a central role in the main narrative of the series from that point onwards.
For those unfamiliar with the games, here’s the gist: Lumen, also known as “The Muse” (or “Cyber-Diva” in the original Japanese script) is initially believed to be a Septimal Adept — the equivalent of a superpowered individual in the world of Gunvolt — with her songs carrying considerable psychic power. The obligatory Evil Corporation, Sumeragi, is, at the outset of the game, attempting to make use of her abilities for their own dastardly ends, so Gunvolt is initially dispatched to assassinate her and put a stop to all that nonsense.
As you might expect, things aren’t quite as simple as they appear; it’s revealed that Lumen is not quite an “individual” in her own right, but is instead a Septimal projection of a young girl named Joule, often manifesting herself as a means for Joule to express her feelings when she doesn’t feel able to do so in her own words. With this complication in mind, Gunvolt refuses to kill her, instead amicably “defecting” from the organisation he was a member of and swearing to protect this fragile young girl from further harm as he attempts to get to the bottom of what is going on and why she — and/or Lumen — is so important.
Throughout Azure Striker Gunvolt, we’re given the opportunity to spend time with both Joule and Lumen, though the two share a tight bond with one another for obvious reasons. In particular, Lumen has a habit of coming out and being rather bluntly honest about things when Joule seems to be unwilling or unable to say what’s on her mind; this becomes particularly apparent as Joule’s feelings for Gunvolt grow.
And then… something happens which I won’t spoil. Suffice to say that the ultimate outcome of said “something” is that in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, Lumen finds herself with rather weakened powers (and in adorably cute child-like form instead of her rather curvaceous normal appearance) and reliant on Gunvolt once again to track down the new villains of the piece and help get her back to full strength.
In Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, Lumen has a much more prominent role, following Gunvolt along on his missions and offering her own particular brand of commentary on what is going on. It’s during these sequences that she’s at her most appealing; by turns sassy, sarcastic and rather jealous of the other important women in Gunvolt’s life, Lumen is always there to brighten things up, even as the story’s tone and themes get rather dark.
She’s important from a mechanical perspective in both games, too; for one thing, scoring over a thousand “Kudos” points without banking or losing them causes Lumen to start singing, replacing the current stage’s music with some thumping J-pop and amplifying Gunvolt’s effectiveness in the process. But just as importantly — perhaps more so for those new to the game — taking the time to talk to Joule between missions makes it more likely that Lumen will sing an “Anthem” if Gunvolt is defeated, saving him from death once and providing him with considerably boosted abilities until the end of the stage. This latter aspect is explored further during the first game’s “true” final boss encounter in ways I’ll leave you to discover for yourself.
Joule and Lumen both have distinct, recognisable appearances that make their connection with one another clear, but also emphasise the fact that there are differences between them. Joule dresses rather conservatively and sports messy purple hair, for example while Lumen has an elaborate “idol-style” outfit and immaculately styled hair clearly inspired by “real world” cyber-diva Hatsune Miku. Both have extremely gentle, kind expressions on their faces at all times, though, and both clearly carry a rather large torch for Gunvolt right from the early stages of their relationship.
There’s no “conflict” between the two in this regard, though, since they understand how they relate to one another better than anyone; although markedly different from each other in terms of personality, Lumen is pretty up front about the fact that she says many of the things she does because Joule “can’t” — up to and including embarrassing truths like the fact Joule spends a lot of her free time writing songs all about Gunvolt. In other words, both of them understand that, while separate and distinct from one another in some ways, they are actually simply two different aspects of the same “person”, with each only wanting the best for the other.
Of course, it’s even more complicated than all this might suggest, as is explored over the course of Azure Striker Gunvolt 2’s narrative and true finale… but to say too much about all that would spoil all the fun, wouldn’t it?
Suffice to say for now, then, that both Joule and Lumen are real highlights of the Gunvolt experience, each helping to take the edge off the narrative’s overall “darkness” in their own unique way. And if you don’t come away from these games feeling something for one or both of them… well, go play them again and pay more attention to your Muse!
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