Guilt to last.
Dearest reader, do not adjust your resolution - the screenshots you're seeing on this page are real and unaltered. It may have been a while since you last played a 2D fighter, but Sammy and Arc System Works are keeping old traditions alive with the newest episode of the Guilty Gear franchise, Guilty Gear Isuka.
For those unfamiliar with the series, the story goes something like this: in order to better the world, certain humans called have been infused with a powerful energy form known as "Magic" (you know, like this) to become uber-freaks called Gears. But like many a Frankenstein experiment, some of the Gears have turned on their controllers and now fight only for themselves. So what does that mean? It's 2D tournament time, baby!
Guilty Gear Isuka sports a cast of approximately 20 unique characters. All of your favorite fighters from Guilty Gear X2 are here, including Sol and Ky, with a few new guys along for the ride.
But if you were expecting the same old brawl, you're in for a big surprise. Isuka's claim to fame rests on the new ability to play with four players simultaneously (provided you own a Multi-tap). Go 3 on 1, 2 on 2 or just leave every man for himself in an all out Battle Royale.
While this feature sounds great on paper, the execution isn't exactly stellar. Isuka tries to compensate for the increased number of players by having multi-tiered levels with players in both the background and foreground, similar to Onimusha: Blade Warriors. This would have been fine were it not for Isuka's naturally explosive personality.
Marginally decent players have access to a variety of projectiles, explosives and other flashy ways to make opponents real dead. With four players on screen at once, chaos reigns, and with all that's going on, it can be tough to keep track of your fighter. Guilty Gear Isuka runs very quickly and can go from fast-paced to out-of-control in no time. For instance, fighters in the background can become obscured by those in front, a real buzz kill.
The control has undergone a few changes to accommodate for the newfound ability to run with four players simultaneously. You'll need to press R1 to change direction, and you'll constantly be doing so order to correctly track your enemies. While this isn't much of a problem in a 1 on 1 match, it's a pretty serious issue when you increase the number of fighters; you'll be changing directions like a madman and it's all too easy to get beat down for facing the wrong way. Most players will get used to it, but regardless, it's annoying and uncomfortable. A "target opponent' feature would have been much more helpful, since you'd always be facing at least someone.
Analog stick fanatics will also find it interesting that Isuka is strictly D-pad control only. It isn't a major problem, but arcade purists may feel that control is a little less precise than it could be.
Even though the four-player game doesn't pan out as well as we hoped, the standard play is still as good as ever. A Training mode has been included to help you learn exactly how to unleash your character's full potential in battle, which is realized in the game's basic Arcade and Vs. modes. Guilty Gear Isuka is more of a button-masher than a combo-fest, although like any fighting game, learning the intricacies of the unique move sets is the best way to improve. The action is fast and furious and will satiate those hungry for a decent 2D fight.
Guilty Gear fans will be pleased at the return of Robo-Ky mode. Dubbed Robo-Ky II, this new version allows you to take the experience you earn in other modes and use it to customize your very own robotic version of our pal Ky-Kiske. Increase stats such as speed and strength and customize moves to create the ultimate fighting specimen. It has the potential to suck you in for a few solid hours, but that greatly depends on how big of a Guilty Gear fan you are. Most players will probably have a taste and promptly get back to the main course.
Another new mode is GG Boost mode. While its name implies some kind of turbo fighting mania, Boost mode is actually a side scrolling fighter reminiscent of Final Fight. Take on groups of enemies alone or with a friend and defeat the boss in the allotted time to advance. It's a nice diversion, though not exactly thrilling.
As expected, Isuka continues Guilty Gear's tradition of solid visuals. The anime-inspired super soldiers all look great, mostly identical to past Guilty Gear games. The fighting areas are interesting, bright and colorful without too many moving parts to distract you from the action. The audio rocks out with the typical upbeat selections of metal tracks, which fits the insane action.
For fans of the series, Guilty Gear Isuka is simply another good chapter in their favorite book. While the multiplayer fighting system is flawed, the solid gameplay is largely unchanged and the extra modes add a nice dash of variety. Guilty Gear Isuka won't necessarily win any new fans, but it manages to offer 2D fighting groupies a pretty good match.