A Guilty Pleasure.
Many gamers earnestly remember the early ’90s as the dawn of fighting games,
beginning with the breakthrough hit of Street Fighter 2. A new genre was
born from a dragon punch. Since then, some of us have stayed true to these roots,
conquering and mastering the intricacies and subtleties of each new 2D fighter.
Most, though, have grown weary. I mean there are only so many Super Hyper
Mega Alpha Eternal subtitles that one can stand. Right,
no matter which school you hail from, the world of 2D fighting is long overdue
for some shaking up, and the one to deliver the thunder kick to the groin of
the genre is Guilty Gear X2. This new one from Sammy Studios has an SNK
fighter feel, from the violent Samurai Showdown style weapons and blood
loss to the creative character designs and principal four button attacks (plus
a new fifth button for sweep attacks).
Nobody can accuse these characters of being boring. From the demon
rock musician, I-no, to the back broken zombie, Zappa, there is something unmistakably
Japanese in the extreme garishness of it all. The full list of 20 even includes
one girl that is actually a guy. So think twice before you stare.
A small qualm about the character select is that when you select your character,
you have no idea what color scheme you’ve chosen until you’ve actually entered
the fight. This ain’t a Barbie Dream House.
My favorite character, the doctor Faust, really personifies the quirkiness
of Guilty Gear X2. Not only is he as tall as the full height of the screen,
but Faust wears a paper bag over his head, because he might be bald, much to
the chagrin of May, the pirate girl who vehemently hates baldies. Strange doesn’t
begin to describe this guy. Faust can disappear in a flash, then from out of
nowhere, slam open a door right into his opponent’s face. And after he’s mopped
up everything, he flies off on an umbrella, Mary Poppins style. Let’s give it
up for the coolest victory animation ever.
Thankfully, there’s solid substance to back up the weird style. The strategy
behind the fighting feels concrete and sound, with a good variety of specials
and the proper system of checks and balances between the different blocks and
attacks. If you spend too much time blocking, your defense steadily become less
effective, as denoted by the ‘guard level’ gauge. There’s even a scoring penalty
for spending too much time cowering in the corner.
One notable detail is that some fighters can shoot out a temporary projectile that uses a two-part attack, a clever play on the stale fireball. For example, Bridget can shoot out a black ball, and then call it back as an explosive, virulent Teddy Bear.
are plenty of gameplay modes here, such as Arcade and single player Story modes,
Survival mode and a Mission challenge. There is also a Medal of Millionaires
mode, which combines the Survival mode with medals to earn for your skills.
And we can’t forget the requisite two-player Versus mode.
The stories branch and change depending on fight performance, but most of these stories are all over the place. There’s a plot behind it all, but its quickly lost in the quirkiness.
The Training mode is rather bare bones, especially with the way in which you
learn moves. Ideally, the most important selection from a Training mode’s pause
screen is a move list. But in Guilty Gear X2, the move list is all the
way at the bottom, so every time you want to learn another move, you must pause,
scroll, select the move list, and only then find a move. Every time you go through
this process, the list of moves resets back to the beginning. This all adds
up to plenty of time wasted scrolling.
From the overblown details of billowing dust clouds, explosive flames and
flashy lights to the picturesque watercolor environments, the game is a powerhouse
of 2D art. The coloring and animation have the glow of an anime and, if you
have a higher end video connection like S-video or Component cables, the crispness
of the line work is stunning. The character animations are beautifully drawn
and key-framed, but sometimes a few more frames of animation for some of the
characters could have made it look even silkier.
The Guilty Gear series revels in its metal influences with goofy, big
rock sounds and blaring guitar that actually complement the fights quite well.
Most people have different opinions on English versus Japanese vocals, but in
this case, the vocals have thankfully been left alone. The zany edge would have
been completely butchered in the translation.
Guilty Gear X2 doesn’t reinvent 2D fighting, but I haven’t had this
much fun with a classic fighter in a long time. Most hardcore fight aficionados
will likely already know where they stand with the series, but for everyone
else, Guilty Gear X2 has a good balance of sharp visuals, strategy and
quirkiness that will bring you back to the warm heart of 2D fighting.