Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- (PS3) ReviewMarc Morrison (December 26, 2014)Game: Guilty Gear Xrd –SIGN-
Players: 1-2 (local, online multiplayer)
Developer: Arc System Works Team Red
Publisher: Aksys Games
Rating: T for Teen
There are Guilty Gear fans out there and then there are Guilty Gear fans out there. I’m more a part of the former group, than the latter. I’ve only played Guilty Gear X2 on the PS2 and enjoyed the wonky character designs/play styles, but only half appreciated the esoteric fighting system. Since then, they’ve come out with several different iterations and sequels, but a lot of the lineage can seemingly be drawn back to X2, or even the original Guilty Gear. With Xrd they’ve attempted to bring the game into the next generation with some odd results.
First, this is an Arc System Works Games, or at least a division of it called “Team Red”. That entails what you might expect, a primarily four button fighting game, punch, kick, slash, and heavy slash button, along with a launcher/dust button. Also, not speaking fighting systems-wise, but as a product, it is almost exactly the same as King of Fighters 12 and 13. They redrew/updated the graphical style to amazing heights, but the roster suffered a bit along the way.
There are around 15 or so fighters in Xrd, which is on the low count. Of them, only 3 are new to the series, Elphelt, Bedman, and Ramlethal. Elephelt is a mid to long range character with her various guns. Bedman is tied to an actual hospital bed and has a weird gameplay mechanic of recording/playback his moves. If you do a special attack with him, an icon will appear on the screen, and if you do the opposite direction, a sand version will do the same thing. And finally there is Ramlethal, the boss character (who is also selectable), who wields two giant swords that can be fired and move about the level with commands.
The other cast of characters is what you would expect, Sol Bad Guy, Ky Kiske, May, Chipp, I-NO, Venom, Potemkin, etc. Some of the moves may have changed from X2, but they all play like they should. Venom throws out pool balls to shoot, Faust teleports around, etc. There are some notable omissions in the roster, characters like Dizzy, Bridget, Zappa. A few of these might be gone due to the overall story progression, but the roster does feel slimmed down compared to other games. You can also unlock Sin Kiske, either via paid DLC, or by an in-game store with money you win after beating the arcade.
As for the actual combat, along with the primary 4 button attack system, a lot of GG systems return. Dust Attacks, Burst Attacks, air-dashing, one-hit kills, etc. You can home in after you do a burst attack to open with a big air combo. There are two types of Burst attacks, the gold which refills your tension bar fully, and the blue, which is a combo-breaker, but doesn’t give you a tension refill.
Roman Cancels return, in red, yellow, and purple variants. The red one slows time down temporarily so you can get more attacks out. The yellow one is a feint/combo starter for if the initial move doesn’t hit. And finally the purple Roman Cancel lets you recover if you completely miss an attack to try to recover and slow time again. In addition, there are the usual other systems in the game like Instant Blocking, Faultless Defense, etc. One new thing (to me) is “Clash”, where if you and the enemy hit at just the right second, you enter “Danger Time” which lets you and the enemy deal more damage, but at the end of the time, whoever landed more hits wins.
There are the standard modes in the game, arcade, training, tutorial, challenge, mission, and “M.O.M.”. The M.O.M. is like a medal mode where you go up against CPU fighters and knock medals out of them. You can then buy gear and items to use against stronger opponents. It’s not particularly deep, and I think Ultimax’s dungeon mode did it slightly better, but it is a neat idea none the less. It’s at least something to do, compared to the story mode.
A friend didn’t like Persona 4 Ultimax’s story due to how little fighting you actually do. 85% of the story was just conversation scenes, and there were only about 18 or so actual fights. That is miles beyond what Xrd does. Here’s the thing, THERE IS NO FIGHTING IN THE STORY MODE!. Like, at all. It is just a 3 to 4 hour long cut scene with about 75% dialog scenes, and 25% anime-like movie sequences. You know what? It’s mostly all gorgeous looking, it has English voice acting, and there are some well-done scenes. But…you don’t do any fighting. Nothing. Not one match. It is the most baffling thing in this entire package. For one, the story of Guilty Gear, as a franchise, is nonsense. For two, the have characters only for like, a scene, and that is it. I literally think I-NO is there for 30 seconds, and that’s it. Thirdly, it’s 3 hours long, minimum. Street Fighter, which has a roster of way more beloved/popular characters, would have a hard time filing a 3 hour anime movie. Considering that most of the character’s in GG aren’t particularly well-known, it gives almost no motivations any of the characters. I question who thought this was a good idea.
There is also an online mode, that seems rather empty. The game supports lobbies of up to 64 players, but I’ve barely been able to find a lobby with 10 or more. The actual fighting online was reasonably decent, but with there not being a ton of people, from what I saw, it can be hard to find people to fight.
What is the big draw to Xrd then? If you’re a Guilty Gear fan, it’s an easy choice to make. For non-fans though the answer is still simple: the graphics. The game is stunning, and this is coming from someone who thought Ultimax was already gorgeous. For one, despite how it looks, it’s not actually a 2D game. The entire game is built in Unreal Engine and is 3D. Yes, for 99% of the game it is on a 2D plane, but during the Dust launcher, and for specific super attacks, the camera shifts and you realize it actually is all 3D. The instant kill moves are especially impressive, going full-on anime sequence-like, but still doing it all (apparently) in engine. It is a beautiful looking game, through and through.
Guilty Gear fighting is easy to pick up but hard to master
M.O.M. mode can keep you interested
The game is simply exquisite
The game can be hard to get into for new fans
The story mode has zero amount of fighting
Not a lot of people playing online
In some ways, Guilty Gear Xrd –SIGN- isn’t as good as other fighting games on the market. The online part is mostly empty, the roster seems a bit limited, and the story mode is bonkers. But, at present, it’s probably the best looking fighting game on the market. That alone might make it worth it, but the actual nuts and bolts are decent. It’s a bit overly cautious and doesn’t try to do anything new, but it is a solid enough entry if you’re looking for a solid 2D fighting game…even if it technically is in 3D.