Guilty Gear X2 Review

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Publisher: Sammy Entertainment
Developer: ARC System Works

Platform: PlayStation 2
Reviewed on PlayStation 2

The latest installment in the 2D fighting genre is Guilty Gear X2 from Arc System Works and Sammy Studios. Borrowing from the success of their Dreamcast/PlayStation 2/Arcade hit Guilty Gear X and updated with more attacks, characters, and gameplay modes, GGX2 makes all the correct moves for a sequel. It seems then that the question that begs asking before buying is not "Is this a good game?" but instead "Do I like this kind of game?".

Carrie Gouskos

Even in company as prestigious as Capcom and SNK, Arc System has again ventured into the world of 2D fighting and emerged with a title that belongs on any fighter fan's shelf. Guilty Gear X2 is not much different from its previous incarnation or the assortment of titles that it clearly pays homage to, but it captures the essence of a great 2D fighter with just as much technique and a little more style.

The story (mostly unimportant) tells of a race of biological weapons called "gears" (a synchronism that makes us wonder what on earth the Japanese translation of gear is) that were created in the 22nd century when all independent thought had been abolished. One miraculously free thinking gear named Justice empowers a group of gears to wipe out the entire human race. In the battle of independent thought versus the human race, it's not entirely clear who we're supposed to be rooting for. At some point Justice is seemingly defeated, leaving all of his gears leaderless, confused and alienated, which certainly explains a lot about some of these characters. (How about a fighter who's a boy raised as a Catholic schoolgirl named Bridget with a deadly yo-yo for confusion and alienation?) There are some other twists to the back-story, but it is mostly unimportant.

Gameplay can venture into a variety of styles, but most modes are the traditional types of play found in fighting games. In Training, skills can be practiced under any set of conditions (allowing you to practice all of the more difficult moves) with any character, which is probably necessary, unless you're a GGX prodigy. Arcade is the staple gameplay mode where your time will be spent uncovering the endings to the various characters' stories. Versus CPU and 2P are readily available as well. For a change of pace there is M.O.M. – we think it doesn't stand for Milk of Magnesia, although there's no indication otherwise – which is a survival mode where players earn medals based on how they fare in battle. There is also a conventional Survival mode to appease traditionalists. Mission mode offers specific objectives for given levels and provides the most radical change of pace. Lastly, if you're interested in character interaction and alternate endings, they are revealed within the Story mode. Although interesting to a point, the story is nowhere near as riveting as the actual gameplay.

Who Are These Guys?

As typical as their rivalries may be, the characters themselves are extremely intriguing and are what makes this game unique. Each one has such a stylized personality and such a unique array of attacks that you'll want to play with each character at least once. Faust is a "doctor" who wears a paper bag on his head and relies on the art of shape shifting. Even though he looks menacing, many of his attacks are done humorously. Not all characters provide comic relief. The character Zappa, for example, has "through bad luck" been possessed by a demon spirit. The demon chooses to reveal himself by contorting Zappa and attacking through the arch of his back. An interesting thing to note is that the demon possessor of Zappa is named S-ko which is an homage to the character Sadako from the Japanese cult horror movie The Ring. Each one of the 20 characters offers a different mixture of humor and horror, oddity and intrigue. Very quickly, players will discover their own favorite characters – just be sure not to miss the superlative Eddie and Chip Zanuff.

True to form, the characters in Guilty Gear X2 act as strangely as they look. Faust's quarter circle forward/punch attack yields any number of random rewards, such as health-providing pastry pickups, exploding objects, or most notably a miniature version of Faust himself which floats down from the sky via a balloon, runs over to the opponent, and promptly explodes. In another move – one of the downright weirdest attacks we've ever seen in a video game – he disappears beneath a cape on the ground, pops up halfway across the screen in the shape of a door, and slams it in the opponent's face. Not all of these attacks are quite so random, however, as many correlate directly to the character's theme and disposition. The witch/rockstar I-no, who rides her guitar like a broomstick, has threatening musical note and amp attacks, and the tiny pirate May summons a legion of dolphin partners to help thwart enemies. All this comes across very well – the people at Arc System have created a uniquely entertaining and comedic world, with the emphasis on comedic. There is much to laugh at while exploring the ins and outs of each character.

And Not a Hair Out of Place

The fighting system is based on simple standardized attacks: punch, kick, slash, and heavy slash. GGX2 also includes the Dust maneuver (R1 by default), which executes spins and sweep moves that render opponents defenseless against further attacks. These work particularly well with the more complicated special moves and combos. For example, the Psych Burst (as determined by the Burst meter) can be used to change the way the match is going at any time by automatically countering various combos and heavy hitting moves. Other equalizers in GGX2 include negative penalties if a player is behaving too passively and situation-specific attacks such as the dead angle attack or the gatling combo.

The Guard and Tension gauges add yet another dimension to the diverse gameplay. These fill up as you use blocks and dash moves, respectively, and are used to execute extremely difficult but fatal combos such as the Overdrive Attacks, Roman Cancels, and Instant Kills. All of these moves are extremely rewarding but require significant skill to pull off consistently. Even the most basic moves are carefully arranged, balanced, and assigned to each character. The very heart of this game, and what makes it truly excel, is the complete catalog of movement, the ease with which the moves are executed, and the precision of the fighting system.

The most noticeable technical flaw in the move system is that at times it is so fast paced and the move sets so atypical that it is difficult to tell where an attack is coming from. Most people will find themselves so immersed in the flow of gameplay that they aren't bothered, but it's sure to be daunting for those new to the game and to the genre.

Despite the occasionally confusing animations, there's no denying that the majority of the game's visuals are impressive. The characters are flashy, colorful, and stylistic. Playing the game feels like being in an interactive anime, as though at any given moment the characters could take leave of your control and wander off into another world. In fact, many of the characters look and behave like popular anime characters.

If this is comforting and appealing to fans of Japanese animation, then it is equally alienating for people who don't care for that art style. If you don't like animation in any format and are searching for a fully realistic fighting game, then Guilty Gear X2 is not for you. If gameplay supercedes style as far as you're concerned, Guilty Gear has much to offer. While the quality of the gameplay is deeply rooted in the stylistic look of the game, it is not swallowed by it.

Unfortunately, Guilty Gear X2 still suffers from one of the gripes about its predecessor. It is an extremely difficult game, especially for casual fans of the fighting genre. Ultimately, it does not revolve around mashing buttons, although you can successfully make a tiny bit of headway by doing so. The fact that it's so difficult early on is going to be daunting for many people, and it gets exponentially more complex. However, if the game interests you both fundamentally and stylistically, you'll soon find that the game's intricacies are its strong suit, elevating GGX2 above the conventional 2D fighting game. If the difficulty and style aren't instantly appealing, then you may want to rent this game first just to make sure that it's up your alley. When all is said and done this game is worth picking up just to see the interesting and diverse characters and to enjoy the quirky and unique move sets. If you truly enjoy fighting games and are looking for a challenge, this is a must have for your collection.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on February 17, 2003 6:11 PM.

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