"Heaven or Hell? "
Heaven or Hell?
The Guilty Gear series was never too famous among the larger crowd who grew up on fighters such as Street Fighter, King of Fighters, DarkStalkers, or the more brutal, Mortal Kombat series, a grouping that also included myself. And while I did play every single Guilty Gear up to date, I can never say that I was as attached to the game as I was to the previously mentioned titles. Everything about the game seemed just... so different, so bizarre. It was much like after reading a very generic novel where you know exactly who is who and what is what, you are presented by something that came out of Lewis Carrol's head, something distorted, something unrealistic, something elusive.
Those would be the words that explain the world of Guilty Gear perfectly. Different, but different in a good sense of words, or does the attempts of originality become the cause of failure? No... in this scenario, GGXX did everything perfectly.
While the original Guilty Gear was not exactly accepted with unrestrained enthusiasm by the public due to its insane balance issues, things started to change with Guilty Gear X. New characters were introduced, the fighting dynamics became much more polished and the plot became an experience rather then a chore -- an aspect that is forgettable in most fighting game was enhanced to impressive levels -- and all in all it seemed that like a phoenix rising from its ashes. The sequel went a long way towards fixed the originals flaws.
And then came this game, called Guilty Gear X2. And from this point onward, words that will not include praise are few and far between. The well-paced anime style intro leads us into the game itself.
When you go to the character selection screen, the first thing you will want to see are the characters that are at your disposal. Of course, as in the numerous games, the cursor usually stops on the main character of the story first. And there you will be greeted by a blue eyed, yellow haired fellow with a sacred feel to him, a character that one could easily suggest is the main character of the story. Next to him, a more ... rugged looking anti-hero. A thuggish brute, clad in red leather, and with a weapon that far more represents a club then it does a sword. On his headband you can clearly see the words "Rock you" imprinted, and the words "Free" engraved upon his belt. If the first character had a feeling of the main character, then this one certainly has the feel of the rival. However, as you will soon find out, in this game nothing is the way as it looks. Perhaps you do not want the generic feeling main characters, but hanker for something a little more...different?
Certainly - take your pick, because you will discover a character that will find its place in even the most demanding players heart. Perhaps you would like to choose Bridget? A generally-confused boy who uses a stuffed teddy bear and a yo-yo for offence? Or a 9 feet tall doctor that wears a plastic bag over his head, and fights with a massive sized scalpel that he likes to stab into ... some most painful places?
No dear reader; I have not gone mad. These characters actually exist, and they are just the tip of the iceberg. You have also on your roster a woman with a very talkative hat and an electric guitar for a weapon, who spews forth quotes of sexual innuendoes. Or perhaps you prefer a weak looking runt who happens to be home to numerous ghostly possessions, who moves across the screen on his hands and legs like some sort of a human-arachnid hybrid? And those characters are just a few from the huge and unique roster.
Still, an impressive cast is worthless unless the game delivers the mechanics for then to excel in. The gameplay in Guilty Gear X2 is impressive to say at the very least. Every character has a multitude of abilities, be they special moves or Overdrives -- a very powerful version of attack that if connected will take a huge chunk of enemy's life. On the lower part of the screen you will see your bar and the opponents bar. Each of these bars are filled as you attack, and enable you to execute moves that otherwise you cannot do. Being a very fast paced game, GGX2 will reward the ones that act with speed, rhythm, while punishing those that run away and tend to stay away from the opponent. So if you wish to execute the most powerful moves, you will always have to be on your toes, and always ready to launch in the offensive. Running away will sap the bar as quickly as an offensive attitude will fill it.
However, all of these you have seen in other fighting games, correct? How about this then. The idea of "Roman Cancel" certainly deserves the place of being original, and of being perhaps the asset that will draw the most people that consider themselves gurus of fighting games. What Roman Cancel does is take one part of the bar after you filled it, and cancels your attack in the middle of the animation, enabling you yet another chance to bring havoc upon your enemies. Let us take an example: your character rushes in at the opponent and starts a series of hits that combo together quite nicely. However, during the last attack it seems that you have made an attack that has a lagged on long enough for the enemy to counter attack or to move away. Not a problem! Execute the Roman Cancel technique, and you have a new opportunity to launch yet another series of attacks, by cancelling the lag animation.
Aside the famous Roman Cancels, there are also the new False Roman Cancels, an ability that is reserved for those that have mastered their characters already and know how each move of their picked out combatant works. It takes less of the bar, but also gives less time to execute a new string of attacks against your opponent. Also in the fray here, are the Burst Attacks, the High Angle attacks, and the Flawless defence manoeuvre. Each of them with it's own merits. The Burst Attack for example can cancel out your opponent's combo string, and get you out of a dangerous situation while replenishing your own "bar" needed for special attacks if you do it at the correct time. The Flawless Defence lessens the damage that you take down to zero, meaning that it even cancels the minuscule damage that you could take when defending. Just like everything else in this game, it drains the bar more and more that you use it.
Hopefully I've somewhat convinced you that Guilty Gear X2 virtuously wallows in its own sense of originality compared to most fighting games, so let us go to the part where the most frowns gather. GGX2 is a 2D fighter game, a genre thought by most to be obsolete. More fool them. The graphics exhibited are top notch - not flawless, but they certainly are close to it. Although the character animations are not as fluid as in, for instance, the next-gen Street Fighters, it is very, very close to it. Depending on the character you pick, you will see how much effort will was given in his creation. For instance, if you take the behemoth Potemkin, you will see each of the muscles on his torso flex and relax with each press of his massive fist. Of course, those that love the concept of anime in their games, will find themselves right on track with this title. Countless colours make some of the stages vibrant, with that "happy" attitude, while some of the stages that fit the more dark and brooding characters will make you feel depressive to the point where playing Alundra* will seem like a happy stroll in the park.
[*It's as good as fact that Alundra is the most depressing game ever invented, for those who do not know]
With the visually being so good, it's nice to note that the effort to make a great game doesn't stop there. Many players find that the strongest side of this game is the sound, but I'd suggest this depends on what you prefer the hear in a game. If you prefer rock/metal melodies, then you will again find this a most enjoyable soundtrack, since this game probably has the most musical references of any other fighting game -- or game in itself -- in existence. Strong, explosive metal music follows through the entire game, from the powerful drum beats to the extreme solos and explosive rifts on the electric guitars. Much of the games characters and stages are references to famous and not so famous metal/rock bands in existence. For instance, the main character was made as a tribute to the famous singer Freddie Mercury of the Queen fame, a vampire in the game is called Slayer as a tribute to the group Slayer as well, and even Eddie, the shadow demon who possesses the corpse of an assassin, as a tribute to the Iron Maiden's mascot of the same name - and those are just to name a few. In every character of this game you will find a music reference, be it their looks, their names, or their attacks.
Also worth noting is the plethora of other options you can select. Perhaps you feel rather masochistic at the moment, so you could try out the missions. The missions are a rather testing option which will give you an opponent to defeat who is vastly superior to you, granted with extra speed, a constantly full bar, or perhaps to be just much stronger then you. You on the other hand are always handicapped, and only a touch of skill and a generous dose of luck will lead you to victory.
Add to that the Survival option, in which you fight a wave after wave of opponents, ploughing through them in hopes that perhaps in the end you will reach the end (something that I am yet to see anyone do). By fighting in the Survival mode, you can also unlock special modes for your character which will enable them to get new moves, to be stronger, faster and have a special bar constantly full. It is also one of the methods with which you can try unlock the three hidden characters.
To round things up, I deliberately left the games plot. The story, an aspect that many find the least important in games such as this is once again a pleasant surprise. Each character has his or her own story path, which can branch in three different directions, leading to three different endings. Each battle has its reason, and before the battle starts you will always see -- with excellent voice acting, of which some of the VA's are known throughout the world for their anime roles -- an interaction between the two opposing characters, making the story for each character develop more and more with each encounter before the ending.
Really, never have I seen a fighting game this close to perfection, which while it has it's flaws (The graphics are still not as polished as it could be, the endings might have been done better, and other little nitpicks here and there), it's awfully close. So, I believe that the grade that I am giving it is a just one. In the end, there is but one last thing to say:
Community review by darketernal (February 21, 2005)
Occasional reviewer of random stuff.
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