Guilty Gear XX #Reload (PSP) review
"Borrowing the best elements from many of its contemporaries, #Reload's own brand of one-on-one violence feels every bit as familiar as its port status may suggest. From the now standard projectile attacks to a dozen, quick-off-the-wrist dragon punches, the game presents itself as a beautiful, amalgamation of the genre's best. Even the high flying combo strikes of Marvel vs Capcom get a look in, asking players to juggle their opponents way up the screen as the various, cartoon-esque backdrops erupt into flames."
Putting aside the PSP's lack of original content, Sammy's Guilty Gear XX #Reload really hits the spot. Long considered to be the true successor of Capcom's prestigious, one-on-one legacy, its trademark technique and rich visuals seem a perfect fit for Sony's handheld wonder. After all, there's something to be said for the way Sol Badguy, Ky, and the rest of the team trade blows, double jumping and dashing their way through blasts of kinetic friction. Should it worry me that such, technically beautiful action was last seen on the Playstation 2? Perhaps, but I'm still having the time of my life...
Heaven or Hell?
If Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo was the ultimate evolution of Capcom's perennial series, #Reload must be the Guilty Gear equivalent. Starting life with a distinct, heavy metal theme, Sammy's classic defines its characters through an even mix of science fiction and the occult. Zappa, a possessed human male for instance, fights while twisted over backwards, his limbs constantly hanging in a dead, almost lifeless fashion. Dr Faust on the other hand, gets his freak on with an over-sized scalpel, teleporting to and fro like a madman on heat. And that my friends, is just the beginning. With 21 different characters to choose from, and a veritable mosh pit of styles, #Reload's quality seems assured.
Unlike its controls...
After the much loved, though critically panned Vampire Chronicles, Guilty Gear fans were rightly expecting #Reload to suffer a similar fate. Good news everybody, that didn't happen! Whereby Capcom's launch day fighter forced players to perform each and every move flawlessly, Sammy's effort melds the genre's need for precision with a welcome sense of forgiveness. A quarter circle initiated a fraction too early, or completed a tad too late, still has the desired effect. And so long as you don't foul up the move completely, you'll be kicking arse with the best of them.
But how does it play?
Borrowing the best elements from many of its contemporaries, #Reload's own brand of one-on-one violence feels every bit as familiar as its port status may suggest. From the now standard projectile attacks to a dozen, quick-off-the-wrist dragon punches, the game presents itself as a beautiful, amalgamation of the genre's best. Even the high flying combo strikes of Marvel vs Capcom get a look in, asking players to juggle their opponents way up the screen as the various, cartoon-esque backdrops erupt into flames. The higher you go, the more intense the heat seems, the harder you'll push.
Now, that's not to say that #Reload is totally bereft of new ideas, it just picks its moments carefully. Take for example the way Sammy have introduced the one hit kill, a cleverly designed system that allows for instant victory at the cost of absolute vulnerability. Charging the attack leaves your character defenceless for a few precious seconds, time it correctly however, and your opponent won't know what hit them. And though the concept seems ridiculously cheap on paper, its execution adds an interesting new depth of strategy to the classic, fast paced action.
Before I get too carried away however, it's probably time to throw some well deserved venom at #Reload's own, I-No. Serving as the title's final boss, this rabid vixen's intensity may be too much for most to bear. Dressed in red leather and sporting what can only be described as "Satan's electric guitar", I-No invariably opens a can whoop-arse that can only be stymied with one of the aforementioned, one hit kills. And while such an opponent clearly forces players to "learn the ropes", I've been left to wonder why the difficulty had to spike as much as it did. To be completely honest, I-No's presence feels unbalanced at best, and actually detracts from the overall experience...
... or maybe I just suck arse. I'm willing to concede that as well.
Either way, there's no denying that #Reload feels complete. Every stage, every game mode, every screen shaking special effect has survived the translation from home to go, earning the package some seriously impressive, street cred. The deliciously detailed backdrops literally come alive on the PSP's LCD display, offering a visual tour de force that's only tempered by each character's individual animations. Blocked attacks generate a streak of blue-ish lightning while dust clouds erupt from the ground as combatants take to the air. A successful sword strike then rewards players with an exaggerated rush of blood, and suddenly it's on for young and old.
But as good as it gets, should #Reload's port status bother you? Not in the slightest. Sure, a few tweaks here and there wouldn't have gone astray, but having taken the soft option, Sammy have compensated players with a reduced price point that's hard to ignore. At a mere 3,500 yen, Guilty Gear XX #Reload represents incredible value for money, and earns itself a position as the PSP's first, must have budget release. For that price, you can expect one of the most authentic, arcade experiences the system has to offer. Guilty Gear XX #Reload does nothing new, but it's still one of the most enjoyable fighters around...
* #Reload is a frame for frame, screen for screen, perfect port
* 21 fighters ensure some much needed variety
* Sammy have ensured that each of the combatants has personality to spare
* The controls are without equal on a portable
* One hit kills, air juggles, super attacks. There's much to learn
* Much of the action feels right
* Multiplayer modes are fully supported
* Mission mode provides hours of entertainment
* This port looks as good on the PSP as it did on the PS2
* An incredible soundtrack keeps the fire alive
* Guilty Gear XX #Reload doesn't offer veterans anything new
* I don't care what you say, the end of game boss I-No redefines cheap
Staff review by Michael Scott (October 11, 2005)
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