"Heaven or Hell? Whatís it going to be, pal? Youíve got thirty seconds to choose. You going to go the good-natured paladin, or are you going to go with that flame-spouting anti-hero? How about the woman with the sentient hair? No? What about that aristocratic vampire? Not your style, eh? How about the swashbuckling womanizer, or the prepubescent pirate girl thatís pining after him? That veiled assassin with the pool cue looks like fun, too. Look at that ten-foot monster draped in a doctors coat, ..."
Heaven or Hell? Whatís it going to be, pal? Youíve got thirty seconds to choose. You going to go the good-natured paladin, or are you going to go with that flame-spouting anti-hero? How about the woman with the sentient hair? No? What about that aristocratic vampire? Not your style, eh? How about the swashbuckling womanizer, or the prepubescent pirate girl thatís pining after him? That veiled assassin with the pool cue looks like fun, too. Look at that ten-foot monster draped in a doctors coat, or that wannabe ninja dude with the blade strapped to his arm. By the way, that yoyo-wielding bounty hunter isnít a girl, so you might want to stop drooling over his feminine looksÖor not. Thatís your business. The point is, youíve got to choose. Is it so hard? Quit staring and leave everything you know about 2D fighters behind. You arenít playing Street Fighter II anymore. This is a Guilty Gear game.
Thatís right, folks. Just when you thought fighting games were getting stale, Guilty Gear is back. Donít get your hopes up, though; Guilty Gear XX Accent Core isnít entirely a new game. Instead, itís yet another update of Guilty Gear X2. Thatís not a bad thing, by the way. X2 remains one of the greatest 2D fighters of its time, and Accent Core just makes things even better. Sure, the Story Mode and all of the pre-fight dialogues have been cut, but itís not like any of it really mattered anyway. Instead, youíll be treated to a regular Arcade Mode boasting over twenty playable fighters. While X2 veterans may mourn the lack of the characters Justice and Kliff in this version, fans of XX Slash and Isuka may be glad to see that Holy Order Sol and A.B.A from the respective titles. With so many fighters and diverse playing styles to choose from, youíll have plenty of opportunities to kick some ass.
At first glance, it doesnít look like much has changed. Accent Core retains much of what made the first version of X2 so awesome. Each character still comes packing a wide variety of punches, kicks, slashes, thrusts, and whatever weird weapons they might be wielding. Since the combat mechanics are centered around linking different attacks together into various combos, you might want to spend some time learning what moves tend to flow better into the next and what strategies work best in a given situation. There are no Sonic Booms or Burning Knuckles to be slung here; thanks to a wide variety of Control Stick maneuvers, button commands, and energy meters a la older 2D fighters, you can scald your foes in a wave of flames, smash them into the sides of the arena, summon sea animals, demonic deities, and teddy bears to do your bidding, set up a flurry of supercharged Billiards balls, and even launch them skyward for some awesome midair combo action. Thatís on top of all the Instant Kill moves you can perform; watching Slayer uppercut someone into the stratosphere and utter a haiku never gets old.
While this sounds like business as usual for the last few Guilty Gear games, veterans will notice the changes once they start picking their favorite character and attempt to use the tactics they developed. Many of the fightersí movesets and powers have been altered to balance out the gameplay. All of the characters have brand new moves to supplement their old techniques, allowing for plenty more combos and strategies. The more important changes, however, are a bit subtler. Air-dashing, Faultless Defense, Roman Canceling combos, and other basic techniques are still intact. But now youíll be able to Instant Block (Street Fighter III fans might liken it to Parrying), pull off Force Break special attacks, and even escape from certain throws. Youíre going to need it all, too; unlike the average default setting in X2, the difficulty level in Accent Core starts off as moderately challenging and careens into jaw-dropping insanity by the time you reach the last few fights. The AI uses of the charactersí moves, making for some truly intense battles.
So what does all this terminology/mumbo jumbo really mean? It means that regular gamers have plenty of cool moves to try out, and competitive players will have tons of techniques and strategies to master. Fans of the older versions need not despair, however; you can unlock previous versions of each character, complete with their unaltered movesets. But instead of being able to play them from the start, youíll have to unlock them (and their respective pictures in the Art Gallery) by trying the gameís different modes or playing for a set number of hours. While the Medal of Millionaire challenge is essentially tests your ability to get high scores, veterans will likely spend their time crusading through the Survival Mode. As you crush foe after ever-tougher foe, youíll eventually come across alternate versions of regular characters thatíll be unlocked upon their defeat. But if youíre a complete newcomer (or if you havenít played since X2, like yours truly) the gameís extensive Practice Mode is an excellent feature. Between modifying your offensive and defensive power, recording your opponentís movements, and tweaking just about every feature possible, youíll be in fighting shape in no time.
Of course, some of you will be too distracted by the eye candy to train well. Nearly all of the old backgrounds have been completely replaced with even crazier stuff than before. Youíll see combatants clashing swords in the middle of a downpour, amidst the mangled, flaming ruins of castle, or even in the inner recesses of a candlelit cathedral. Or if you prefer something a bit more dramatic, you can fight along the shores of Hell, with a seemingly endless sea of blood and decrepit towers for the setting of your duel. If you want something a bit less demonic, the lavender harbors of Babylon, and the lush Fairy Forest might be up your alley. Besides, there are few things more engrossing than fighting a samurai while Japanese lanterns and cherry blossoms drift around you. While the backgrounds may be stunning (even for a Guilty Gear game), the characters themselves havenít changed at all. Kyís sword still sizzles with blue electricity, Zappa still bends over backward to fight, and Slayer is still smoking his pipe like thereís no tomorrow. The paper bag on Faustís head hasnít gone anywhere, either. Supposedly straight men will still fawn over Bridgetís cutesy looks long before they realize his true identity. But hey, the weirdness of these characters is half the fun, right?
Okay, bottom line: Get this game. If youíre a newcomer to the series and have been curious as to what everyoneís raving about, give this a shot. The AI may be brutal in later levels, but the learning curve and well-crafted Practice Mode will serve you well. To all of you that play competitively, Iíd be surprised you havenít already gotten this. That goes double for anyone that has an inkling of interest in fighting games. Between all the new technical stuff, the new movesets, older character versions, and the absence of all the glitches that plagues the Japanese version, youíve got one of the best 2D fighters ever seen on the PS2. With a truckload of fighters, combos, techniques, and challenges to reckon with, Accent Core is easily the best update of a game that Guilty Gear fans know all too well.
Featured community review by disco (October 10, 2007)
Disco is a San Francisco Bay Area native, whose gaming repertoire spans nearly three decades and hundreds of titles. He loves fighting games, traveling the world, learning new things, writing, photography, and tea. Not necessarily in that order.
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