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Guilty Gear Xrd Sign: The Canned Laser Review

guilty-gear-xrd-sign

There are huge expectations for Arc System Works latest version of Guilty Gear, on PS3/PS4/PC. If we look all the way back to the early 2000’s when Guilty Gear X came out on Dreamcast and PS2, we see that most entries in the franchise have revolved around that core game. Even Guilty Gear X2 played as an update. It was an awesome upgrade and arguably a contender for all-time best fighting game. But every iteration since has been heavily based on X2, “The Midnight Carnival.” And there were many versions that carried us out of the PS2/Xbox era through the 360/PS3 era. Sharper Reload, Accent Core, Accent Core Plus, and Accent Core Plus R are all variants on the same game. While these games have been awesome they have been relatively frozen in time. After all, we’ve been playing on 4:3 cutoff screens for over 10 years at this point. So how does Xrd stack up to previous classics? Lets delve into it shall we.

 

Graphics

The first thing that stands out is the beauty of Guilty Gear Xrd Sign. The Unreal 3 Engine is used masterfully to replace the hand drawn sprites of previous Guilty Gear games in favor of cell-shaded full 3D and HD characters. It’s still a 2D fighting game although you will see some transferring between 2D and 3D on Overdrive and Instant KIll moves. Some backgrounds are inconsistent with the graphical styling between 2D and 3D objects but it’s not too bad. The real eye-popping visuals are the characters themselves after all. The colors are incredibly vibrant and clear and the character design is almost flawless  Every character has some form of incorporated redesign. It could be a hat, it could be their weapon, it could even be their pants or lack of pants. Suffice to say, the classic designs for some characters are better. However, the overall appearance of the characters in all their cell-shaded HD glory is enough to make up for some minor disappointments on a couple characters. Unless you’re a Potemkin fan. In that case I’m sorry.

 

potemkin

 

Controls

It’s classic Guilty Gear. Nothing is watered down. It’s intuitive and dynamic. All the stuff you expect from this series that makes it great like the Tension Gauge, Roman Cancels, Dust Attacks, Overdrives, and Instant Kills are all there. The animations are stellar. The characters look good doing the moves you may remember if you played back in the day or if you never stopped in my case. The only slight complaint I have and this may be on the player, is that the new 3D animations on Overdrive attacks throws off the timing a little from what you were used to. Sometimes in X2 or it’s variants you’d deploy two Overdrives consecutively, emptying your Tension Gauge with no problems. Now there is a mandatory animation between them. But there may be a workaround timing-wise that I haven’t found yet. Also the timing for deploying a counter Overdrive is off as a result as well. Your opponent’s animation starts and it’s unclear when you can counter with your own Overdrive. I accomplished this once in 50 or so tries. It used to be no big deal. The game feels a little slower over-all, but that has the effect of feeling more in control. So I like the trade-off. Timing varies from character to character, you just have to practice, practice, practice, to become dominant.

 

Story

There are two story-centric modes: the original Arcade Mode and Story Mode. The Story Mode is a continuation of the Arcade Mode’s story for each character. Without really delving into Story Mode and completing 50% of Arcade I can really tell that a concerted effort was made to have a comprehensive and cohesive plot, which was not always thought out in previous iterations. Especially since this is a re-introduction of Guilty Gear to many new fans, it was nice to see the effort in this area. I look forward to completing the rest of it. The only criticism and this really goes for any fighting game, is the lack of variation in endings. Story Mode may rectify this if I delve deeper into it. But so far it seems like a nice balance between the different characters’ arcs.

 

Conclusion

So the game is beautiful. It’s the reemergence of a beloved franchise. It’s a game for my next-gen console. Why am I sore? Well, this game feels incomplete. Don’t get me wrong, I will be playing the bejeezus out of this game. But there are some things that irk me. For one the roster. Only 12 characters from the 23 character roster of X2 return. Major names like Johnny, Jam, Testament, Dizzy, and many more are nowhere in sight. The new characters are hit or miss. I still don’t really know what Bedman is about. Ramlethal is cool. But it seems like a setup for DLC and future micro-transactions a la Capcom. I will hate that. It’s bad enough there will be the obligatory Xrd Accent Overture Chrono-Reload Core and Xrd Accent Overture Chrono-Reload Core 2 Plus Alpha.

 

Guilty-Gear-Xrd Bedman

 

I’m hoping Arc Systems doesn’t go crazy with DLC and variants but there is no hint that they will be reasonable after watching the business strategy for Guilty Gear and BlazBlue so far. There are many, many versions of the same basic games. Xrd feels incomplete as a result of the limited roster and modes. No Survival Mode, which was my favorite. M.O.M. Mode returns. I’m playing it but I still don’t get it after all these years. The Network features seem counter-intuitive and slow. Still figuring it out.

Most damning, is the little window at the bottom of the Menu that thanks you for buying Xrd and tells you to keep looking here for updates. The game tells you it’s incomplete. Xrd doesn’t even have a snazzy acoustic-metal-anime themed opening title sequence like every other version I can think of. Instead the game starts with a series of awkward loading screens. And that brings me to the biggest disappointment. Daisuke Ishiwatari, creator of Guilty Gear, director of Xrd, what happened to your soundtrack? I mean Guilty Gear is known for having one of the best most rocking video game soundtracks ever. I hate the mix and many of the arrangements. The soaring highs of blazing guitars that used to pop out of your speakers as you lay waste to opponent after opponent are gone. It’s muddy and flat sounding, like background music. Ironically, the “BGM” in previous games was never in the background. It was integral to the entire experience. There are some good new songs like Ramlethal’s theme with it’s bagpipe breakdown, and I like the arrangement of May’s Theme but I don’t prefer it to the original “Blue Water, Blue Sky.” The music is just okay and while that may be acceptable to someone who never heard the originals, for me, I was bummed.

The music, the lack of characters, and the general lack of flashiness besides the huge graphical upgrade, seems to be part of a deliberate business strategy: to make a successful and by that I mean accessible Guilty Gear game. One that is complete with a crappy English dub and lack of Japanese Metal, the way America likes it. I understand though. Really it’s now or never for them. There isn’t going to be a new Street Fighter for a while and it’s the beginning of a new console cycle with all the benefits of internet connectivity that weren’t there when X2 came out. Daisuke wants to attract a wider audience by his own admission. But I can’t help but think some of the soul was lost. But there is enough there for grumpy old guys like me. I’m going to play the game a lot, but in the end I don’t think my initial feelings will change: that all we needed was a true HD remake of Accent Core. But that isn’t going to happen. So bring on Xrd Core Plus Sharper Overture Sign Carnival and all it’s DLC. I will be throwing down whatever it takes to get my Guilty Gear on. SLASH!

 

Three Cans of Laser

3 Cans of Laser. Fun game but future versions will probably rectify many issues. Let’s hope for some retro-related DLC, especially Music and Costumes. Also no Xbox and Vita versions seems criminal especially since all the other platforms can play against each other. Remote play on Vita worked great but you can’t play without an internet connection. This should be Cross Play. (Screams of agony and pain like a Bandit Revolver to the face)

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