Guilty Gear X2 (PS2/Sammy)
by charles mugg
...from the G 2 the X 2 the...
Arc System works have seen fit to pull a Capcom and release an upgrade to their
NAOMI/DC/PS2 hit Guilty Gear X, rather than release a whole new game. Most of
my review will therefore focus on the changes and additions (I have a feeling
most of you out there have experienced at least one of the games in this
series). Anyhow, on with the show.
The game that made Capcom and SNK do a double-take has returned once again to
rear its gorgeous head and make people stand up and take notice of 2D. With its
fast-paced, weapons-based, over-the-top combat engine, this series feels like
Samurai Showdown on crack. Which is a fitting comparison, considering that the
two guys who started the company are ex-SNK employees.
30 Hits? No problem!
The main playmechanics are based around a simplified Capcom chaining engine
(seeing as you only have 4 buttons instead of 6): Punch, Kick, Slash and Strong
Slash. For the most part, any attack can chain into any other, as well as cancel
any other. Special moves are the same, and can be 2-in-1ed into as well as
cancelled into a Hyper Move. Of course, what sets Guilty Gear apart from its
brethren is the Destroyed technique (a single move that can kill a fighter).
Thankfully, the amount that the AI uses this move has been lessened drastically
in this iteration (they still need to put in an option to turn this technique
OFF). As a result, the engine isn't quite as cheesy (it also feels just a hair
Needless to say, with fewer buttons, button-mashing does become more prevalent,
although not always intentional (see below under Play Control).
Multiple modes of mayhem.
GGX2 adds several new game modes over the prior installment:
M.O.M. Mode: (Master Of Medals?) A bonus scoring mode in which every time you
strike your opponent, tons of bonus icons spew from their body (including
health-ups). A version of the tension meter is situated at the mid-lower portion
of the screen. Every time you can max this meter, the size and value of the point
icons increases. One thing to watch out for is that you don't regain any health
between fights. So you really have to be ultra-aggressive and pick up whatever
health items you see.
Mission Mode: Somewhat like the Another Mission mode in Metal Slug X for PSX.
There are 50 different pre-selected character match-ups that place you in
all sorts of handicaps: in one match I couldn't jump, in another I only started
with half my health and could only perform my kill-move, in yet another my
character was poisoned and I had no super-moves. The variety of the penalties
they hand you, the player, are truly sick. Then add to this that more often than
not you are fighting Gold versions of the opponents (super speed, fully-charged Ki
bars that don't diminish and the ability to heal). This is perhaps the most
exasperating mode in the entire game. And what do you get for achieving these
feats? A hand-drawn gallery still of one of the fighters for each mission you
complete (without breaking a pad).
Story Mode: Seeing as how the endings in the regular Arcade mode are still just
as cryptic as in the prior game, Arc System Works decided to add a new mode to
elucidate a little more on each character's story and background. In this mode
you'll normally go through 6 matches (each one round) that are interspersed with
dialogue between your fighter and your opponent. Beating this mode will open up
yet another gallery still image.
Returning from the prior game are the infamous Arcade Mode, Survival Mode and
Training Mode. Although, Survival Mode has a new twist: you are given experience
points for every complicated and aggressive combo you pull off. Every time you
amass a number divisible by 10, the current fight is interupted and you get to
take on a Black version (improved strength and speed) of one of the fighters. The
game then saves the number of EXP you get, not the number of rounds you lived
Fighter Attractiveness: 9.0
The sexiest fighters ever to grace a console! ;)
That may sound like an odd statement, but in all honesty, the Guilty Gear franchise
does have the most alluring and sexually explicit characters I've ever seen in a
fighting game (that wasn't rated X or was a chick fighter). The four additions to
this version are no exception. I-No, a leather-clad witch-meets-rockstar who
pummels you with her Fender Stratocaster (among other things). Bridget, an
excessively effeminate young boy (yep, its a boy) who wields a pair of yo-yo's.
Slayer, a rather spastic vampire who ends up flailing his arms and legs around as though he were having a seizure each time you attack. And finally, Zappa, a young man possessed by a demon
who bends him over backward to fight (this really doesn't sound right, so I'll let
the screenshots do the rest of the talking).
All 16 of the prior characters return as well as two MIA's from the first Guilty
Gear. That's right, Cliff and Justice return for this game (both sporting tons of
new animations as well as superbly redrawn backgrounds). In case you were wondering,
Justice is just as cheesy as ever. Wait till you have to fight against her with
Dizzy (sans special moves, hyper moves and your kill move) in Mission Mode! Come
to think of it, I'm not sure who's worse... Ignitz (from KOF 2K1) or Justice.
This brings the grand total to 22 initially playable fighters. Not too bad considering how
beautifully drawn they all are.
Capcom, please take a hint.
I still believe that there is plenty of life left in 2D, and the fact that this game
sits as the only "high-res" 2D fighting game franchise on a console demonstrates
that. With not only the backgrounds and special effects drawn to 640x480 (like so
many of Capcom's recent efforts), the characters too, look incredibly lush and
damn-near cel-animated (as in they look like a cartoon, not just a digital
representation of one). Even the audiences populating the backdrops in each stage
(which aren't static, BTW, they run back and forth going about their business) have
been drawn with the same degree of detail. Although, in true Capcom fashion, this
upgrade doesn't feature new levels, just palette swaps of the originals.
Although, the new choose your fighter screen is quite a welcome change. It features
a ticking clock-gear in the center and has you moving around a cursor and
highlighting a box of the character you'd like to choose (rather than simply tapping
left, right, up or down to move the cursor from one portrait to another). I'd also
like to mention the intro, which is a beautiful digital anime introducing us quickly
to the cast (also included on the disc is the original GGX promotional animation).
All in all, this game has superb presentation.
Now Arc System Works take heed.
The only area where all this starts to fall apart is on the animation itself. Some
moves and standstills look fantastic while others are obviously missing frames.
With a bit more effort, all of this could look seamless. So in this respect,
Capcom's SF3 series comes out ahead with more fluid animation.
Hey! You got glam-rock in my fighting game!
As the characters' names suggest, this franchise is heavily inspired by American
hard-rock. All of the music features searing guitar solos and solid bass-thumping
beats. Which granted, is by no means a bad thing... the problem arises in that
it all becomes somewhat ambiguous. I find it difficult to choose a stage who's
theme really stands out.
In the sound FX department, Arc goes overboard, plain and simple. The amount of
gibberish being spat from the characters during a battle becomes annoying after
the 3rd or so fight (regardless of how cool the Japanese statements may be, to hear
them ad nauseam through every button-press becomes grating). Not to mention, should
you reset a round (say in Mission Mode), any SFX from the prior fight will continue
to play until they've exhausted themselves. One thing I am thankful for is that
they've removed the destroy-your-speakers bass from GGX. I no longer have to turn
the volume down during Anji-Mito's win pose where he crosses the fans over himself
and explodes into the little blue butterflies (those of you who played GGX will know
EXACTLY what I'm talking about).
More proof that Sony still have no idea how to design a good pad.
GGX2 suffers heavily in the control department if you're using the stock DualShock
2. Do yourself a favour and pick up an arcade stick, because Sony's pads are too
soft and mushy to effectively perform this game's elaborate combo's and special
moves (many of which borrow heavily from the SNK school of thought). Unless you
perform the moves with the utmost precision on the DualShock, they won't come out properly
and you'll spend more time yelling at the game rather than playing it. This is
indirectly a result of it being based straight off a NAOMI/DC game that got ported
to the PS2 and then modified. More directly though, its a result of many of the
special moves being over-lapping controller-motions, meaning its hit or miss as to
whether you perform the move you intended on doing.
I don't begrudge Arc for upgrading this game. After all, they have a pretty good
product so why not release a new version? However, the handful of additions just
seem like filler, and not really extended gameplay (in contrast, Guilty Gear X truly felt like a
sequel to the original Guilty Gear). Its a
fighting game, folks. If you like it's particular engine (or its characters for all
the otaku), you're going to keep playing it, regardless. So, if you're heavily in
Guilty Gear, pick this up.... if not, take a look at it anyway. If anything, it
certainly is easy on the eyes.
Notes from Brandon
Just a few things I wanted to mention for this one. First of all, the sound. The compression, as is the tradition for the series, is terrible. Everything from the voices to the music sounds like it’s coming from a tin can. I bought those nice speakers for a reason, and it was not so that I could hear every pop and crackle of the punctured voice compression.
Another interesting bit is the story. It’s done in a style similar to DOA 2; that is to say, characters have a set run of things they say, and these are combined with the response dialogue of other characters to form a ‘narrative’. However these match-ups don’t always work, and make for some awkward moments. Most of the time it works, but you have to distance yourself from the story to appreciate this. Sort of an ‘I guess it makes sense’ kind of feeling. One thing for which I applaud Sammy; the translation is far better than the original Japanese in terms of making sense when these story bits are connected. So I don’t mind that the translation is ‘off’ as it were, as it helps the thing make more sense, which is rarely a bad thing. And in the opening dialogues, various events can occur, resulting in your gaining or losing advantage, life, et cetera. Truly makes for something engaging.
The secret characters bear mentioning too. You can acquire gold versions of several characters, including robo-ky. Rather nice, when you connect this to the multiple modes of play. If you’re going to make an upgrade, this is certainly the way to do it. Go all out.
I personally feel as though this game is the best of the series. I've always thought it was a slow game, and a bit cumbersome, but the addition of characters like bridget means I can play it the way I want to. I like it a hell of a lot more than any other version (especially the ghastly first effort on the Wonderswan Color), and my own total score would lean towards an 8.5. But then...this isn’t my review, is it?