Genre : Fighting
Developer: Arc Systems Work
Release Date: September 6, 2004
Pre-order 'GUILTY GEAR X2 #RELOAD': PlayStation 2
If you played Guilty Gear XX on the PS2 a couple of years ago, then this will be a familiar sight. Guilty Gear XX#Reload is a pseudo-sequel in the tradition of the six or seven different versions of Street Fighter II, where an existing game has been tweaked a bit and rereleased.
This is a new sight for Xbox owners, though. GGXX#R is a remake of the third game in a series that’s kind of come out of nowhere. The original Guilty Gear was a cult favorite on PSOne, with interesting character designs but a fundamentally broken gameplay engine. When its sequel came out on the Japanese Dreamcast, it took the fighting-game scene if not by storm, then at least by surprise; Sammy’d taken a nearly unplayable game, and made its sequel into a lushly animated, incredibly colorful, undeniably weird game with an amazing metal soundtrack. At once, it epitomized and exemplified everything that’s right about 2D fighters.
The series is set in the 22nd century, in the aftermath of a war that lasted a hundred years. At the dawn of the 21st century, a method was created to generate endless energy. This method, called “Magical Science,” also led to the creation of a series of bioweapons called Gears. As is the standard operating procedure for this kind of thing, the Gears revolted, Earth burned, somebody destroyed Japan along the way, and humanity is slowly rebuilding.
Guilty Gear XX told the story of the second Sacred Knights tournament, where a variety of fighters competed to earn the bounty on the head of a girl named Dizzy, an unstable crossbreed of human and Gear. When the dust cleared, the wandering fighter Sol Badguy (I told you this was weird, man) had technically won the tournament, but Jam (half squeaky-voiced fanservice harridan, half kung-fu fightin’ cook) was able to claim Dizzy’s bounty. Jam used the money to open her own restaurant, while Dizzy became a member of the air pirate Johnny’s crew.
In GGXX, a conspiracy is threatening the participants in that tournament. A mysterious organization has placed bounties on the heads of those who wield the “five occult forces,” which includes most of the fighters. Now, anyone who isn’t actively hunting the others for their bounties is hunting the organization, which may have something to do with the person known only as “that man,” an enigmatic stranger that may have wronged several characters.
Once you get beyond this point, Guilty Gear’s plot is hard to follow without a flowchart and a small army of storyline-obsessed dorks at your beck and call, but it’s not really that important. It’s there to justify the inclusion of whatever monstrous collusion of drugs and art crawled out of the character designers’ brains, from a crusading paladin to a vampire assassin to a crossdressing bounty hunter wielding a yo-yo to what looks like the guitarist for a Japanese rock band with a scythe.
None of these characters are clones of each other. Each plays distinctly differently from the rest, right down to the capabilities of their normal moves, and each is elegantly and exhaustively animated. A single Guilty Gear character has more moves, style, and personality than any three characters from any other 2D fighting game. Sure, there are recycled sprites here and there, but not as many as you’d expect.
A character’s moveset includes a set of normal moves, several special techniques, and at least two “supers,” which are made usable by filling a “Tension” meter over the course of the fight. You can also spend Tension to execute a Faultless Defense, which allows you to block an attack without taking any chip damage, or remove the bar entirely by trying for an Instant Kill. Holding down all four face buttons preps the IK, which is an all-or-nothing attempt to win the round. If an IK connects – and all the characters save one, Dizzy, have an IK move in their arsenal – you’ve just won the round. If it doesn’t, you’ve just removed your ability to spend Tension for the rest of the match, which puts you at a significant tactical disadvantage.
The differences between the standard GGXX and XX#R are subtle; some bugs have been removed (such as the infamous Chipp/Potemkin glitch), some overpowered moves have been toned down, and some of the less competitive characters have been given advantages they didn’t have before. Robo-Ky, Ky Kiske’s android replica, now has his own (extremely strange) moveslist and win poses, as opposed to the mirror-universe Evil Ky he was before. Survival mode’s a lot easier, as are the fights with the final, “boss” form of I-No. She no longer throws out her nearly-inescapable Megalomania super at fixed intervals, nearly guaranteeing her the win unless she’s IKed.
If you’ve played the PS2 GGXX, then you’re already familiar with the various game modes that #Reload has to offer: Story Mode, Mission Mode, and so forth. It’s really the same package, overall, with a new character of sorts, some changes to characters’ moves, and the addition of Xbox Live functionality. If you haven’t, then you really should, as Guilty Gear XX#Reload is an enhanced version of an excellent 2D fighter, and is a good fit in any gamer’s collection.