In this era of 3D visuals and photorealistic game environments, it's rare to find a game that's not only a remnant of the now-fading 2D period, but is also good enough to stand out among its more technologically advanced peers. "Guilty Gear," while relatively obscure in the States, has for several years held the distinction of being just that. "Guilty Gear X2" is the latest and greatest installment of the best fighting series you've never heard of.
We all go a little mad sometimes...
A far cry from the squeaky-clean Capcom and SNK fighting game lineups, "Guilty Gear" prides itself on edgy and twisted characters. You'll find no Kens or Ryos here. Every character in "Guilty Gear X2" is deranged in one way or another. Some are nutty in a cute way, such as perky May, a little girl who dresses like a pirate and clocks her foes over the head with a gigantic ship anchor. On the flip side, there's Rappa, a young man possessed by a multitude of demons who force him to fight by contorting his body in painful ways. Rappa fights against his will, and every press of the controller button causes him agony. Needless to say, this isn't exactly "Marvel vs. Capcom."
"Guilty Gear X2" is surprisingly accessible to gamers of all skill levels. The extremely deep fighting mechanics are relatively rookie-friendly, but they're complex enough to hold the attention of even the most hard-core fighter junkie. The huge number of special moves, the move cancel options, the combo linking techniques, the ultraflashy instant death attacks, and the expertly balanced character lineup give the game excellent longevity. Players can spend hours mastering just a single character, and each of the 23 characters is a distinct individual.
So much time, so much to do
There are a vast number of play modes available, adding even more value to "Guilty Gear X2." You can test your endurance in Survival Mode, compete for style points in Medal Mode, or just hack your way to victory in Arcade Mode. . For a hair-pullingly difficult challenge, try Mission Mode, a series of special matches that often involve a handicap battle against terrifyingly powerful computer foes.
The standout, however, is the fully voice-acted Story Mode, which not only features branching narrative paths, but also has a total of 60 possible endings depending on your character choice and performance in the story battles. It's like a Choose Your Own Adventure book filled with psychotic rage.
The video and audio match all this technical brilliance. Beautifully drawn 2D characters and backgrounds infest this game. The smooth motion of the fighters and the dazzling special effects make playing "Guilty Gear X2" not unlike taking part in a particularly combat-heavy anime. This is some of the best 2D work ever seen in a game. Excellent sound effects and a hard-rockin' soundtrack round out the game.
For completists, the game offers a ridiculous number of unlockable goodies. A gallery of character art is slowly unlocked as players complete the various modes with each character. Nearly every character in the game has two alternate unlockable versions of themselves that feature different moves and power levels. Topping it all off are three secret characters and Guilty Gear Mode, whose altered game mechanics create the opportunity for players to use even more creative combos and techniques.
Top of its game
"Guilty Gear X2" will never fail to impress. It's the total-package 2D fighter. Fighting fans owe it to themselves to snatch this one upimmediately. Gamers with a casual or passing interest in the genre would do well to try it out, as well. The fiercely individualistic style of "Guilty Gear" may be just what you've been looking for.