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Guilty Gear X2 #Reload
by Majesco
Reviewer: Justin Raymond
Review Date: 09/27/2004
An incredibly good old-fashioned 2D fighter with all the bells and whistles of fancy games today make Guilty Gear a must-have.

In the nineties, fighting games were huge.  They were the reason to go to arcades, the reason to go to your friend’s house and beat the snot out of him every night (figuratively), the reason to shell out the extra pennies for an arcade stick or the ridiculous amount of cash for the Neo-Geo to get that perfect arcade-in-your-living-room experience.  Their fast-paced, no-holds-barred gameplay and flashy graphics and controversial violence not only drew more people to video games, they helped define what video games were a decade ago.


After going largely on hiatus with the Nintendo 64 and Playstation, and the new trio of consoles, it’s rare to find a great fighting game.  Sure, 3D fighters are getting better with each passing year (as Soul Calibur, Dead or Alive, and Virtua Fighter continue to prove), but they really don’t offer quite the same experience of a good 2D brawler.  Thankfully, Guilty Gear X2 helps fill that hole of emptiness.


The game’s mechanics come together beautifully and control is so tight that you’d swear someone greased up your controller and enhanced your hand-eye coordination a bit.  It essentially controls like a basic fighter: you move left and right on a 2D plane, down makes you duck and up makes you jump, diagonals offering angled jumps.  The face buttons are all used for attacking, as well as the R trigger; the L trigger is used for taunting.  Of course there is a bevy of moves that can be performed using various combinations of the buttons and directional pad, and you can string those moves together with the proper timing to truly show off your prowess.


What makes Guilty Gear’s gameplay particularly enjoyable are all of the little things you can do at any time.  Double-tapping the D-Pad not only makes your character run, but will grant you a quick step back or – and this is slick – a dash through the air.  It’s not uncommon for both combatants to be zipping around like flies.  There’s no penalty for doing it, and in fact you are encouraged, as one of your three “juice meters” (or so we’ll call them, for the sake of simplicity) fills up.


The particular “juice meter” that dashing fills up is called the Tension Gauge, and is also filled up a bit every time you land a successful hit on your opponent.  Among other things, the Tension Gauge allows you to do two things of interest: Overdrive Attacks, which are basically extremely powerful moves, and Faultless Defense, which I love.  Faultless Defense is activated when you press any two attack buttons while blocking normally.  A green shield will circle your character while you hold the buttons and provide extra-strong protection against attacks.  This is especially useful for blocking Overdrive Attacks performed on you.


The second “juice meter”, the Burst Gauge, fills up when you are attacked by your opponent.  It also gradually fills up on its own over time.  It’s not that incredible, but what it basically does is grant you a Psyche Burst – a momentary move where you become invincible that lash out a ring of energy that should do a fair bit of damage to your foe.


The third and final “juice meter” is the Guard Level Gauge, which fills up when you block your assailant’s attacks.  Once it reaches a certain point, you can counter any attack that comes your way.


As if the gameplay weren’t slick enough, each character is incredibly distinct and unique – no color-palette-swapping attempting to justify multiple characters shall be found here.  There’s a woman who uses her long hair as a weapon, a witch that attacks with a guitar and amp, a lady that uses her transforming wings in attack, a petite girl with an enormous ship’s anchor, and even a cross-dressing young boy that uses a yo-yo to fight.  And that’s just a small sampling!  This game has style.


The graphics that the developers have conjured up are marvelous.  The game is in beautiful hi-res, with no blocky sprites to be found.  Animation ranges from “great” to “awesome”, and never falters at all.  Everything flows wonderfully, and even the craziest of stunts looks plausible – or, at least, fitting.  The assortment of levels have no real effect on the gameplay, but offer up a nice variety of areas, from a lush forest with small gnomes to the top of a soaring airship or the cold regions of Hell where skeletons roam.  The game looks simply stunning.


The aural portion of the game does not lack here, either.  All things considered, it is probably the least impressive part of the game, with a few slightly annoying niggling issues: namely, the repetitive shrieks and yelps from the characters.  Still, this is no big deal, and barely distracting at worst.  The music isn’t particularly impressive either, but it gets the job done, and more often than not is pretty enjoyable.  A nice touch does come in the way of the voice starting off the match; instead of a boring “Fight!” or “Three, two, one, go!”, Guilty Gear’s announcer booms “Heaven or Hell??  LET’S ROCK!”


Finally, and most importantly to some, are the game’s range of modes.  There’s your basic Arcade Mode, a Mission Mode, Versus, Training, Survival, an interesting mode than involves collecting items during the fight called M.O.M., and even a Story Mode, there is a lot to like here.  Best of all, you can play with your buddies on Xbox Live.  Despite getting used to a little bit of lag, the large majority of users claim to have had excellent experiences online, and if you’re already subscribed to Xbox Live, why not give it a go?


Overall, Guilty Gear is one great game.  Although its roots are firmly planted in classic fighting game soil, it has slick, fast-paced gameplay with a variety of unique mechanics to keep things fresh and exciting, excellent graphics, and a wonderful cast of characters.  Top all of the goodness off with a half-dozen interesting modes of play and Xbox Live capability to boot, and for a mere $20, you’d be kicking yourself to not pick this game up.


Review Scoring Details


Gameplay: 9.5

A wild cast of characters, great gameplay mechanics involving dashing, blocking, three meters, and unique weapons, and incredibly smooth animation tying it all together – what’s not to like?


Graphics: 9.0

Sure the animation might be slightly rough in spots, but 95% of the time it is incredibly smooth – with sharp character models and detailed backgrounds helping steal the show.


Sound: 7.0

A little less than great but still good, the sound has a few annoying qualities, a few nice perks, and decent music.


Concept: 8.5

Sure, the developers didn’t exactly create an entirely new genre or anything, but Guilty Gear offers up a slew of unique elements while remaining true to 2D fighting games of old.


Multiplayer: 9.0

Playing with a buddy is of course, flawless and fun, and the only thing dragging the score down at all is the bit of lag present in online matches.  This being the second online 2D fighter ever to grace the Xbox, though – and a much faster-paced title than the only other one – it’s hard to complain.


Overall: 9.2

Guilty Gear X2 #Reload: The Midnight Carnival, despite the absurd name, is quite a great game.  For a mere twenty bucks, you’ll get a great, great fighting game with fancy production values and an online mode that’s guaranteed to keep you busy for a long time.  Don’t miss out on this one.

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