Gamestyle Archive Intro: We should have more reviews from Gareth in the archive so lets put that right with a classic gaming experience in Guilty Gear X2. This review dates March 2003.
The traditional 2D fighting game has more or less disappeared from the gaming landscape in recent years with players choosing to go for the 3D delights of games such as Tekken, Virtual Fighter and Soul Calibur. You could argue that the genre has not moved on since the sixteen-bit days of Street fighter 2 but titles such as Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the more arcade orientated Marvel vs Capcom series show that if done well the ageing 2D format still has a lot to offer.
Story wise if you have ever played a fighting game you will already know that it is about various fighters gathering for some great purpose. Without question you have heard it a million times before, but you would hardly expect anything else. A true example of gaming Ronseal if ever there was one and yes it does exactly what it says on the tin. Where Guilty Gear X2 differs from the thousands of other titles that all look and play the same is the shear amount of attitude it shows. This is a game for players who are confident in their ability, and a better player will always beat a newcomer as the range of moves and counters on display is stunning.
Graphically Guilty Gear X2 is beautiful, it looks like a Anime film, from the intro to the build ups between fights, everything is geared to making you believe you are taking part in a graphic novel rather than a dull fighting game. During combat everything moves at such a pulsating speed that you get lost in the action, forgetting about everything except taking down your opponent, so much so that if you watch two people battle it out you will notice they just stare at the screen silently until the bout is over. There simply is not time for smart comments when engaging with Guilty Gear, You play to win, and friendship comes second. In game graphics are as glorious as those in the intro with well-constructed backgrounds backing up ingenious character design and eccentricities.
There is not one character out of place in the Guilty Gear universe; no matter how weird they are they just seem to fit in somehow. Characters range from the slightly odd to the down right strange, with a cop who looks light a cross between a Jedi knight and a cyber punk being the most normal and a witch with a heavy metal guitar, a bloke with a bag on his head and a guy taken over by demons being among the more unique. However strange though, it is the characters that make Guilty Gear stand out from the crowd – no easy Ryu or Ken characters here. Each is different enough to ensure that it would take a small lifetime to master them all. This adds a more flexible approach to the genre as players can choose to stick with one of the easier to master characters or go for someone who fights very strangely, and with twenty characters to pick from there are enough freaks to find the perfect fighting partner for anyone.
Gameplay is where the game will either have you jumping for joy or leave you puzzled at all the different commands at your disposal. The game plays brilliantly as moves are easy to pull off and your characters leap around with the energy of a Sega Zealot who has just found Panzer Dragoon Saga in his local bargain bin. What Guilty Gear X2 does is offer a whole new range of possible ways to fight. The majority of us are bored to death with special moves and extra special moves that you need to fill a bar up to pull off and various other things, which have been milked to death other the years, but a Death move which instantly kills the other character at any time in the match is something not so common.
The skill comes from landing this killer blow as if you miss your health and special moves bar disappears – meaning chances of winning the fight are greatly reduced. Beyond death moves you receive other little innovations such as the ‘burst’ move that can be used to stop or start a variety of situations, a ‘dust’ button that stuns the opponent or when pressed with a different button causes other effects, ‘Roman Cancel’, combo sequences and countless other things you just do not get outside of a Guilty Gear X game. While the mass of moves to learn will likely put off a rookie to the genre, put in a bit of effort and you soon find everything begins to feel like second nature. Of course there are the standard modes here as well, arcade, survival and a host of others. As well as these though you get a story mode that adds greater depth to the backgrounds of each characters and medal mode, which rewards combination scores, not essential but nice touches all the same.
Guilty Gear X2 is a stunning game with great graphics, sound and outstanding gameplay that adds up a top class fighting game. In addition to this characters that are both innovative and original, a fighting system that adds depth to a 2D fighting game and the breakneck adrenaline pumping action of it all. This is a title that is essential for anyone who likes a good fight. The big question will be if Guilty Gear X2 can hold its own against Soul Calibur 2, but on this evidence Soul Calibur may have a struggle on its hands. Guilty Gear X2 is the quirky king of fighting games, but one that deserves to hold the next generation crown if only for a little while.
Gamestyle Score: 9/10