Guilty Gear X2 Review
Take my word for it folks, 2003 will be an exceptional year for fighting games, even more so than 2002 was. With Soul Calibur 2 and Virtua Fighter 4 Evolution on the way, things are only getting heated up. To begin the warming up is Arc's highly acclaimed Guilty Gear X2, the follow up to 2001's October release Guilty Gear X. Arc continues to prove that their 2D fighter has the best two-dimensional sprite based characters of any fighting game out there, and there are not questions about it. In terms of playability, GGX2 delivers around every corner and then some. If you are disappointed by the lack of new and truly refreshing 2D fighters these days, Guilty Gear X2 should be right up your alley and is guaranteed to fill your void spot of 2D gaming with cool and refreshing 'Gear Juice'.
Graphically, Guilty Gear X2 is hands down the most gorgeous 2D fighter ever made. It takes everything the original did and pulls off a one-up over it, to further prove that this game's engine is home to some of the best looking characters in a 2D fighter since Street Fighter 3rd Strike for the arcades and the Dreamcast. GGX2 is the most extravagant looking fighting game I've ever laid my eyes on. The screen is blooming with tons and tons of vibrant colors, and the eye-candy is absolutely to die for. The character detail is very easy on the eyes, as not one character shows a single hint of a jagged edge. The fighters are designed so smoothly that it's pretty much impossible to compare them to anything else out there, at the moment. In terms of character art, Daisuke Ishiwatari's creations are just kick-ass. Everybody from SOL-Bad Guy to Ky Kiske to Chipp is as appealing as any other fighter from another fighting game. The animations for each character have been fixed to a degree as well. While Guilty Gear X sported great visual detail, the animation seemed to be a bit rough during certain times. That has been, thankfully, cleared up pretty much completely, as far as my eyes can tell. I don't find myself questioning a particular action as being a bit jerky in terms of animation. The backgrounds are brimming with vivacious detail as the color pallete is so diverse that it seems as if you're looking at a work -- which is what, visually, Guilty Gear X2 is. With progressive scan and VGA support, you're looking at a total visual package here.
Guilty Gear X2 is two-dimensional, just like its previous brethrens, and let's hope that the series stays that way for quite some time. The gameplay itself is rather simple and nothing tremendously new, especially if you've played the first or are a 2D fighter freak. Fans of Guilty Gear series owe it to themselves to stop reading this review and run out and buy this game. Meanwhile, if you're hoping to be convinced, keep reading. GGX2 welcomes 6 new fighters into the tournament, adding to a total of 20. Each and every character has his/her own difficulty curve to get adjusted to. Not only that, but many of the fighters use weapons as their primary means of battle, meanwhile a select few use traditional fisticuffs. Seeing as how a majority of the fighters use weapons, the game can be described as a two-dimensional Soul Calibur...to an extent, of course. While the combo system isn't exactly as deep as Soul Calibur, the speed, intensity and overall fun really brings out the feeling -- but hey, it could be just crazy ol' me.
There are a total of 8 game modes for you to choose from. You have the casual Arcade mode, Story mode, Versus mode, Vs. CPU mode, Survival and Training mode. The more unusual modes include the Mission mode and M.O.M. M.O.M is a mode where two characters go at it and see who's got the most style in their gameplay. You will be rewarded points and life restoration items, all depending on your performance. It's really a mode that asks you to show your stuff, almost like an in-game test. Mission mode isn't exactly unusual, but it hasn't been done in a fighting game yet. While this comparison is certainly out of the blue and many of you will have a hard time relating to it, Mission mode is much like NFL 2K3's Situation mode. If you know what I'm talking about, great! If you don't, I'll continue. There is a list of objectives you can choose from, all of which ask you to perform a certain task, but many times there will be a handicap placed on you. So, for instance, one of the objectives you select has the handicap "poison" enabled, and you will have to defeat your opponent within 30 seconds. So as you fight, not only are you gradually losing life, but you've got a total of 30 seconds to finish off your opponent. Both M.O.M and Mission mode are fantastic inclusions into Guilty Gear X2 and really add another level of replay to the game.
Furthermore, GGX2 expands on the franchises trademark "dust attack", "roman cancel", and "instant kill" maneuvers. The "dust attack" is an action that removes your opponent's ability to defend, which creates an opportunity for you to pull of a combo or deal some very serious damage. The "roman cancel" allows you to instantly stop your combo attack on an enemy and go back to your original stance. Lastly, the most popular feature of the game is easily the "instant kill", which is pretty much as self-explanatory as can be. Pulling an "instant kill" off comes with a price. If you use it and don't succeed, your tension gauge will be removed for the remainder of the fight. If you connect with your opponent (assuming he doesn't block the attack) he's automatically dead. If you don't want to use your instant kill and risk losing your gauge, but you want to dish out lethal damage, you can use an overdrive attack once your tension gauge is past 50%. Many of the more useful techniques in the game require your tension gauge to be set a certain point, so keep an eye out and don't flip out when you can't pull something off. Lastly, the newly added "Burst" gauge is the perfect addition to help you out at the most abysmal times in a match. If you manage to get your "Burst" gauge to "MAX" hit the "Dust" button and any other attack button simultaneously, and you'll be temporarily "invincible"...err, sorry I think I've developed a new "habit". There's a bunch of other unmentioned techniques and effects in the game, such as the "jump cancel", "counter hit", "faultless defense", "recovery", "gaiting combo", "negative penalties", "high jump", two-level jumps", and the "forward thrust attack". As you can see, not only is Guilty Gear X2 chock full of gameplay modes and characters, but it's got a plethora of useful techniques, not to mention a move set of nearly 15 commands for many of the characters. In terms of gameplay, Guilty Gear X2 will have no problem reeling you in like a bass looking for bait - that is, of course, assuming you're looking for an incredible 2D fighter.
Aurally, Guilty Gear X2 is more of the same as the one prior to this one. Generic acid rock and metal rock tunes fill up the surrounding ambience, and while they aren't bad, these tunes have absolutely no staying power (read: every tune from Street Fighter 2, including spin offs). The tunes just fill in the spot of a needed soundtrack, but again, they're nothing special. On that note, the sound effects, and anything else you'll hear in the game, sound a bit muffled, but fine overall. There's really nothing more to say about the sound, as it holds nothing particularly special or interesting.
The controls, on the other hand, are done quite well. Guilty Gear X2 allows you to use either the digital pad or the analog stick to move your character around the screen. Preferably, it's best to use the digital-pad as it is the most efficient to pull of moves like a high jump, double jump, speed dash, or even commands from the move set of a character. The analog stick requires far more control and precision to be fully mastered, so it's recommended that you use the digital pad with GGX2. The button lay out is well done, and can be remapped to your liking, so there's really nothing worth complaining about here.
It's undeniable that Guilty Gear X2 absolutely kicks-ass and is well worth the purchase if you're a fan of the 2D fighting genre. Visually, this is hands down the best looking fighting game on the market. The vibrancy and overall eye-candy is unrivaled by anything else out there, not to mention the superbly detailed fighters. The game's long list of gameplay modes and gameplay features easily warrant the 40-dollar purchase. It's one of the finest 2D fighters crafted across any platform, and it deserves to all the attention it can get. Make sure you have a copy of GGX2 spinning inside your PS2 as soon as possible; you won't regret the decision.
1/31/2003 Arnold Katayev