- Format: PS4 (version reviewed), PS3
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: pQube
- Developer: Arc System Works/Team Red
- Players: 1-2 (offline & online)
- Site: http://guiltygear.us/ggxrdr/
- Game code provided by the publisher
It’s another one of those game names that makes you ask “But what does that mean?”; and the answer, of course, is “Look, don’t ask, mainly because we don’t know”. In a not entirely unrelated piece of news, this is a 2D beat ’em up developed by Arc System Works. That last handful of words is almost a review in itself, something that we have mixed feelings about. One ASW-developed beat ’em up is much like another, to an extent; but what that means is that you’re guaranteed a good game.
Although Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator is immediately identifiable as related to its brethren, it succeeds in a few areas where its cousins have failed. For one thing, the storytelling is more successful than in any of the others (excepting the externally-written Persona 4 Arena games). The BlazBlue titles are utterly gorgeous and, typical for the developer, the characters have been designed with such skill and care that they could’ve stumbled out of a high budget anime. Where the BlazBlue games’ stories pull in several directions at once though, never able to focus, GGXR engages in (mostly) solid storytelling with a beginning, middle, and end. There are some great lines in there too, though it seems there are at least two different translators and/or scriptwriters in the mix. Some scenes are tightly written, while others are less so, or even have typing errors (all the more noticeable with no English voice track).
It may seem odd to linger on a beat ’em up’s story, but the developers have done so themselves. The story here follows on from the last game, and the story mode does exactly what it says on the tin – in that there is no gameplay whatsoever. Rather than throw several cutscenes your way between battles, GGXR’s story mode simply puts together a tale the length of a full movie or two and splits it up into several chapters, with no input of any kind necessary (apart from confirming you want to save and start the next chapter). You can save and quit at any time too, a wise decision indeed.
Unusually for this type of game, the story mode is fully animated, and this bleeds into the presentation being as smooth and consistent as ASW games have always wanted to be. Animated sequences are a mixture of cel-shaded in-engine models (the majority of what you’ll see), hand drawn art, and the occasional hand animated piece. During the story it’s easy to forget you’re not watching a standard anime feature, and during matches you truly feel like you’re fighting with and against the same characters you see in the cut scenes.
Another important area this game scores big points is online. As excellent as these games tend to be, the online lobbies can be barren wastelands. The servers for this, while not bursting at the seams, are full enough to make finding a game fairly easy (helped in part no doubt by the PS4 & PS3 cross-play); though you’ll likely struggle to snag ranked matches. Lobby presentation itself is unique and endearing (in-game spaces you can walk around in) and, most importantly of all, we have had virtually no connection problems. Certainly no game-destroying lag.
Scrape all this tasty icing away, and you’ll find a very familiar (though still mouth-watering) cake. The main way Guilty Gear differentiates itself is with ‘Roman Cancels’, which consume 50% of the obligatory character gauge. In essence this instantly cancels your current animation, allowing you to immediately perform another action. Used carefully, a Roman Cancel can help you escape an otherwise dangerous situation, or (its preferred use) extend a lethal combo. Otherwise, if you’ve played any other ASW beat ’em up you’ll instantly feel at home here. Gorgeous graphics, gauge-powered supermoves, fantastical attacks, street fighter style button inputs… you know the drill.
Also present and correct, unfortunately, are a few characters suited to spamming attacks that are extremely difficult to escape. Few people we faced took advantage of this, but consider yourself warned. There are over twenty characters and, if you haven’t played Guilty Gear before, you can easily lose hours to the world simply learning their differences and discovering which are your favourites, and why. There’s the increasingly popular ‘Stylish’ control method available, if you want to let your dad have a go and pretend that he knows what he’s doing by hitting buttons at random. Don’t worry that this is a way for those lacking skill to obliterate the opposition. It gives them a chance, but failing to pay attention to their opponent will still prove fatal.
If you don’t fancy watching the game rather than playing it in Story, there’s also ‘Episodes’, much closer to a traditional beat ’em up story mode, one for each character (though story is scarce and difficult to grasp for newbies here). There’s an actually-useful tutorial, a spin on survival, and ‘missions’ to help you learn the characters. There’s not so much to do offline as some similar games have to offer, but those who prefer to play alone haven’t been left behind.
It feels largely familiar, but in a warm and comforting way. It’s a highly polished beat ’em up that’s able to appeal to everybody from pros to n00bs. If you have a thing for anime-style fighters, this is certainly one of the best. And if you don’t have a thing for anime-style fighters… maybe you will after giving this a go.