Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary pack: review

  • Format: Switch (version reviewed), PS4, PC (Guilty Gear only)
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: PQube
  • Developer: Arc System Works
  • Players: 1-2 (Guilty Gear offline only, GG Accent Core offline & online)
  • Site: http://pqube.co.uk/guilty-gear-anniversary/ 
  • Game codes provided by the publisher

With its intricate yet never-quite-complete storytelling, imaginative character design, and wide variety of available moves and tactics, the Guilty Gear series has a dedicated following in the fighting game community. The 20th anniversary has seen two of the earliest games re-released for Switch, available either physically (as a package with an artbook and replicated letter from Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari) or digitally. Let’s take a look-see, shall we?

The first game is the original Guilty Gear, also available digitally for PC and PS4. While many PS1 games look terrible in the year of our Luigi 2019, this one stands up pretty well, demonstrating the importance of good art design. Animation remains superb and, crucially, the controls still feel responsive today. So far, so good.

So yes, it looks good, and it plays good. It’s easy to see why it (deservedly) spawned a long line of sequels and spin-offs. It’s fast, smooth, and – unlike many fighters of the day – couldn’t be accused of churning out the same characters in different pants. The hulking Potemkin, for example, is a barehands fighter most deadly up close, while Kliff’s hilariously large sword gives him formidable reach (and one attack that leaves him temporarily exhausted whether it connects or not). Zato’s supernatural abilities can make him unpredictable, while Millia’s surprisingly deadly hair is good for both mid-range attacks and foiling aerial assault. And so on.

Yes, you ARE reading that right, one of the characters is called Baldhead. And, yes, his head is bald.

The thing is, while the fundamentals work just as well today as they did 20 years ago, certain aspects could have done with modernising. The most obvious example of this is the instant death mechanic that the first game cheerily introduced. While instant kill moves are not uncommon in anime-style beat ’em ups today, they usually have certain conditions attached. It must be the last round of the match, the attacker and/or opponent must only have a certain amount of health left, a certain gauge must be full, that kind of thing. Not so here. When an instant kill ‘destroy’ move is about to be used by your opponent – which can happen at any time, as many times as you like – the screen goes red, and you have less than a second to enter the counter input perfectly in order to avoid losing the entire match (regardless of which round you’re on) instantly.

Certain AI opponents can be guaranteed to ambush you with instant kill attempts multiple times. Once, this happened to us literally within the first two seconds of the first round, which was somehow even more annoying than having it happen to us when we were close to victory. As this is a direct drop of the original game, there’s no difficulty select, meaning this may well prove to be an insurmountable hurdle for some players. With no online play (or save state option) added, your best bet is to play another human in the same room for a fair match. It’s well worth diving in for those curious about, or eager to revisit, the origins of Guilty Gear. With no allowances for modern audiences though, and the barebones selection of game modes (normal, versus, training), charging the same price for this as the feature-packed 2013 game below seems madness.

 

 

 

The Switch-exclusive re-release of (deep breath) Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is much closer to the sublime delights of the modern home console entries. You get almost double the number of playable characters compared to the first game (25), 11 game modes, and a gallery to flesh out. Did we mention that charging the same for this and the original Guilty Gear seems crazy?

Graphics are smoother (though still not up to the beauty of the latest games), while the ebb and flow of matches – which wasn’t broken in the first game – remains much the same. The criticisms of Guilty Gear were largely dealt with by the time this entry made it to market, too. We’ve already mentioned the generous array of game modes and, while instant kill moves remain, the CPU is now much, much less likely to use them for a cheesy victory. Playing through the story mode, you’ll find that the final character is about a squillion times more resilient than normal, which feels unfair. This time though, there’s a difficulty select. Yay!

Ah, the age-old guitar vs chair rivalry. We don’t need to insult your intelligence by saying which will win.

In addition to the traditional 1v1 matches, you can play team 3v3 matches should you so wish. There’s also a survival mode, a mission mode, and “M.O.M.” mode. This last is essentially survival, but with added items thrown into the mix to add points or restore lost health (rather than a mode where your characters are berated for leaving dirty pants on the bedroom floor).

Most excitingly for some, and arguably the most significant difference from Guilty Gear, is the presence of online play – both ranked and unranked. As you might expect, the servers aren’t exactly bursting with players, but each online match we’ve played has been as smooth as you could hope. In a way, this lack of players is representative of the inherent shortcomings of the game. It’s a great fighter, with plenty of content and a depth and breadth of play that can keep you coming back for many months. The simple fact is however that beat ’em ups, including the Guilty Gear series, have taken surprisingly energetic leaps and bounds over the last 5-10 years. The Switch exclusivity of this title hints at the fact that Nintendo’s latest format isn’t exactly drowning in deep, quality examples of the genre. If you’re after a top-tier fighter that works just as well on the go as it does on the TV, then sure, this is a great choice (and a budget one at that). Just be aware that it falls a little short of the best on offer today.

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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