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Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-
  

 
REVIEWCan you believe the Guilty Gear series has been around for 16 years now? (Granted it took about 12 years for Arc System Works to be done with "updating" the original GGX series... but here we are!) Ever since its first appearance on PS1 in 1998, Guilty Gear distinguished itself as an unorthodox, "extreme" take on the traditional 2D fighting game recipe. This unique direction in terms of gameplay and visual design still drives the series forward, with GGXrd leading the way in the "next gen" of 2D
fighting games. The outlandishly cool character designs, wild special moves and frantic 2D gameplay are all preserved (and enhanced) in the latest installment... the very long-awaited "reboot" of the franchise: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-.

An entirely new game from the ground up... GGXrd -SIGN- is simply a "gift" to 2D fighting game fans. Every staple you'd want in a new 2D fighting game is present, but Arc System Works has strayed far from the formula of the mundane.
GGXrd introduces a familiar yet vibrantly new art style represented in-game, beautifully utilizing Unreal Engine 3 and Sega's RingEdge 2 hardware. As a 2D sprite fan since the late 80's, seeing a 2D fighter looking this good nearly brings a tear to my eye... (a manly tear, that is; falling in sync with heavy metal guitars blaring in a backdrop of fire and demon chicks dancing with samurai swords).

No, really... GGXrd -SIGN- does more than "raise the bar" visually for 2.5D fighting games (another way of saying 2D fighting games with 3D graphics). Xrd's innovative, A+ graphics engine redefines the expected visuals of a 2D fighting game, be it "anime" or anything else you want to define it as. Using intricate 3D character models as a base (a technique they've been using since GGX), Xrd's clean, crispy cel-shaded 2D character "sprites" (if you dare call them sprites) are incredibly charismatic from all angles. And indeed, you will enjoy them from many different camera angles onscreen. The camera will dramatically change position during launchers and super moves, offering a truly dynamic view of the action. If you look close, you can even notice subtle "3D-ness" of the characters while they're moving around onscreen by default (more noticeable on larger characters like Potemkin). I really can't offer any more words to describe the beauty and artistry behind GGXrd; you simply have to experience it for yourself...
 

At times... it's difficult to believe we're looking at 3D graphics... not 2D.

 
Alright, I guess I can say a little more about GGXrd's visuals. Not only do the charismatic fighters force their awesomeness down your throat during their epic super-move cutscenes, but the flashy special-move effects & hit sparks completely fill the screen at times and are clearly no afterthought. Some of those projectiles alone are mini "artworks" in and of themselves. Thanks to such attention to detail, each character's fighting style and "theme" shines more vividly than ever before. All of the fine details of each character's updated outfits also make a statement in-game. Another stand-out visual element are the various "K.O." camera angles, which somehow manage to make every final hit of each match EPIC. I don't know how Aksys pulled it off... but no matter the circumstances, K.O.'s just look badass... every time. Not to mention, GGXrd's super-moves are the most cinematic I've seen in any fighting game to date, and they don't "take you out of the action" either! (I considered this a flaw in several past 2D fighting games which attempted the same thing: Injustice & Tatsunoko VS Capcom, for example).
 
In terms of gameplay, Guilty Gear was arguably never as intuitive or as "easy to get into" as other 2D fighters. Furthermore, the numerous updates of the former GGXX series ended up making gameplay nuances and character changes a bit difficult to follow for casual, "on & off" players. Thankfully, Xrd offers streamlined character movesets and a slightly toned down gameplay system over its predecessors, making it much more accessible to new players.
I've never been a hardcore Guilty Gear player, but I can't see a single "change" to the gameplay that a seasoned player couldn't adapt to (and no doubt get the jump on any casual player). Nearly all staple mechanics from the long-running GGXX series have returned in Xrd, joining some brand new ones: Instant Kills, Roman Cancels, Clashes, Blitz Shield, Faultless Defense, Dead Angle Attack, Psych Burst, Repel and Danger Time. Like in past installments, "Roman Cancels" allow the interruption of movement, actions, and the recovery of actions (and are the key to hitting those long, damaging combos). Roman Cancels cost 25% or 50% of the Tension Gauge (also used for super-moves).

There are now 3 types of "Clashes" in the game: Normal, Repel, and Danger Time. "Danger Time" occurs when both characters collide with powerful attacks (but happens randomly, and not too often). A special cinematic will occur during Danger Time... the character that lands the first attack will cause a Super Counter, and has the opportunity to hit a very damaging combo. "Blitz Shield" allows characters to temporarily take a stance to repel the opponent's attacks. While in the stance, the opponent's attacks are repelled, opening a chance for a counterattack. I suppose that's enough "pro talk" for now... can we just get back to looking at how pretty this game is? Yes, let's do that.
 

GGXrd's Character Select Screen & Color Select System... is HOT.

 
In a game like GGXrd, simply hitting buttons and throwing out random special moves with your staple circle & charge motions can be fun for beginners & casuals (and it won't make them look like idiots either - because GGXrd always looks cool no matter what). However, if you want to learn to play GGXrd like a pro... the comprehensive in-game Tutorial, Challenge and Mission Modes will guide you through everything you could imagine! Tutorial takes you through the very basics up to intermediate systems and techniques, and features character voiceovers to entertain players along the way. Upon starting Tutorial, Sol Badguy explains ever so eloquently, "Alright, the basics are, you punch shit till it stops moving. Got it?" If the silly dialogue doesn't humor you, the extra "fun facts" you get after completing each successful tutorial might be your cup of tea. Basic Training options are very well put together, and the combo challenges are freakin' great, too. Want to learn a particular character (or two... or five)? Challenge Mode cuts experimenting time by giving you more than enough combo options to get you acquainted with your fighter of choice. It's all easy to understand, and the CPU will even perform a live demo of the combo if you can't quite grasp it by the description alone (indeed, some are very very tough). 

It's great to see such a well-executed tutorial mode in a fighting game... Arc System Works continues to be a leader in the genre when it comes to welcoming new players and making it as easy as possible to learn a pretty complicated game. Even with all the in-game help provided... Guilty Gear Xrd is still an intimidating fighting game to get into, even for an experienced fighting game player! Crazy air dashing techniques, command-heavy combos, various types of cancels, etc. There's A LOT to wrap your head around. But like most quality fighters, practice pays off. And in GGXrd's case, you're rewarded by being able to play
this ultra stylish-looking fighting game... ultra stylishly. But worry not... if you still suck at GGXrd after months of training, your defeats will still look epic, at the least. 

I can't think of a fighting game with more epic-looking air combos... So slick.

 
Guilty Gear still lives and dies by its unorthodox character designs. You won't find the straight-forward Karate master, traditional swordsman or hard-hitting Muay Thai fighter in this universe. (On that note, sometimes it takes a game like Guilty Gear to remind fighting game fans why we still love our simpler, more ambiguous character designs). But when it comes to pure originality and creativity, GGXrd's colorful and elaborately fleshed-out character roster stands out proudly in the genre. After you give some of Xrd's characters a chance (even if you've previously tried them in past games), you'll probably be surprised with what you find this time around. There are tons of new moves & techniques to check out, and a few take inspiration from past fighting game characters you might know (and love). 

Old school 2D fighting fans might notice some new attacks have been "inspired" by other famed fighting game characters. This isn't a bad thing either, because some of the moves end up feeling familiar and comfortable (a good thing considering Xrd's steep learning curve). For example: Leo Whitefang's "Kaltes Gestober Erst - Zweit - Dritt" looks and functions very similarly to Genjuro's classic 3-hit slash in the Samurai Shodown series. Another example is Potemkin's "I.C.P.M." new air attack, which is eerily similar to Juggernaut's jumping body splash in the Marvel VS series. You might also say some of Sin Kiske's moves are comparable to Kilik's of Soul Calibur fame, and a few of Elphelt's artillery attacks are reminiscent of B.B. Hood's from Darkstalkers. And no, I'm not calling these moves "rip-offs"... as the GGXrd crew definitely add their own spin on their moves. Furthermore, newcomers like Elphelt, Bedman, and Leo each present very original fighting styles, utilizing strategies and attacks never before conceived in the fighting game realm.
GGXrd's new character designs truly offer something unique to the series and shouldn't be missed (but sadly, you'll have to shell out some $ for DLC if you didn't pick up Xrd at launch).

Unlike the reckless, unhinged heavy metal BGMs of past Guilty Gear titles, Xrd's soundtrack offers a more diverse sound and variety of music tracks. The majority of songs are still strongly guitar-driven with hellishly infectious riffs, but now include some jazzy elements, and sometimes a bit of keyboard and piano to calm things down. Some tracks even sound like they could come out of Blazblue's OST (which is a good thing in my book), but in the end, still manage to have that trademark Guilty Gear vibe. Instead of writing all of that, I guess I could've just said GGXrd's soundtrack sounds f*cking great... because it does. *Throws up devil horns*

Character voices in Xrd have also gotten a huge makeover. Most English voiceovers aren't terrible, but some definitely don't fit the characters (Venom's is pretty bad). Naturally, most characters sound way cooler in Japanese. But regardless of the voice acting itself, Aksys did an excellent job fleshing out all of the character personalities. I never knew the Guilty Gear cast could be such a talkative bunch (and literally, some of them never shut up, like Leo & Bedman)! Arc System Works continues to innovate on this front (as they've been doing for years with Blazblue), because not only do characters have unique spoken dialogue before and after fights (which oftentimes correlates with their opponents), but there's also exclusive dialogue DURING Instant Kill moves as well. It's insane, awesome attention to detail... and unless you watch some sort of compilation, it'll take you a very long time to hear all of Xrd's unique character-to-character dialogue.
 

Zato-One hasn't changed much. Millia on the other hand...

 
While every character has their own cinematic cutscenes & endings within Arcade Mode (which are very well done by the way), GGXrd's actual Story Mode doesn't involve the player at all. It's simply a multi-chapter movie, and you might say it's pretty good for a "short" anime. I actually haven't completed it 100%, so I may add my impressions (right here) in the near future. In addition to the Battle, Training, Story, and Network modes... there's the Database section, which includes: Profile, Replay, Gallery, Library. Profile is your online "R-Code" card which you can customize in a few ways. Replay allows you to play back and manage saved replays with various options, including frame-by-frame playback & battle analysis. In Gallery, players can unlock artwork, movies, BGMs and extra character voices. And finally, Library mode offers a ton of information about the Guilty Gear universe and all of its characters... definitely some cool stuff if you like reading.

There isn't much to complain about concerning GGXrd... but one gripe I've had from past installments still remains: inconsistency in the animation. Simply put, some animations are impressively smooth and then some aren't. But for a fighting game going for the "anime" look, this is to be expected. On the bright side, many past animations have been greatly improved. For example: Potemkin's walking animation (previously choppy) is now insanely smooth. Oddly enough, some smaller characters' walk animations look pretty choppy (Millia's for instance). Some standard attack animations also don't have very many frames. (For example: May's airborne slash has her swinging her giant anchor from behind her head downward to her opponent... and the anchor movement is done entirely in "1 frame"). More "support animations" definitely would've been nice in some moves. On the bright side, the "shortcuts" taken in some animations are hardly noticeable during combos and the fast-paced gameplay... so it's not a huge flaw. Overall, GGXrd's animation style is excellent, and the "limited / anime-inspired" 2D animations meshed with the 3D graphics engine actually manage to create a certain magic... even if it is imperfect. 


GGXrd
's Network Mode keeps a similar setup to other recent fighting game efforts by Arc System Works. However, Xrd's is noticeably less refined than Persona 4 Arena: Ultimax's layout. The Battle Lobbies in Xrd are broken up into regions (your actual location) and allow for 64-player rooms (which never seem to get even close to that big). The new lobbies enable players to meet friends & other players, create and customize a VS room (with various options), spectate & comment, and even chat using character voices. Each individual "room" of players can support several matches at once, with player icons simulating sitting down at arcade cabinets. In general, Network Mode is nosier and more confusing than it needs to be, but the decent options make up for it in some ways. Also supported is Online Training Mode with 2-players, and the addition of cross-play between PS4 & PS3 players is a cool feature. In general, online matches are playable... but something about the netcode seems prone to stuttering and interruptions. In addition to standard Ranked & Player Matches, players can use their "powered-up" versions of characters from the single-player, RPG-style Medal of Millionaire (M.O.M.) mode in non-ranked player matches (if the room allows it).

  

Page Updated: May 22nd, 2015
Developer(s): Arc System Works
Distributor(s): Sega
Designer(s): Daisuke Ishiwatari      (lead director)
Hidehiko Sakamura  
(art director)
Artwork By: Daisuke Ishiwatari
Platform(s): Arcade, PS4, PS3
Release Date(s): Jan. 30th, 2014      ( Arcade)
Dec. 4th, 2014       ( PS4/PS3)
Dec. 16th, 2014     ( PS4/PS3)
June. 3rd, 2015      ( PS4/PS3)
Characters Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, Millia Rage, Chipp, Venom, Potemkin, May, Axl Low, I-No, Faust, Slayer, Zato-One, Bedman, Ramlethal Valentine, Sin Kiske, Elphelt, Leo Whitefang

Featured Video:

Related Games: GGXrd REV 2, GGXrd -REVELATOR-, Guilty Gear, Guilty Gear X, Guilty Gear X Advance, Guilty Gear XX, Guilty Gear X2 #Reload, Guilty Gear XX Slash, Guilty Gear Isuka, Guilty Gear Judgment, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, Blazblue: Calamity Trigger, Blazblue: Continuum Shift Extend, Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma, Ultra Street Fighter 4, KOF XIII, Injustice: Gods Among Us, Tatsunoko VS Capcom, Hokuto No Ken, Sengoku Basara X , Battle Fantasia, Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, Legend of Raven, Chaos Code
  

Gameplay Engine  8.5 / 10
Story / Theme  9.0 / 10
Overall Graphics  9.5 / 10
Animation  8.5 / 10
Music / Sound Effects  9.0 / 10
Innovation  9.5 / 10
Art Direction  9.5 / 10
Customization  9.0 / 10
Options / Extras  8.5 / 10
Intro / Presentation  8.5 / 10
Replayability / Fun  8.0 / 10
"Ouch" Factor  7.0 / 10
Characters  8.5 / 10

BOTTOM LINE

 9.1 / 10

 Review based on PS4 version

  

Final Words:

There's "raising the bar"... and then there's redefining what we know as a "2D" fighting game. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- delivers on so many levels, yet is destined to remain under-appreciated by Western mainstream gamers. The series just doesn't have the name recognition of the Mortal Kombats or Street Fighters, but those who dive in are in for eye candy and layers upon layers of fighting mechanics. GGXrd makes it pretty easy for old school fans to fall in love with the series all over again, and gives new players more than enough reason to try out this beautiful 2D fighting game. 

Since their arrival to the fighting game scene, Arc System Works has been known for "pushing the envelope" of 2D fighters and creating some of the most "artistic" fighting games ever made, and it's apparent that they haven't lost their fire... because GGXrd is definitely one of the most artistically-driven fighting games of this era. To fully enjoy GGXrd, you'll need the following items: PS4, 1080p TV, eyes, ears (with good taste), some basic fighting game skill... and (possibly most importantly) an open mind. If you have all of the above, it would be difficult not to enjoy GGXrd

While the gameplay might "look" very similar to previous iterations at a glance, GGXrd offers an in-game presentation never seen before in a fighting game... and it plays like a gem once you learn the ropes. The 2D/3D graphics engine is pure brilliance, and actually enhances the gameplay experience. Future fighting games even decades from now probably won't look quite like Xrd does.

While grasping Xrd's gameplay depth and feeling comfortable with a character or two could take weeks (or longer)... you also don't need to be a frame-counting combo-expert to "enjoy" this game. Actually, I'd say it's one of the most easily-enjoyable fighting games without having to be an expert at it. For the mainstream audience, GGXrd is probably still too complex for its own good, but dedicated players and combo-creators will love every bit of it.

Whether or not GGXrd ends up being a fighting game tournament headliner... Guilty Gear is back, and is
going places. It's a safe bet that there will be sequels, especially since a large part of the former roster is still missing. Honestly, a few of Arc System Works' decisions (regarding DLC / releasing sequels) have put me off in the recent past... but I'm hoping they won't "milk" Xrd to hell... like they did with the XX series. I want to see new characters in this game as much as the next guy, but I hope Aksys addresses this issue in proper SEQUELS. (And please don't kill us with DLC... guys).

I'd say GGXrd is the first "must play" fighting game on PS4... and indeed, it must be played on PS4 to be fully appreciated. 1080p visuals with hardly ever a drop from 60 fps? It's beautiful stuff. The PS4 controller's light bar even goes crazy before a match begins (during the trademark 'Heaven or Hell' sequence) and also when you complete a challenge in Challenge Mode. (Hey, it's nice to see developers caring about small aesthetic details like that.)

Guilty Gear
Xrd makes just as big a statement on PS4 as the original GGX made on the PS2 & Dreamcast back in the day. Also, it would be hard to argue that this isn't the best Guilty Gear ever made... well-deserving of that
9.1
rating (which has the potential to go higher). And all this praise, coming from a fighting game player who usually prefers "stand up" (non air-dash-crazy) fighting games. Much respect to Arc System Works... Keep on Rockin'.  ~TFG Webmaster
 

 
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