Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 PS4 Review
For a long while, Arc System Works was considered the last bastion for fans of classic 2D fighting games featuring hand drawn sprites; while virtually every other fighting franchise abandoned their two-dimensional beginnings and embraced the world of polygons and multiple camera angles, Arc continued to evolve their 2D tech with even more gorgeous character sprites, as seen in the Blazblue series and the spin-off crossover Persona 4 Arena.
But it was Guilty Gear that originally made Arc System Works a household name. Combining an unfiltered anime aesthetic with a heavy metal soundtrack, Guilty Gear remained a cult classic for several years before lying dormant, only to emerge once again with a new name and visual facelift, Guilty Gear Xrd. With Arc’s games having more expansions than Street Fighter II, Xrd would see further re-releases that added new characters and content: the latest update, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2, adds two new characters and an expanded story mode.
For fighting game veterans, two characters may seem like a poultry addition to justify another purchase, but one of the characters is a long-time favorite who was sorely missing in the first couple of games: Baiken, the one-armed samurai swordswoman, has returned to the roster older, grumpier, and…significantly bustier. The second character is a brand-new ninja named Answer, who serves as an advisor to the newly appointed president Chipp (who is, incidentally, also a ninja). Going into battle with a business suit and fighting while holding conference calls, Answer is every bit the kind of eccentric, substance-influenced character design that the Guilty Gear franchise is known for.
There is also the newest story mode, which continues Guilty Gear’s long-running storyline involving clones, time travel, demons and vampires…and that’s just the start. You would be forgiven for being unable to keep up with Guilty Gear’s narrative, especially when the latest developments are built from the lackluster action/RTS hybrid Guilty Gear 2: Overture, which is also an Xbox 360 exclusive. Rev 2’s story mode is not only far lengthier and denser than any other fighting game, it even removes the forced battles that previously served as momentary distractions.
As impenetrable as Rev 2’s story may be for new players, its training mode does a far better job introducing many of the mechanics that have defined fighting games for decades; utilizing a platforming-inspired mini-game, Rev 2’s training mode teaches the basics like blocking, dashing, air dashing, and combos, and offers challenges such as air-dashing through traps or inputting a specific attack combo to better drill the techniques into newbie’s heads. It’s a well-thought out mode that helps new players grasp the fundamentals…it’s just too bad that it stops the lessons halfway: many of the more advanced mechanics, such as the Burst meter, are curiously left out of the curriculum.
As frustrating as it may be to dig up the remaining info online, it’s worth practicing all of Guilty Gear’s mechanics, as well as its characters: Every single fighter in Xrd’s roster is unique in their own way, each having their own abilities and the rules that govern them. Sol and Ky make up the default Ryu and Ken stand-ins for the series, but everyone else has a wacky and diverse range of moves that makes mastering each character a meta game all to itself. Once you have decided on a favorite fighter or two, all that’s left is to engage in battles and marvel at the gorgeous visuals.
Just as Arc set a new standard for sprites, so too have they revolutionized cel-shaded visuals: Guilty Gear Xrd is 3D polygon fighter pretending to be a classic 2D sprite-based fighter. It nearly pulls off this illusion thanks to the gorgeous visuals and animation, which makes many moments feel like a big budget Anime series. The Overdrives, which serve as instant kills for each character, are especially a sight to behold, in addition to the numerous cutscenes found in the story mode: if you can’t follow the plot, at least enjoy the 3D visuals, which blow many CGI Anime features out of the water.
The online multiplayer component of Rev 2 is also worthy of praise: each lobby acts like a Japanese Arcade setup, with cabinets joined side-by-side to indicate two player battles. All one has to do is walk up to a cabinet occupied by an online player and request a match. The player avatars can also be equipped with all sorts of items, which can be collected by merely visiting lobbies as well as fishing in the nearby lake. Other collectibles include diorama figures, character colors and so much more, making players feel rewarded even if they fail to win any online matches (take care when going up against Japanese players…they don’t mess around).
All in all, Guilty Gear Xrd Rev 2 is a welcome upgrade for fans that own the previous iteration (they even get a discount), and an especially meaty experience for newcomers, even if the story will be far ahead of their level of understanding. With Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 falling in the same month, it’s been a heck of a comeback for modern fighting games.