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Gaming PS4 Retro Reviews

Review: Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- (PS4)

Guilty-Gear-Xrd-Sign_2014_09-11-14_001Developer: Arc System Works Team Red
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform(s): PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3
Price: $59.99 (PS4); $49.99 (PS3)
Release Date: December 16, 2014

Guilty Gear is a long-running, one-on-one fighting game franchise designed by the talented artist/musician Daisuke Ishiwatari. The Guilty Gear series is known for its sound and character design, greatly influenced by heavy metal music, and also for its deep, intricate fighting system. The newest entry in the series looks to make waves once again, with a unique visual style and increased beginner accessibility to add some depth to the still-shallow roster of PS4 fighting games.

Storyline

A mystical world that balances the power of good and evil, known as The Backyard, is locked away in a book by a powerful philosopher in order to protect the power from getting into the wrong human hands. However, a woman named Ramlethal Valentine emerges from inside The Backyard to declare war on humans and destroy the world.

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Content Guide

Language: Certain characters (especially Sol Badguy) use plenty of foul language. H***, D***, S***, and B*****D are just a few examples heard.

Violence: There’s no blood or gore to be had here, but being a fighting game, there is plenty of… fighting. Characters punch and kick each other and strike each other with weapons, such as swords.

Religious: Guilty Gear Xrd is bursting at the seams with religious and demonic images and scenery. One character, Zato, fights using what look like an evil spirit coming from his body. Also, as a special move, Sol can transform into a devil-looking creature temporarily. Good vs. Evil is a large theme in the game, and with it comes a lot of Heaven or Hell metaphors (in fact the announcer asks “Heaven or Hell” at the beginning of each match). While images in the game may not be very scary, they can be bizarre or disturbing to those that are sensitive to evil, demonic imagery or even the use of Christian symbols (such as crosses) not representing Christ.

Miscellaneous: A lot of special moves involve the use of magic. There are a couple of female characters that are scantily clad and their costumes show a lot of their chests.

Gameplay

At its core, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is an arcade-style, one-on-one fighting game on a 2D plane, in the vein of series such as Street Fighter or The King of Fighters, but, as you dig deeper, it reveals itself to be so much more. In any fighting game, the main draw is Arcade Mode, where you select a character and fight your way through a roster of characters as one would in the arcade. Most fighting games give you the bare-bones experience, merely throwing you into battle with little context or motivation, but not Guilty Gear Xrd. Arcade Mode gives you a pretty involved, albeit sometimes confusing, story told through anime-style cutscenes and well-voiced dialog. This gives Xrd a more fleshed-out feeling than most fighting games.

The story told during Arcade Mode acts as a prologue for each character, but the main story is told through the Story Mode. Normally, the Story Mode of a fighting game tells a story between fights, but the Story Mode in Guilty Gear Xrd involves no fights or input from the player whatsoever. Story Mode feels like an animated manga, which may put some people off, but it still looks just as great as the rest of the game.

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The characters of Guilty Gear Xrd are interesting, wildly imaginative, and completely unique. While some returning Guilty Gear fans may be disappointed to find their favorite character absent from the roster, newcomers will find the characters to be a breath of fresh air. Think of the cast as quality over quantity. A lot of fighting games boast 30 or more combatants in its lineup, but a lot of them just end up feeling like re-skins of others characters. Xrd has a lineup that is fresh, with each fighter being quite different from the others.

One game mode that out-performs other fighters on all levels is the Tutorial. Most people just blow past tutorial modes, opting to just “feel out” the game in arcade mode, but the designers really went all out with the tutorial in Guilty Gear Xrd. Tutorial Mode starts almost laughably simple with very basic movements, but, by the end, it has you pulling off combos and showing off all of the games’ in-depth fighting mechanics. The tutorial even contributes to story and character development, showing the relationship between Sol Badguy and Sin Kyske as they have amusing back-and-forth quips. This is the first tutorial mode in a fighting game that has genuinely entertained me and won’t discourage me from going back and brushing up on some of the game’s more advanced fighting techniques.

Speaking of more advanced techniques, the fighting system in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- has an amazing balance between pick-up-and-play accessibility for beginners and incredible, gameplay depth for veteran players.  Players can learn and mater insane combos, parrying, parrying parries, instant kill moves, and so much more; however, those who understand basic Street Fighter-style, quarter-circle attack mechanics can jump right in and have fun as well. As far as the fighting system itself goes, Guilty Gear Xrd completely nails the concept of being fun for both beginners and experts.

The controls themselves are super tight and responsive. While I don’t have a proper arcade fight stick for my PlayStation 4, the Dual Shock 4 controller works very well for this game. Quarter-circle and half-circle moves feel spot-on and if you make a mistake in your combo, it’s your own fault, not the game’s. The game can be pretty fast-paced at times, but the timing of moves is finely-honed, which makes finally nailing that huge combo that you’ve been working on completely rewarding.

No modern fighting game would be complete without online matches, and Guilty Gear Xrd is no different. Online matches take some getting used to. Instead of just matchmaking, there are lobbies divided by geographic regions, and in those lobbies you can look for matches or just meet and talk to players. It’s far more complicated than just having a match found for you, but it does encourage the growth of an online community around the game.

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Presentation

Traditionally, Guilty Gear games (like most 2D fighting games) are designed with hand-drawn character sprites and animation. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is here to break that mold. Xrd runs on the Unreal Engine 3, using fully 3D, cell-shaded character models. The results are stunning. In-engine gameplay looks like you’re playing an anime. The character models look so crisp and clean, it’s hard to tell actual gameplay and cutscenes apart. Stage backgrounds are intricately detailed, and if you get a spare second in the action, you can watch as the backgrounds come to life in very vibrant, colorful, and (sometimes) creepy or disturbing ways.

On the PlayStation 4, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- looks gorgeous running in 1080p at 60 frames per second. Gameplay, character animations, and everything else runs as smooth as butter. This is what next-gen fighting games are supposed to look and play like.

The music in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- matches the aesthetic and theme of the game perfectly. Those returning to the Guilty Gear franchise pretty much know what to expect in the music department. Shred-heavy J-Rock tunes blast high energy into this already intense game and set the mood perfectly for punching something until it stops moving. The soundtrack isn’t exactly something I would put on my iPod, but it lends itself to the game very well.

Final Word

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is a shining star in the Guilty Gear series. An insane cast of characters tells a crazy story about the struggle of good and evil, using tight controls and a deep fighting system in drop-dead gorgeous visual style set to shredding rock music. The Online Mode may be a bit convoluted, and the Story Mode doesn’t have any interactivity, which seems like an odd choice in the game’s design, but Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is a visually outstanding fighter that takes minutes to pick up and forever to master. If you own a PlayStation 4 and are a fighting game fan, casual or expert, you need to check out Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-.

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