Developer: Arc System Works | Publisher: Studio 3 | Release Date: 1998 | Genre: 2D Beat ‘Em Up | Website: n/a | Purchase: n/a
Over the years fighting games have come up with some pretty bizarre reasons for their combatants being at each other’s throats. It always has to do with some tournament however, and Guilty Gear is no exception. This time it’s the “Second Sacred Order Tournament” set in some far flung future world. While very serious and apocalyptic, it still comes down to characters with names like “Sol Badguy” and “Dr. Baldhead” beating the snot out of each other. What is surprising, however is that Guilty Gear is a 2D Fighter which is not something the Psone is known for.
First things first. The A.I. in this game is very unforgiving, so if you are not planning on playing against friends, you better prepare yourself for a lot of frustration. There’s no way to lower the difficulty either, so this is definitely not a game for newcomers. Add in features like “Destruction” moves that can end fights regardless of character health and remaining rounds and you have a fighter that can definitely be classified as hardcore. There is ten characters available from the start and they are made up of the usual misfits. To me, the characters all had a very King of Fighters / Samurai Shodown look, but that could just be because it is a weapon based fighter.
The game looks really nice and moves at a fair pace, which is always good for 2D-titles on the system. The color palette is somewhat muted, which can make the visuals look a bit washed out, however. The stage backgrounds are varied but I would have liked to see a bit more depth and animations in them. The character sprites are all very detailed and well animated, but there is visible pixilation during some of the special moves and destructions. The game is a bit light on content and there isn’t much beyond the Arcade and practice mode. There are three additional characters to unlock, but you will have to put a lot of effort into improving your skills before you will be able to manage this.
The controls are very responsive, which is a blessing in fast-paced games like this. The moves are easy to pull off and it is possible to string together some pretty impressive combos. The duel-shock support will ensure that you feel every one of those blows as well. Most of the moves are your standard street fighter style button presses, so you don’t have to perform anything too new or outlandish. The game encourages you to be on the offensive, with a “Tension Gauge” that drains if you play too defensively.
The gauge is used to perform some powerful “Chaos” attacks. I like how you are able to charge some of your attacks as well, for extra damage. Interestingly enough, the game has “taunt” and “respect” buttons.
Perhaps the most controversial feature in the game is the destruction moves. By pressing two attack buttons you will initiate this move. Pressing quarter circle forward and attack while the screen flashes red, you will execute it. If not countered by your opponent it is the end of the fight. Not round, fight. Their previous wins and remaining health counts for nothing if this move connects. It’s very entertaining to pull on an unsuspecting friend, but unfortunately the computer also carries it out with alarming frequency. Luckily you have unlimited continues.
The audio is going to be a love/hate affair for most, as it consists mostly of, as the game describes it, “ultra hardcore metal.” Its not bad but can start to grate a bit after extended play. Character voices and sound effects don’t really stand out as anything special. Guilty Gear isn’t perfect but it definitely stands out from the sea of 3D fighters on the console. A lot of players may find it a bit too daunting for their tastes, but once you get into it, it is possible to really improve your skills. The ultra cheap bosses spoil things a bit but if you are in the market for a fast weapon-based 2D beat-em-up, then Guilty Gear should be high on your list.
*Review originally published 1998.