Guilty Gear X Advance Edition
The Guilty Gear series has emerged as one of the more enjoyable 2D beat-em-ups available on console, so it is no surprise that it finally made the leap to Gameboy Advance. Based on the Arcade version, this pint-sized port offers all the thrills of its bigger cousins albeit in vastly scaled down proportions. Since the series is known for large, high resolution characters and colorful visuals, the poor GBA has its work cut out for it.
The game follows the same plot as the other versions of Guilty Gear X, so once again you are in a tournament in order to destroy the renegade Gear, known as Dizzy. An unexpected bonus is that this version actually includes text endings for all the characters. These aren’t much, but it’s still better than the solitary static image that the PS2 version had as a reward. All the original characters are also included, which is never a given for handheld ports. Unfortunately it is not all good news, as it almost seems like in order to fit the game on a cart and make it run smoothly, some sacrifices have been made in the A.I. department. Even on the highest settings it doesn’t come close to the punishment dished out on the other versions. This is easily rectified by playing against a friend, but unlike consoles where this just requires a second controller for GBA there is another handheld copy of the game and link cables involved.
Gameplay-wise the game remains true to the Arcade version with all the super moves and destructions still available. Some of the moves are a bit harder to pull off, but that’s more to do with the tiny buttons on the GBA. You can choose between a three or four button layout to suit your taste, but it never comes close to the feel of a decent gamepad. The controls are at least responsive and you can still pull off some impressive combos. I’ve played the PC version of this game extensively, so I was glad to find that this version actually packs two new features. The tag match and 3-on-3 mode plays smoothly and breathed some new life into the game for one. You can pull off some nice new combos in this mode, and I was impressed by the GBA’s ability to handle the extra characters onscreen.
Visually the game was never going to come close to the Arcade version, but even so, it is still a bit harsh on the eyes. The character sprites have been shrunk down considerably and the backgrounds are all pale, lifeless imitations of their former splendor.
The limited color palette also means that sometimes the characters blend too much with the background, which doesn’t look very good. You can change the colors of all the characters to something which suites your taste, but still. The animations look ok, but its clear to see that quite a few frames have been dropped. It helps the game to run at a speedy frame rate, but there is still the odd bit of slowdown here and there. There is only one victory pose per character as well but that isn’t too big a loss all things considered.
The audio has also drawn the short end of the stick with sound effects that sound very garbled. If there are any speech snippets, it would take an EVP expert to determine what is being said. Likewise the trademark rock soundtrack has been given the GBA sound treatment, and now sound like a midi file being played in a toilet.
While it’s easy to criticize the game when comparing it to the arcade version, when judged on its own merits its really not a bad game. Barring the low challenge, the gameplay is solid and most of the important features remain intact. The new modes, not to mention the endings, made me spend more time on this game than I originally intended, especially considering how much time I wasted on the PC version. If you are looking for a nice combo-laden weapon based fighter for your GBA, then look no further. While not perfect, this is a good start and hopefully things will just get better.
*Review originally published 2003.