In a gaming industry where fighters like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat rule the roost, it can often be hard for something new to come along and compete. Many series have come out over the years, but one that managed to not only attract an audience but also remain relevant has been the Guilty Gear franchise. Debuting on the PlayStation in 1998, the series has spanned platforms from Arcade to even the Nintendo DS. After releasing in arcades earlier in 2014, the latest entry in the series has blasted onto consoles for the first time with Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, showcasing spectacular 3D cel-shaded graphics and some of the most intense, yet wacky gameplay in the fighting game genre to date.
In today’s gaming landscape where realism in graphics is so widespread, it is very nice to see a game that is so colorful and cartoon-like. Guilty-Gear Xrd -SIGN- definitely falls into the latter category, as it offers the aforementioned 3D cel-shaded graphics, which is a first for the long running franchise. The vivid characters and backgrounds mesh together beautifully with smooth animations throughout the fast-paced battles. While many fighting games feature static backgrounds that are not memorable in the least, this game offers dynamic backgrounds that can amaze at times.
Beyond the in-game graphics, the cutscenes look like they were taken straight from an anime, with the in-game ones still fitting in exceptionally as well. Each character’s introduction transitions seamlessly into the actual battle, which is something that is often hard to do with an anime-style, as the in-game graphics are often less stylized and animated. The playable character Faust’s intro is a perfect example of this in action, to the point where players will want to see them most every time. This is very telling of a game in the fighting game genre, as most intros are lackluster and not worth watching at all, while Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- will keep players tuned in over and over.
Characters like Faust have long personified the different nature of the Guilty Gear series, with a cast of fighters that manage to differentiate themselves from one another easily in both design and play style. One element that has long plagued the fighting game genre has been the overall lack of unique movesets throughout the playable roster of characters, but luckily Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- does a fantastic job of avoiding this. Rather than including basic clones of characters, each one feels very different from the next, complete with a bevy of unique weapons. These range from a basic sword to more odd entries like a guitar, pool cue, and even a giant mechanized bed, which provide the player plenty of serious as well as zany characters to choose from in battle.
More specifically, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- brings back most of the familiar characters that have made the Guilty Gear series what it is today, including Sol Badguy, Faust, and Millia Rage. That is not quite all, as there are a few newcomers who have been brought into the mix also, including Bedman, which uses the previously mentioned mechanized bed in battle, and Ramlethal. Seeing a few new faces is vital for any fighter to make the game feel fresh, and luckily the new fighters continue the streak of unique play styles that make this easily one of the best in the franchise.
With a fairly complex fighting system and 14 characters unlocked from the start to mess around with, the inclusion of an in-depth tutorial was much appreciated. Starting from the basic fundamentals of the combat, with punches and kicks, to the much more intricate special moves, counters, and combos, this tutorial is not only useful for those brand new to the Guilty Gear series, but also an excellent refresher and even refiner for those returning to the franchise. The inclusion of a tutorial such as this is something that many other fighting games sorely need and other developers really should take a note from Arc System Works here.
Like most fighting games, each of the playable characters are able to be used in an Arcade Mode. Choosing one of the fighters, one must fight up the ladder through a variety of enemies while getting a little bit of story surrounding each as you go along. Oddly enough, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- shakes things up by also offering what it calls a Story Mode in addition, but rather than a story surrounding gameplay, it is a full collection of cutscenes that are meant to be watched after the conclusion of all of the Arcade Modes for each character. This is certainly different and kind of strange, as it would have been better to see the two intermixed a little more, similar to the storylines offered in recent NetherRealm fighters like Injustice: Gods Among Us and Mortal Kombat. However, it is pretty cool to get basically a few episodes of a TV series based on Guilty Gear as an extra in the game.
fighters continue the streak of unique play styles that make this one of the best in the franchise
Featuring a much more eccentric cast of characters than the typical fighter, the voice actors in the game definitely take their performances a little over the top most of the time. This can be very polarizing, as some people will absolutely love this type of performances while it will grate on others. However, the game’s soundtrack is absolutely fantastic all around, to where it should be a standout aspect of the game for most everybody.
The majority of the talking points for this game will likely be the Arcade Mode, gameplay, or the excellent art style, but one of the most important features included in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is that of cross-play between the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. While the last-gen PS3 is finally starting to get left behind, releasing the game on a console with such a large install base was a smart idea, but the ability to play against others who have it on PS4 as well was absolutely genius. This is something that is not done often enough in this transition between console generations, and is an excellent way to bridge the gap while increasing the player pool for online play.
While cross-play is a phenomenal addition to the game, the method of getting there is way too complicated. The inclusion of lobbies is always good in a fighting game, but there should be a much simpler way for two people to face off against one another than having to go through multiple levels of lobby choices. This is followed by having to make rooms within the lobby, which can be a little difficult to figure out at first. The large lobbies are fantastic to have as an option for the very impressive up to 64 player at a time rooms, but there should be another way for someone to find a quick match or game with a friend without having to jump through so many hoops.
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- makes a smashing debut on the PlayStation 4 with arguably the best entry in the franchise yet. The colorful and wide range of characters fill a roster that players will want to try out one by one throughout not only Arcade Mode, but also multiplayer against both local and online opponents. Simply trying to play a match online can feel a little convoluted and could have easily been simplified, though the ability to play in lobbies with up to 64 players across both PS4 and PS3 help to make up for it. While not as publicized as its more popular counterparts in the genre, all the cogs come together like a well oiled machine in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- to provide one of the most fun to play fighting games that has been released in recent years.
- This article was updated on January 2nd, 2015