Describing Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator(GGXR) is a difficult task. It’s a bit like a combination of every anime I’ve ever seen, smashed together in a blender, and then spewed out into a beautifully animated, heavy-metal fighting game. With the characters being a mix between the comedically serious Sol Badguy (he’s a bad guy, get it?), and straight-up bizarre, like Bed Man, a skinny man who does all of his moves from the comfort of his mattress, there’s really no other fighting game like it. Each character model looks fantastic, and the fights are smooth. The move sets are complex, but the game provides plenty of avenues for new players to learn and get up to speed.
It has been almost ten years (all the way back on the original Xbox) since I have touched a Guilty Gear game, and honestly, it’s as difficult to jump in as ever. Guilty Gear is a traditional Japanese style fighting game with similar combo mechanics to Street Fighter. Luckily, the game provides a series of tooltips which are incredibly helpful, and occasionally humorous. For example, jumping into my first fight, I picked Faust (a physician who wears a bag on his head and fights with a pole/his tongue), and was immediately overwhelmed by the complexity of his move set. Luckily, from the pause menu, there is a series of easily-accessible tutorials with titles like “I can’t make combos”, “this game is hard”, and “Can I even run?!”. As a player who has spent some time away from more complex fighting games like GGXR, it was an immense help and got me right back up to speed (well, not getting my ass handed to me on the first level of arcade every time).
Once I had familiarized myself with the controls through a series of training maps in the Dojo mode, I was ready to tackle GGXR’s Story Mode. However, unlike games like Mortal Kombat, where the story mode is a series of cinematics grafted around fights and quick-time events, GGXR has a full on anime, with no gameplay. For those who aren’t used to the series (me), this can be a little off-putting, but luckily, for those who prefer a shorter experience, the game does provide a classic arcade mode. In this mode, players can get a short (1-3 minute) cinematic about the character they are playing, and then jump right into the action. These short cinematics are great in that they set up the characters enough for those who are new to the series, and do not detract from the game’s core elements; beautiful, fluid combat, detailed character models, and heavy metal music.
Which brings me to my favorite part of this game; the music. Every match starts with a heavy metal guitar riff and announcer yelling “Heaven or Hell?! DUEL!” Guilty Gear if nothing else is certainly the most metal fighting game I have ever played. The soundtrack is fantastic, and meshes well with the game’s overall style. Over the top guitar riffs punctuate furious exchanges of punches/slashes/kicks, and keep the game feeling amped, even if it’s the fifth time facing the same person. It’s the little touches like this that keep the game entertaining, and set it apart.
GGXR’s characters also feel like they belong in this heavy metal environment. They all sport huge hairdos, heavily stylized clothing, and dialogue that would make even Michael Bay cringe. Lines like: “You’ve done screwed up, son.” And “Your kind of the ruler of the world now,” don’t feel out of place, and actually mesh well with the overall style. Each character is unique in both their move sets, and the overall feel when playing them. For instance, Ky Kiske works best using a strategy of fighting away from the enemy, attacking and retreating at the same time, while the beefy knight-robot Potemkin feels more comfortable at close-range brawling. Whatever the play-style, the combos still fill the screen with fire, explosions, and way too many sword flourishes (whenever I can manage them). Every combo feels meaningful, and each character is entertaining to play.
One difficulty I ran into was getting into online play sessions with other random users. It’s easy to play split screen, or to enter a lobby with a friend, but using the game’s server system for random players is difficult. Part of this is due to the fact that almost all the North American servers are empty. In order to find a match, I had to go into the Japanese server section, and deal with some small latency issues. However, for me at least, this is not the main point of a fighting game. It’s all about those sweet local multiplayer moments where random button mashing leads to an instant kill and a combo that can never be repeated.
Sure, it’s cheesy and possibly poorly translated (my Japanese isn’t what it used to be), but that’s definitely part of the charm. The character models are exceptionally well made, and some of the most detailed I’ve ever seen in a fighting game. Every character feels like there was a lot of time spent on it, and I’m sure with the proper level of expertise can be viable in a competitive setting. Even though GGXR is a bit overwhelming to newcomers at first, it definitely provides enough help to make it fun to play. Overall, GGXR is a great fighting game, with a unique style that will please hardcore fighting fans and newcomers alike.