I’ve always considered the Guilty Gear franchise the 2D fighting game savior. At a time when Capcom recycled Street Fighter games over and over, Guilty Gear crashed the party with a rock n’ roll attitude and refreshing gameplay. Over the years, however, Guilty Gear fell into a similar cycle of rehashing the same characters and moves. As a result, the Guilty Gear franchise faded, with only a few dedicated fans whispering its name. Fortunately, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is a return to the series's glory days. With a new look and smoother controls, Guilty Gear Xrd is not only the best entry in the series, it’s by far one of the finest 2D fighters in years.
Whether you’re a newcomer or expert, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- offers something for everyone. An extremely useful tutorial mode walks players through the game’s fighting system, and it’s all presented with hilarious satirical dialogue. The mission and challenge modes are particularly useful for honing skills, and should be tackled before attempting to face more experienced gamers online. Fundamentally, Guilty Gear shares a lot of mechanics with Street Fighter, but its emphasis on offense makes it faster and more chaotic. Slowing down actually depletes the power gauge used for most special attacks, so players are encouraged to constantly keep attacking.
"With a new look and smoother controls, Guilty Gear Xrd is not only the best entry in the series, it’s by far one of the finest 2D fighters in years."
The five-button system is easy to pick up, but the game’s ferocious AI punishes those unwilling to learn each characters’ varying attack properties. The punch, kick, slash, heavy slash and dust combos vary in speed, attack reach and efficiency between characters, making each fighter feel unique and worth experimenting with. Anyone who’s ever played a 2D fighter will have a relatively easy time mastering the quick, medium and heavy attack combos, but it's the special and super move systems that require patience and the ability to twist your fingers like pretzels. If you can’t perform double quarter circle twists in your sleep, don’t even bother competing against expert players.
"Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is complicated once you start moving beyond the initial button mashing, but its challenge is balanced by providing players with enough training tools to master each intricacy."
Guilty Gear Xrd’s mechanics are much deeper beyond the combos and special attacks, but trying to explain the game’s complex fighting system is like teaching someone how to tie shoelaces with sign language. It has to be experienced firsthand to make any sense. There’s a gatling combo system, various types of cancels, different bursts and meter mechanics, instant blocking, parrying and the nearly impossible to achieve instant kills. Even after a full week of thoroughly experimenting with each fighter, I only feel like I’ve scratched the surface of what the gameplay has to offer. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is complicated once you start moving beyond the initial button mashing, but its challenge is balanced by providing players with enough training tools to master each intricacy.
Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- has plenty of modes to keep gamers busy for weeks, if not months, but the non-interactive story mode feels like a waste. While the idea of just kicking back and watching Guilty Gear’s story play out in anime style cutscenes sounds great on paper, the actual plot and semi-animated clips are dreadful. The cutscenes are a combination of partially animated scenes with sliding and static images accompanied by nauseating dialogue. The style works in the arcade mode where the intro cutscene is brief, and only serves as padding between matches, but to have an entire movie play out in this style is a terrible decision. Luckily, it’s just an added bonus and doesn’t take away from the superb action. Some may like it for its cheesiness, but I doubt many will even get through all the story chapters a single time.
"There is so much more to Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, more than a review can possibly summarize. It’s a beautiful, fast, challenging, bizarre fighter than any fan of the genre must add to their collection."
Poor storytelling aside, the audio and visuals are top notch. The gorgeous, vibrant, 3D-esque cell shaded graphics are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The characters are fluidly animated and the over the top special moves are an absolute spectacle. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- may be one of the prettiest 2D fighters ever made, and its visuals are accompanied by a spectacular rock n’ roll soundtrack and a super smooth 60 fps.
There is so much more to Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, more than a review can possibly summarize. It’s a beautiful, fast, challenging, bizarre fighter than any fan of the genre must add to their collection. Whether you are a Guilty Gear veteran or never heard of the series before, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is the definitive next-gen 2D fighter and a serious contender for game of the year.
Review by: Tin Salamunic | Reviewed on: Playstation 4