There was a time a few years ago when I referred to Guilty Gear as Arc System Work’s secondary franchise behind BlazBlue. The series had seemingly taken a backseat in favor of Arc’s other fighter but the past couple of years has seen a reversal of roles take place. Guilty Gear is now the name that fighting fan’s think of when they here the developer’s name, and rightfully so, as Sol Badguy and crew have definitely embraced their role in the resurgence of the fighting game genre. We’ve seen a lot of them in the past couple of years on the Vita and the PS3, and now the whole crew is back again with the first installment to hit the new generation of consoles as Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- has launched on the PS4.
This franchise is known for being about as hardcore as fighting games come in terms of the technical aspect of the game. That really hasn’t changed here. In the past however, the game’s engine has had an incredibly steep learning curve as it pertains to the insanely deep gameplay mechanics. There is a lot to learn before one can truly consider their self a Guilty Gear master. For some reason, Xrd -Sign- doesn’t feel nearly as complicated as its predecessors.
It is hard for me to say exactly why the game feels that way. It might be the fact that I am become more familiar with the franchise with each passing title or it could be the incredibly thorough training mode that covers every fine detail of the game’s fighting engine. Every game in the series from recent memory has had a similar mode but this one seems a lot more user-friendly, or perhaps I should say newb-friendly. Things are laid out as simply as possibly and everything just seems to make more sense this time around both in terms of the theory and execution of things like Roman Cancels, Aerial Dusts, and the various Burst attacks (and a whole lot more).
One could easily spend their first couple of hours in the training mode(s), under both the tutorial and practice options. Once you decide to venture out of there you will find a smaller selection of gameplay modes than part games in the series, they all offer lengthy and replayable experiences. There is the status-quo arcade mode, which is where you will learn the backstory of both your selected character and the game as a whole, as well as a mission based mode that tests what you learned in the tutorial(s). The mission mode is interesting because it makes you think and apply what the game has taught you about the various mechanics by putting you in specific situations and challenging you to fight your way out.
There is also a pure-story option which basically plays all of the arcade mode’s cut scenes for you in consecutive fashion, as if it were a movie; you won’t find any gameplay here, just gorgeous video clips playing one after another. Which ever mode you choose to play, you will earn points that can be spent to unlock some of the games many (and I mean MANY) unlockables. We’re talking about video clips, art galleries, and in-game music tracks. There is a ton to unlock and see which is something I love in a game like this.
Of course, as with any fighting game, the heart and soul of the experience is the online play. Xrd -Sign- delivers what is one of the best online experiences that I have seen in the genre to date. First off, just to get it out of the way, the performance is fantastic. There is little to no noticable lag when fighting it out with others on the PSN, even when facing off against competition from Japan and other regions across the globe. It is the options and infrastructure of the online mode that makes it a great experience though. Rather than simply choosing to be matched up with someone ranked or unranked, Xrd Sign allows you to seek out and find the best competition across the globe. You can choose to play against players in different regions of the world, including over seas where the series is far more popular than it is here in the States. There are also a variety of spectator options that give you a front row seat to the fiercest competition out there. Just like the actual netplay itself, it all works nearly perfectly in my experiences.
Modes and gameplay aside, I have to say that this is perhaps the most beautiful fighting game (if not overall video game) that I have ever laid eyes on. From the start of the first battle, you will see that the series has received a major visual update. Rather than the traditional 2-dimensional sprites, the characters in Xrd -Sign- are 3-dimensional, cel-shaded models but presented from a 2D perspective. As a result, you have the 2D feel with some incredible visual flare thanks to the ability to rotate the camera around them in every direction for dramatic effect. This effect is used in more than just gameplay as it also used to assist in the transition between the various cutscenes and the fights. I will be honest, there are many times in the arcade mode when the fight began and I wasn’t ready because I assumed the movie was still playing. It looks simply stunning on the PS4.
I was a bit disappointed to see that the game has a bit smaller roster than fans are used to seeing. Players will only find 14 characters initially on the fighter selection screen, with one more available for free via DLC and another that can be unlocked through gameplay. This number isn’t nearly as robust as most of the other fighting games out there or even some of the previous Guilty Gear titles. It is also comprised mostly of returning faces. However, in true Guilty Gear fashion, this is among the most diverse cast of fighters you will ever find. There aren’t many, if any, similarities between the characters in this game, let alone straight pallette swaps. Each fighter, from the series staple Sol Badguy to newcomers like Bedman and Elphelt (the free DLC character), is drastically different than the others.
I thought that I knew what to expect when I got into this game, but what I found was so much more. Xrd -Sign- has brought me further into the Guilty Gear fold than any of the entries before it. Between the excellent tutorials that make the intimidating technical system accessible to some of the best visuals that I have ever seen, this game is a pure joy from start to finish. As a huge fan of fighting games of all sorts, I always considered myself a casual fan of Arc’s franchise. After this one, I might have to call myself a loyalist. There is still a lot to learn for those heading into the series for the first time, but this is definitely where you should start if you have even the slightest interest in the world of Guilty Gear.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Guess who's back!!! If you have been here before, you know the basics: lifelong gamer, father, and of course, former certified news monkey. I still consider myself all of those things, just maybe not in the grand scale that I once did. I’ve been blogging on the industry for more than decade now, in some form or another. It wasn't until I landed here at Gaming Nexus that I really dove in head first. Now, writing about games has become what I do for fun (and sometimes work) and something I intend on doing until the day I die (in some form or another).
I'm a huge fan of just about everything you can interact with using a controller, no matter how old or new, good or bad. If you put it in front of me, I will play it (at least once).