Guilty Gear Xrd Sign

EDGE - - CONTENTS - Pub­lisher Arc Sys­tem Works (JP), Aksys Games (US) De­vel­oper Arc Sys­tem Works For­mat PS3, PS4 (ver­sion tested) Re­lease Out now (JP, US), TBA (EU)

PS3, PS4

Nor­mally, when we say that a set of screen­shots isn’t a fair rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a game, we mean it as a neg­a­tive. Here, it’s the high­est of praise. Be­lieve it or not, this is a 3D game you’re look­ing at, the char­ac­ters not hand-drawn 2D, but posed 3D mod­els, an­i­mated at 15fps to pre­serve the feel of the 2D Guilty Gears. To de­vel­oper Arc Sys­tem Works, it is a more ef­fi­cient way of work­ing; to the player, it makes for the most vis­ually spec­tac­u­lar fight­ing game in his­tory. Each round ends with the cam­era un­hook­ing from its side-on mount­ing and show­ing the killing blow from an op­ti­mal an­gle. Spend half your Ten­sion gauge on an Over­drive move and the ac­tion zooms in tight on your character for a split sec­ond be­fore pulling back out to show its ef­fect. Guilty Gear Xrd does in re­al­time what its fore­bears did with cin­e­mat­ics. At times it is less a fight­ing game and more a playable an­ime.

The cast cer­tainly play their part in the lat­ter. The character-se­lect screen is an iden­tity pa­rade of fan­tas­ti­cal weirdos: May fights with dol­phins, Venom with bil­liard balls, while Faust is a dis­fig­ured doc­tor with a pa­per bag over his head who dis­ap­pears from the screen then emerges from a mag­i­cal door that he opens into the back of your head. Bed­man is, aptly, a young man strapped to a trans­formable me­chan­i­cal bed who flings boomerang bombs and whose win quotes run into dozens of words. And like any self-re­spect­ing niche an­ime, around them there’s a bonkers, time-hop­ping story that is as good as im­pen­e­tra­ble.

The same could be said for the sys­tems. This is some­thing of which Arc is clearly con­scious, and which it has sought to rem­edy with a gen­er­ous tu­to­rial that, across 50 stages, walks you through Guilty Gear Xrd’s ev­ery com­po­nent. There’s tremen­dous com­plex­ity in this five-but­ton sys­tem, with ex­trav­a­gant air com­bos, tricksy can­cels and per­fectly timed coun­ters. But there is plenty here for new­com­ers too. The Gatling Com­bi­na­tion is a four-hit chain combo avail­able to ev­ery character in the game, while a recharge­able two-but­ton combo breaker lets you es­cape dire sit­u­a­tions.

When the tu­to­rial’s done, Chal­lenge mode walks you through a character’s combo po­ten­tial. Mis­sion mode pa­tiently ex­plains the many lit­tle meta-strate­gies spe­cific to Guilty Gear and ap­pli­ca­ble to the genre in gen­eral. This has been done be­fore, but rarely in such depth or with such el­e­gance: an in­sis­tence that you follow each in­struc­tion mul­ti­ple times en­sures the les­son sinks in, while a wry, witty script car­ries you through the tougher parts. When the ac­tion proper starts, the pace of it all means you’ll quickly for­get most of what you’ve learned, but it’s a gen­er­ous, and much­needed, primer to a game in a se­ries that, de­spite the fa­mil­iar­ity of its genre, has long played by its own rules.

This gen­eros­ity ex­tends to the sin­gle­player too, though Arc isn’t afraid to fall back on hack­neyed genre con­ven­tion from time to time. We thought we were past the point of com­plain­ing about un­fair fi­nal bosses in Ar­cade modes, but Ram­lethal’s un­block­able Over­drive, and the spin­ning sword at­tack that steals a third of a life bar in chip dam­age if blocked, are a bit much by nor­mal stan­dards. Thank­fully, there’s a much kinder, and im­mea­sur­ably smarter, sin­gle­player dis­trac­tion in M.O.M. mode, in which you fight your way across a hex board bat­tling op­po­nents with lit­tle stat buffs and nerfs, lev­el­ling up as you go. Along the way, you’ll col­lect medals, a cur­rency to spend on stat boosts, equip­pable perk-like ac­ces­sories, and skills – bombs, poi­son mists or light­ning bolts, which sub­stan­tially change the way a character is played. Your health bar car­ries over from match to match, but a loss doesn’t mean game over, just a stut­ter for your streak bonus. It’s a thought­ful, non­puni­tive take on fight­ing-game sin­gle­player, and another ex­am­ple of Arc pay­ing care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to the needs of play­ers of ev­ery taste and skill level, of­fer­ing longevity to those who pre­fer to stay off­line.

Yet those who do ven­ture to the Net­work set­ting are in for some­thing truly spe­cial. On­line, you’re asked to join a 64-player lobby, cho­sen by re­gion to min­imise la­tency, which you’ll au­to­mat­i­cally en­ter when­ever you load up the on­line com­po­nent in the fu­ture. Each lobby is split into eight rooms of eight play­ers; here, in­stead of the stan­dard win­ner-stays-on for­mat – where a loss means go­ing to the back of a 20-minute queue – there are four sta­tions of two back-to-back cab­i­nets. You can all queue up at the same sta­tion, or break off in twos and threes; you can choose to spec­tate matches rather than wait your turn, siz­ing up the com­pe­ti­tion be­fore throw­ing down your metaphor­i­cal ¥200. Group­ing play­ers to­gether like this has meant that, even be­fore EU re­lease, we’ve de­vel­oped ri­val­ries with other UK play­ers. There’s al­ready a size­able Euro­pean player-base, thanks in no small part to cross­plat­form play be­tween PS3 and PS4. It’s a won­der­fully well-thought-out ap­proach to on­line fight­ing.

We are 14 months into a gen­er­a­tion in which so many de­vel­op­ers have seem­ingly de­cided that what they most want to make are vis­ually up­graded ver­sions of 360 and PS3 games. Arc Sys­tem Works, how­ever, has clearly thought about what the phrase ‘next gen­er­a­tion’ means for fight­ing games. Xrd is an out­ra­geously pretty game on PS4, but along with that comes a novel take on the fight­ing-game sin­gle­player, a new genre stan­dard for on­line mul­ti­player, as well as a best-in-class set of tu­to­ri­als and chal­lenges. Guilty Gear, like the an­ime that in­flu­ences it, is an ac­quired taste, and a niche pur­suit. Yet for all its com­plex­ity, it is un­com­monly wel­com­ing. The re­sult is a game that has raised our ex­pec­ta­tions for the com­ing gen­er­a­tion of fight­ing games, and set Arc’s peers a high bar that will take some beat­ing.

Arc Sys­tem Works has clearly thought about what the phrase ‘next gen­er­a­tion’ means for fight­ing games

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