theuselessgod's Guilty Gear X (Dreamcast) review

Heaven or Hell, Let's Rock!

Disclaimer: I am not a fighting game master. While I'd consider myself pretty good at some of them, I don't play competitively or know any serious level of depth when it comes to the genre. These reviews are from the perspective of a beginner to intermediate level player, and thus I can't analyze them to the particular depth many fighting game fans would need.

The Short

Pros

- Gorgeous, fast-paced 2D fighting game from Arc System Works.

- Roster of characters is awesomely weird

- Music is killer

- Half-circle moves rather than full circles make it much more accessible to beginners

- Despite having a decent level of depth (including Dust Attacks, Overdrives, Roman Cancels, etc.) it is still a very easy game to pick up and get good at

Cons

- Ichigeki Hissatsu's ("One Hit Certain Kills") are still in the game, which can be frustrating

- Was never released on the Dreamcast int he US

- They do they whole "release 80 versions of the same game" thing that drives me nuts

- If you are going to pick up a game in this series, you might as well avoid this one and get the Xbox's X2 #Reload release, as it's the same game with more characters/options, etc.

Heaven or Hell, let's rock!

The Long

As the disclaimer points out, I'm a lover of fighting games but far from a master. Though I did get pretty good at the first Marvel vs Capcom as well as the arcade version of Vampire Hunter/Darkstalkers 2, I would hardly call myself a pro of the genre. However, similar to bullet hell shooters, it's a genre I can't seem to pull myself away from, despite my lack of skill. There's a weird draw that fighting games have for me, so I keep coming back to them (especially when playing against friends for some hot-seat tournaments).

I actually heard of Guilty Gear X back in the early 2000s, though I never actually got around to playing any of the games until recently. I'd dabbled in the excellent BlazBlue series first, before finally going back to its predecessor on the Dreamcast. And after just a few rounds I was completely hooked: Guilty Gear X is an absolutely excellent fighting game, especially for beginners.

Johnny, the samurai cowboy, is awesome.

You could argue the Guilty Gear series is famous for two things: fantastic, high rez animations of their 2D anime fighters, and the totally bizarre roster of characters. With regards to the latter, while it isn't quite as bananas as the following games in the series (where we are introduced to the infamous Bridget), Guilty Gear X still sports a sizeable roster of misfits. One-armed samurai ladies cross blades with black-demon spawn, air pirates fighting with giant anchors do battle with weird tall guys with paper bags on their heads. The fourteen (expanded to sixteen if you include the bosses) character roster is filled with a plethora of both weird characters and differing styles, meaning you're guaranteed to find a favorite out of the batch.

Aside from the odd characters the game looks incredible, even now in the days of HD graphics. The Dreamcast is capable of punching out some serious graphics (640x480. Woo.), making both it and the PS2 release of this game appear almost exactly identical to the arcade version. While the star of the show is obviously the well detailed and beautifully animated character sprites (which look way better than anything else on the system, including the excellent Marvel vs Capcom 2), the effects are also top notch. Attacks are flashy and satisfying to pull off, and it all meshes well into the bizzaro anime theme they have going on. As something to look at, Guilty Gear X delivers and in spades.

Plus, you summon dolphins on an airship! Wait, what?

On the actual fighting side (what matters in the end, to be honest) Guilty Gear X is both welcome to newcomers and has a decent amount of depth for the hardcore. For new players, the game works quite well for the button-mashers, with many combos being simple and simply requiring multiple buttons being pressed at once to pull of awesome moves. Most also only require a quarter-circle to do rather than a full half-circle, which also makes the game a bit more noob friendly. There's a heavy emphasis on both combos and juggle combos, with the whole game actually reminding me a lot of the SNK fighter Samurai Shodown (which I also love).

It's a bit sloppy, to be sure. When compared to more ridged fighting games like the Street Fighter series or Garu: Mark of the Wolves, Guilty Gear X plays fast and loose. However, I think this makes the game more fun. Since it's more accessible to beginners, the bar to entry isn't nearly as high as it would be in most other fighting games, and you'll feel satisfied with your playing after just a few matches. While there are some obvious noob-killer characters (Eddie/Zato-1 absolutely destroys beginners with his fast attacks and range), newcomers will at least have a chance against more seasoned players.

The one thing that really irks me to the point of frustration are the "Ichigeki Hissatsu" attacks. These are basically instant kill moves (!!!) that are difficult to execute but always end the match if they hit. While it's interesting to see something so risky in a fighting game, it's pretty much an unspoken rule that when playing against another person you don't use them. I mean, seriously, can you think of any faster way to ruin a friendship?

A girl who attacks with her hair? Getting Bayonetta vibes, here.

The music, like the balls-crazy combat, is also something you'll probably either love or hate. Consisting of a plethora of butt-metal and heavy riffs, it sounds more like it would be in a Devil May Cry game than a fighting game. It fits the absurd style well (and honestly there are quite a few tracks I really dig), and to be honestly I like it better than some of the weird jazzy music that Capcom puts in their fighters. It further pushes the already ridiculous, over-the-top insanity of this fighting game, and I love it for it.

I personally think this song is pretty kickin'.

If there is one real fault of this game, it's that the Dreamcast version never made it to the states. It was eventually ported over to the PS2, but right before a "Plus" version of the game came out in Japan, so we pretty much got the dumpy version. Similar to their BlazBlue series (and doing what Capcom does with all its fighting games for some inexplicable reason), there's about twenty trillion releases of this game that all just expand on the original formula. If you are looking to pick it up, I highly suggest the Guilty Gear X2 #Reload version on original Xbox (it's one of the backwards compatible games for 360), as it's very close to the definitive version of these series of games.

That being said, I love the Dreamcast version (if only because I think the Dreamcast controller is excellent for fighting games), and if you happen to have both a Dreamcast and somehow get an import copy (or just burn a copy off the internet...*cough*) it's a hell of a fun time. As an amateur fighting game dude who loves the genre but never got particularly great, Guilty Gear X is the perfect scratch to that competitive itch.

Plus, it's just so weird it's awesome, so there's that too.

Four out of five stars.

That looks...painful.

More at http://nathanvsvideogames.blogspot.com

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