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Guilty Gear Isuka

Adding a new game to an existing series isn’t easy. You’ve already got a game that’s proven itself to be popular and lucrative, something that has captured the hearts and minds of fans everywhere. You’ve already established the kind of gameplay you’d want in future games. Developing the story can be a hit or miss, depending on what kind of game you’re working on. The average person wants excellent graphics and memorable presentation, fit worthy of a new title. Taking these and several other factors into consideration, you’re faced with a dilemma: How to make an already great game into something even better? The minds behind some of the most popular video game series have tried to solve the problem, but have mixed results. There can be major changes, such as transition from the 2D world of Link to the Past into the 3D realm of Ocarina of Time. Other times games will end up as hideous copies of their predecessors, a la NES Mega Man series. And sometimes you get games like Guilty Gear Isuka.

“Sonic Boom!” Oh no, that’s a different game…

To be fair, this game had a lot to live up to. Guilty Gear X2 wasn’t an easy act to follow, what with its excellent cast of characters, entertaining story, arcade and mission modes, and one of the most unique fighting engines of this generation. In short, it was the complete package. Where were the game designers supposed to go from there? As with most fighting game sequels, Guilty Gear Isuka was blessed with most of the fighters from its predecessors, complete with a few new variations in costumes and moves. You’ll still get to choose among Slayer, Briget, Faust, and all the other heroes of yesteryear. To satiate the fans’ need for someone original, the game includes a new character named A.B.A, a scantily clad zombie girl wielding a gigantic key. If this were any other series, such a strange new face would be weird. But aside from a serious lacking of Judgment and Kliff in this latest installment, fans will have little to worry about in terms of their favorite characters.

And as if by magic, Michael Jackson became a popular artist again.

Things rapidly start going downhill from there, however. This game takes several elements of the previous game and attempts to meld it into a single, mismatched monstrosity of sickening proportions. Any semblance of a background story has been thrown out the window in favor of a strange combination of an arcade and survival modes. Instead of facing off against your foes in a set of short matches, you’ll just fight a longer single battle with tons of health. After you’ve hurt your opponent enough times, you’ll gain a level. Leveling up will eventually allow you to participate in a special battle, pitting you against something never seen in the Guilty Gear universe…two opponents at a time. That’s right, this edition of series can have up to four characters on the screen at once, duking it out in a frantic struggle for supremacy. This would have worked fine, except gameplay mechanics don’t mesh well with so many characters at once. While the controls and attacks are easy enough to perform, it might take you some time to get used to the manual turning controls. Oh yeah, that was a great idea. You’ll just end up being juggled endlessly from attack to attack, desperately trying to land some hits before the continue screen pops up. The fact that the stages are cramped doesn’t help matters much either. All you can do is grin and bear it, ranking up in higher levels until you face off against a ridiculously cheap giant dog-yeti hybrid…thingy. Where’s good ol’ Justice when you need her?

Why has the British guy got tassles hanging off his breasts?

The game tries to make up for this poorly implemented arcade mode by introducing the GG Boost Mode, a surprisingly fun beat’em up game. You get to choose among the Guilty Gear cast, then set forth into a hostile world filled with all sorts of bland and uninspired enemies. You’ll have to face small armies of gang members, leather fetishists, and a few bosses along your way to the top. Your character will be granted all of his or her special abilities and moves, allowing you to wreak havoc on anything that gets in your way. There are even breakable oil drums filled with freshly cooked meals to replenish your health, as well as that all too familiar elevator level found in nearly every beat’em up known to mankind. Should you get tired of kicking AI ass, the Factory and Color Change Modes allow you to make a few modifications to your own character. While these features don’t entirely make up for the abysmal arcade mode, the effort is still appreciated.

However, the tedious gameplay and bland extras are balanced out with an impressive presentation. Many of the battles take place in unusual places, such as at a beach party, icy wastelands, in front of an army of zombies and inside an observatory. These backgrounds are just as dynamic as the battles; you’ll get to see large groups of innocent bystanders cheering you on, a old lady working over a hot barbeque, and even an opera starting up behind you. However, the beauty doesn’t end with the levels. All of the characters are depicted in their usual flamboyant style, like Ky’s flowing overcoat and electrified sword, Millia’s deadly hair, and Jam’s absurdly short skirt. All of the character movements, from Zappa’s backward fighting stance to Bridget’s deadly yo-yo are fluid and lively, adding so much over-the-top style and personality to the individual fighters. Sadly, the background music is nothing memorable, a small variety of generic heavy metal tunes. However, the characters’ voices are loud and clear, letting you hear Jam’s annoyingly high-pitched voice and know when Ky wants to RIDE THE LIGHTNING. Good stuff, indeed.

“Now where was I, before I was so rudely interrupted?”

Guilty Gear Isuka is a failed attempt at improving an already solid gaming series. It has all the right characters, tons of style and amazing imagery, and a fast-paced fighting engine unlike anything ever seen in a 2D fighter. However, the uninspired arcade and customization modes leave little to be liked, with only a decent beat’em up minigame to salvage them. Being able to control up to four characters at once may sound good on paper, but actually applying them to Guilty Gear’s one-on-one style of gameplay is downright awful. It might suffice as a party game, but I doubt that fighting game fanatics and fans of the series will appreciate having such a great gaming series reduced into this kind of garbled mess. In the meantime, we can only pray that the next rendition of the Guilty Gear series will prove far superior to this unsatisfying game.

6 out of 10

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in February 2005.

Gentle persuasion

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