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Guilty Gear X

There was a time when fighting games had reached their creative limits. Gamers had grown accustomed to the different versions of Ryu, Akuma, Iori, Sub Zero, and every other popular 20 fighter ever created. There’s only so much tweaking that can be done on a fighting engine and changes made on a particular character’s gameplay. How many times could M. Bison threaten mankind and get his ass kicked? How many more King of Fighter tournaments could keep the fans entertained? The 2D fighting genre needed something new, something fresh that could steal the spotlight from the 3D fighters that were dominating the scene. In order to meet such a challenge, the new fighting game needed a brand new cast of memorable characters, unique moves, a brand new combat system, some awesome graphics and more style than anything attempted before it. That’s a pretty tall order. Luckily, Guilty Gear X fit the bill perfectly.

Now THAT is a sword, my man

Let’s skip forward to the year 2180. Through the use of some new energy source, mankind has created a bunch of cybernetic beings called Gears. Like any typical futuristic science fiction plot, these living weapons of mass destructions turn on their creators and start decimating the human race under the guidance of their leader, Justice. In an epic confrontation, an immortal bounty hunter named Sol Badguy defeated Justice and saved humanity. Without their fearless leader to order them around, the Gears stopped their assault and let themselves be hunted down and dismantled. For the first time in ages, man could live in peace…until the inevitable happened. A year after Justice got her metal hide kicked to the curb, rumors started spreading about a new Gear that could think independently and utterly wipe out anything that stood in her way. With the memories of the Gears’ rampage still fresh, the government decided to hold a tournament to bring out the strongest fighters everywhere. Should these new warriors somehow manage to defeat the new threat (and live to tell about it), they’ll be rewarded with a hoard of cash. Forget those old fashioned concepts of honor and discipline; many of these new fighters are driven by greed and personal gain.

Character motivation isn’t the only thing that’s changed, either. Guilty Gear X takes the established fighting game formula, brutally eviscerates it, roast its carcass on a skillet and feasts on it with a tossed salad on the side. Fans of traditional fighters will stare in wonder as these new warriors execute attack strategies that could have never been done on a Street Fighter game. There are still a wide variety of light, medium, and fierce attacks, but any of them can be chained together via a ‘Gatling Combo’ to create a myriad of unique combos. Back in the old days, you could pull off a three-hit combo, if you had enough skill and timing. But in this game, you can dash up to an enemy, dish out a few quick slashes to the face, jump and air dodge around him, ram your weapon into his back, send him flying up into the air, and finish off the combo with one of your character’s specials moves. That’s only in the first ten seconds. The rest of the bout will be all about dodging and blocking, making use of the characters’ double jumps, aerial gliding abilities, and tons of challenging AI to boot. And if all else fails, each character comes equipped with an Instant Kill move that can decide the fate of many a battle. Needless to say, this isn’t just about Hadokens and Sonic Booms anymore.

Ah, yes the lightning X of death. I should have known…

Should you decide to take a break from the various plotlines featured in the Arcade Mode, Guilty Gear X comes with a few other options to add a little more flavor. The game comes equipped with the standard VS and Training Modes. Though they’re pretty much a staple of most current fighting games, they prove essential in adding to the longevity of the game; taking on your best friends in heated combat will prove far more entertaining after you’ve beaten the Arcade Mode for the umpteenth time. But in case you don’t have any friends around, you can give the game’s Survival Mode a shot. As you defeat enemies, you’ll rack up points and eventually gain an ability level. The higher level you get, the more challenging the foes become. You’ll start off breezing through some inept lackeys and eventually take on some truly fearsome AI, all for the sake of getting a high score and some well-deserved bragging rights.

The appeal of this game doesn’t end with the wonderful gameplay and addictive extras, however. Gamers looking to relive the glory days of 2D fighting games will rejoice in seeing the incredible visuals that Guilty Gear X has to offer. Many of the stages are depicted with wonderful detail, including shiny lights, innocent bystanders going about their business, and even statues in the foreground to block your view of the fight. All of the fighters come with their own unique looks and attacks, including Sol Badguy’s ripped physique and badass fire attacks, Ky Kiske’s sleek and flowing robes, and Baiken’s cherry blossom-inducing swordplay. And those are just the normal fighters – this game’s roster includes a little pirate girl that wields a ship’s anchor and can summon sea animals a la Aquaman, a time traveling Englishman, deadly assassin whose only weapon is the mass of her golden hair, a wannabe doctor toting a gigantic scalpel, and plenty of other crazy concepts. Despite such strange designs, all of the characters can fight with incredibly smooth animation and intensity, easily beating out what the previous generation of fighting games had to offer. Though the game features a pretty generic soundtrack, the sheer amount of rock and roll references (character names or otherwise) will send music aficionados reeling.

With 4 seconds to go, the challenger gets a gob full of fire

After so many years of playing through the Street Fighter, King of Fighters, and Mortal Kombat games, you’d think that the 2D fighter genre was dead. Despite the stiff competition from Tekken and its three-dimensional brethren, Guilty Gear X has breathed life into what its predecessors established in the last decade. It’s got a cast of characters unlike any other, complete with unique fighting styles and a slew of new gameplay strategies to master. The incredibly intense fighting and over-the-top and utterly insane style aren’t too shabby, either. It’s a far cry from the old Hadokens, Shoryukens and Psycho Crushers of old, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a bad thing. If all else fails, one of the bosses is a crossdressing Grim Reaper wannabe. Coupled with some solid gameplay, being weird isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

8 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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