Guilty Gear X2 #Reload
Guilty Gear X2 #Reload is quite possibly the best fighting game I have ever played. How’s that for getting to the point? I suppose all you impatient review skimmers, you know who you are – the ones who loathe picking through 1,500 word articles just to obtain a simple verdict, can now stop reading. In fact, get up from your chair, head over to your local game store and don’t even think twice about shelling out the $20 needed to become a proud owner of this 2D fighting masterpiece. If you are even remotely unsatisfied with your purchase, feel free to string me up by the body part of your choice. Why am I so confident? Simple: there has never been a fighter released, 2D or otherwise, to feature the same faultless combination of gameplay depth, balance, responsiveness and presentation. Sammy has created an instant classic.
Sammy!? How is it possible that either SNK or Capcom did not develop this epic 2D brawler? After all, those two companies have spent well over a decade tweaking and refining the gameplay elements needed in making a superb sprite-based beat-em-up. The answer is not blatantly obvious. Perhaps both Capcom and SNK are hindered by the need to keep each new release grounded in the gameplay style they pioneered nearly a decade ago. Maybe Sammy’s lack of experience allowed them to bring fresh ideas to the table and give the 2D fighting sub-genre the kick in the pants it so desperately needed. Whatever the reason, Guilty Gear X2 #Reload is here and it rocks. Big time.
The first thing you tend to notice about Guilty Gear X2 (henceforth GGX2) is its absolutely insane cast of characters. Take Faust for example. He’s a 10-foot tall surgeon who wears a paper bag over his head, sends miniature balloon-carrying versions of himself into battle and has a penchant for using his massive scalpel to poke opponents…umm…’tween the cheeks. And then there’s Bridget (a very feminine-looking male nurse with a yo-yo), Zappa (a man driven insane and possessed by the spirit of his dead lover), Eddie (an ex-assassin capable of summoning shadow demons to fight alongside him) and 19 other wacky characters that make Street Fighter’s freakish Blanca look like a choirboy. What’s really remarkable is that, despite the wide variation in character sizes and fighting styles, the game remains one of the most balanced 2D beat-em-ups to be released in recent memory.
The gameplay in GGX2 can best be described as a brilliant mix of the crazy over-the-top style found in Marvel vs. Capcom 2 and the more practical, balanced approach of King of Fighters or Capcom vs. SNK 2. The game is much more twitch-based than any of those titles however, because of the high degree of maneuverability you are given over your character. You can perform high jumps, double jumps (triple jumps are even possible with the character Chipp Zanuff), air dashes and air recoveries, all of which give fights an aggressive, unpredictable nature that can result in some seriously sweaty palms. Only in GGX2 can you be knocked across the screen, recover in midair, dash back in position (still in midair mind you) and unleash an insane retaliatory combo on your opponent, all within the blink of an eye.
Perhaps the biggest reason GGX2 stands head and shoulders above all other 2D fighting games on the market is a fundamental difference in the game’s core gameplay. You see, in GGX2 when you perform any kind of attack — be it Special, Hard Slash, Kick or whatever — if you physically strike any part of your opponent’s sprite, they will get hit. This seems simple, I know, but most 2D fighting games don’t work this way. For example, in Capcom vs. SNK 2 if you perform your Super Special when your opponent is in the air, many times you will only hit them once and the rest of the attacks in your Super combo will simply ghost through them as they fall backwards. Why punish me for performing a Special when my opponent is in the air and vulnerable? It just doesn’t make sense.
You may be concerned that being able to strike your opponent at any time, even during their “falling backwards animation,” would result in infinite combos, but that’s not the case in GGX2. This is because the characters in the game have a certain amount of weight to them, and it’s impossible to keep them airborne indefinitely. Also, Sammy included some defensive abilities like combo-breaking Psych Bursts, Perfect Guarding and Dead Angle Attacks (i.e. counterattacks) to help keep a good balance between offense and defense.
If the fact that GGX2 is one of the best playing 2D fighters in history doesn’t impress you, consider this: Sammy also included the ability to play anyone in the world online via Xbox Live. It can be hard to find a perfect connection, and most of the time a tiny bit of delay will be there between button presses and on-screen actions, but once you become accustomed to the minor lag, playing online becomes like having access to a worldwide arcade from the comfort of your own home.
Amazingly, GGX2 manages to excel just as much visually as it does in the gameplay department. Character sprites are all rendered in hi-res, animate beautify and tie in seamlessly with the gorgeous hand-drawn backgrounds. Not only is this type of animation quality superior to anything offered from a 2D fighting game up to this point, but it looks better than a majority of the anime currently available as well. While companies like SNK are releasing new games powered by decade old arcade boards (SVC Chaos anyone?), Sammy is truly upping the standard for how a 2D fighter should both look and play.
To top it all off, GGX2 features one of the best soundtracks I’ve had the pleasure of listening to in a videogame. The soundtrack consists almost entirely of wankery guitar riffs, but the general quality of each of the songs is so fantastic, you’ll end up using the game’s sound test option to jam out for hours at a time. Many of the tunes use a potent blend of acoustic and electric guitars (with the periodic piano and organ nestled in for good measure) to create some enormously stirring songs that can instantly transform you from fatigued, bored and downtrodden to pumped, cheery and uplifted. If you import one game soundtrack this year, make it this one.
Guilty Gear X2 #Reload is a 2D fighting game fan’s dream come true. It’s got all the flash and pizzazz of Marvel vs. Capcom, the finely tuned balance of Street Fighter, numerous unprecedented gameplay enhancements that push what we expect from the genre and some of the best hand-drawn graphics to ever grace a videogame. And let’s not forget the best soundtrack of the year and online play that lets you play all the best gamers from Japan, Korea and the rest of the world. Make no mistake: if you are a fan of 2D fighters, you need this game. Period.
Ten out of ten