Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus
Heaven or Hell? Thatís all thatís left. Come on, youĎve got to make this quick. Will it be the righteous paladin or the fiery anti-hero? What about the old dwarf with the giant meat cleaver, or the woman with the living hair? Donít forget about the pool-cue wielding assassin, the androgynous Grim Reaper wannabe, or the dude with the giant fan. Not to mention the zombie with the sentient key, the one-armed female samurai, the English time traveler, the witch guitarist, the vampire aristocrat, or whatever Zappa is supposed to be. And whatís up with the swashbuckling womanizer and that little pirate girl he keeps by his side? Kind of creepy, but youíve got to expect that from a game like this. By the way, that ridiculously cute nun with the yo-yo isnít female, so you might want to stop drooling. Or maybe youíre into that kind of thing. It doesnít really matter; no oneís going to judge you. The point is, youíve got to choose. So hurry up, will you? In the end, it all comes down to Heaven or Hell.
Sounds familiar, doesnít it? If youíre a fighting game fanatic with a PS2, chances are youíve come across a Guilty Gear game somewhere along the line. Itís been years since X2 was released, giving gamers a glimpse into a bleak future in which man and gear duke it out for control of the world. The characters were as amazing as they were unorthodox, and their intertwining stories made the plot so much deeper than that of the average fighter. After such a great introduction, it only made sense to build upon it. And boy, did they ever. The core of X2 has been refurbished, rehashed, and re-just about everything else in its lengthy, glorious run on the PS2. Some of the newer ideas were brilliant, and someÖWell, some sucked (hereís looking at you, Isuka). Either way, itís been a long, occasionally frustrating wait for those fans wanting closure to the series. With Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus as sendoff for the dying PS2, they might finally get their wish.
For the rest of you that arenít familiar with the series (and shame on you, indeed), know this: Accent Core Plus isnít a new game. Itís basically the same game that was released in 2008, which was yet another revamp of the old X2. Given its quality, however, thatís not a bad thing. That Plus alludes to a few major additions to the previous title. Justice and Kliff are the most obvious of them; after years of exclusion, these series veterans have finally made it back as playable fighters, making the character roster the largest to date. The main attraction, however, is the brand new story mode; it picks up in the aftermath of X2 and delves further into whatís already been established. Sol Badguyís past, his rivalry with Ky, and his quest for That Man might take center stage, but each of the characters is treated to his or her own little development. Some are handled better than others; Milliaís potentially tragic fate and Slayerís impending retirement and personal insights into his enemies offer more depth. Others, like Chippís presidential campaign, will make you wonder when Aksys stopped taking things seriously.
But hey, itís never really about the story. Itís all about insane, flashy, over-the-top brawls with a bunch of weird characters and even weirder moves. The gameplay operates like a standard 2D fighter; you make button and directional pad inputs and unleash whatever your fighter has up his or her sleeve. The combat mechanics focus on linking attacks together into extensive combos, which means youíll be able to spend countless hours figuring out all the little tricks and subtle strategies that make these warriors tick. Aside from the usual punches and kicks, youíll be able to pull off tons of special moves and abilities. There are no Hadokens or Sonic Booms here; youíve got demon summoning, walls of fire, lightning blades, cherry blossom-flinging swordplay, billiard ball assaults, whales, teddy bears, and a slew of other stuff only a Guilty Gear game could pull off. Thatís on top of the Instant Kill moves, which range from upper-cutting someone in the stratosphere to ramming them at full power. While these things can end a fight in a single hit, theyíre easily blockable and require you to fight at a close range. Needless to say, victory doesnít come cheap.
The emphasis on character balance and the limits of the movesets is one of the best things about this game. Even if the technical aspects are basically unchanged Accent Core versions, they are still incredibly well polished. Chipp might be the fastest person in the game, but his attacks are close-ranged and deal little damage. On the other hand, Potemkinís gargantuan frame severely limits his movements, but gives ridiculously high attack power. While such strengths and weaknesses are standard, Accent Core worked in deeper and more effective strategies around them. If youíre a fan that hasnít played the series since X2, youíre going to see your favorite characters pull off stuff you never thought they could manage. Accent Core veterans, however, will be pleased to see the return of the Fautless Defense, Roman Canceling, Instant Blocking, and all that other mumbo jumbo youíll want to learn if you want to delve into the technical awesomeness being offered. Such gamers arenĎt going to find anything new when it comes to the purely strategic details, but Plus is still as every bit as fun and challenging as before.
Of course, Aksys couldnít get away with just a new story and bringing back a couple of fan favorites. No way. Unless youíre a hardcore fan, not even the refined mechanics would make you want to shell out another thirty bucks for a game youíve already played. Thatís why Plus comes packing a ton of extra gameplay modes and content. Nearly every mode from each installment of X2 (Isukaís half-assed content is thankfully absent) makes its return. The Team Battles, Versus, and VS CPU modes are made even better with multiplayer options. While the Arcade and Training modes are staples of the of the series, the Mission Mode is back with a vengeance. Youíll have to take down enemies with boosted abilities, deal with handicaps, use specific moves, etc. The same goes with the redesigned Survival Mode; not only will you get to take on a gauntlet of foes and bosses, but youíll be able to improve your stats (attack, defense, or health) to last longer in the challenge. All your hours of sweat and tears and Game Overs will pay off, too. With tons of unlockable art galleries and alternate versions of each character, youíre going to have your hands full.
But if thatís not enough for you, Plus comes with the gameís soundtrack on a bonus CD. That oneís the real love letter to the loyal fans. All of those heavy metal tunes and character themes ought to bring back a few memories. But if youíre just getting into the series, it probably wonít be a major selling point. Youíll be too busy being overwhelmed with the sheer amount of eye candy to care about the music. The characters are drawn with style in mind; itís not just about the animation - which is smooth and fluid as ever - but about whatís being shown. The epic stare-downs between Sol and Ky, the way Milliaís hair wraps around her depending on the attack, how Slayer leisurely lays down whenever he gets knocked off his feet, or how Kliffís muscles literally burst through his clothes in his win pose. The stages are equally as engaging; youíll brawl along the blood-drenched shores of Hell, dodge attacks amidst the fiery glow of hundreds of candles, and take down your rival with your reflections just barely visible on a polished checkerboard floor. While none of this stuff is new, itís still an impressive and detailed presentation.
Thatís probably what Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus really boils down to: an older game with just enough new stuff to make the purchase worth it. The fact that itís just an updated version isnít a detriment to its appeal; this is one of the greatest 2D fighting games on the PS2. None of the basics have changed, and thatís a good thing. Itís got an impressive cast of characters, along with two returning fan favorites. The story finally makes a comeback, and itís exactly what veterans of the series want. The combat mechanics remain as deep and technical as ever, which means that newcomers will have plenty to learn, and dedicated fighting game enthusiasts will be kept busy. The sheer amount of gameplay modes and unlockable content ensures youíll be playing for hours. Plus also comes with the gameís soundtrack, which might make or break decision for those who already own Accent Core. But if you love fighting games and want to see with Guilty Gear is all about, then get this game. In the dim twilight of the PS2ís life, no other game can send it off better.
Nine out of ten
- It brings back Justice and Kliff, making the biggest character roster to date.
- The story mode has finally returned.
- The combat mechanics are deep and technical, making this one of the most well-crafted fighters on the console.
- Several gameplay modes will keep you busy.
- The graphics are as highly detailed as ever.
- It's basically an updated version of a previously released game, which might be a turnoff to those that have played the last few Guilty Gear games.