Guilty Gear Accent Core Plus R

Balance is Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R's primary concern. It's an emulation of the popular arcade fighter's late 2012 update that tweaked damage, timing and execution of combos across the vast array of its colourful characters. Kliff and Justice - characters notorious for their obnoxious speed and power - have been significantly scaled back to level out what was arguably the biggest divot in balancing. Most of these alterations are the type of thing that only series diehards are liable to notice, although having the most current and balanced version of Guilty Gear is a good thing for everyone.

Well, in theory. If you're new to the series or fighting games altogether, don't expect Plus R to do you a solid and attempt to get you up to speed. Aside from the most basic move list functionality, there's virtually no guidance. Truly learning about the game's multiple building gauges or its insta-kill special moves and putting them to work all but requires a ton of online research and patience. Coming from someone who has dabbled in Guilty Gear prior and remembered some mechanics before playing this one, it still took a daunting number of hours to reach even scrub efficiency.  Once you start to nail the game's deep four-button control scheme, things finally begin to focus. And once you dabble in the art of "roman cancelling" - a means to cancel out of just about any move in the game and thus opening the combo system to near-infinite possibilities - you begin to really grasp the dizzying depths of how Guilty Gear's systems can be examined and exploited. Once you're "there", the possibilities are incredibly diverse…which makes the weak attempt at bringing in new players such a drag.

Plenty of dedicated fighting game types will find the slow-going, abrasive climb to skill much more positive than negative, but putting these lessons learned to work against your friends is where the system breaks down. There is a crippling omission of online play in Plus R, and it profoundly sours the surrounding experience. In a game that's fundamentally about testing your mettle against live opponents, this fact alone will be a deal-breaker for many. It's an incredibly disappointing decision.

Plus R is a fine tune-up of one of the most technical fighting games around, but its skeletal packaging makes it all but impossible for non-fans to get excited. There are untold hours of value here that will be all but impenetrable to most. Unless you know the game and have a local community of like-minded opponents ready to go, I can't recommend it.