Overview

With the advent of 3D gaming, 2D fighters have taken somewhat of a backseat to their polygonal counterparts. There has been no shortage of releases in the past few years, but very few could be considered titles that take the genre in a new direction like Soul Calibur and Virtua Fighter 4 have done for the third dimension. All this is about to change. Guilty Gear, which began on PlayStation as an "also ran," has just delivered its third installment with Guilty Gear X2, and is presenting Capcom & co. a solid run for their money.

Gameplay

Guilty Gear X2’s incredible graphics are backed up by one of the best 2D fighting engines out there, and quite possibly the most feature-laden game play modes yet seen in a home console conversion. In addition to the standard fare of Arcade and VS modes, you’ll also get survival, M.O.M., mission, EX, and story modes. The story mode is complemented with branching paths and excellent anime sequences to advance each fighter’s narrative. Successful completion of all these modes and the game play variables they present will be required to unlock the bevy of secret costumes, medals, and locked characters.

Making your way through all that the game has to offer will be a fun, thrilling, and sometimes blister inducing experience. The standard directional pad on both the PS2 and PSX digital controllers could leave your thumbs in a world of hurt, so fighting game enthusiasts are encouraged to look into obtaining an arcade fighter stick if you haven’t done so already. The speed, versatility, and responsiveness that the higher levels of CPU difficulty demand pretty much make this a necessity.

While the game may seem a bit unforgiving to many at first, the excellent tutorials, move lists, and training mode make it possible for anyone to become a serious competitor with enough time and effort invested into learning its nuances. Should the difficulty ever drive you into a fit of rage, you can also invite a friend over to share the love in VS mode.

Graphics

This first thing that will stand out about this game is the clarity of the graphics. GGX2 utilizes high-resolution sprites that are devoid of aliasing, and really put Capcom’s recent efforts to shame. The backdrops are littered with color and multiple animations that set the scene for the 2D carnage that takes place. The character design is arguably some of the best seen yet, whether in comparison to other fighter games or just any game on the market. From the Tokyo Metal styling of I-NO to the demented Faust, each fighter has very unique and distinct look. Some characters such as Zappa draws inspirations from Japanese pop culture that may or may not resonate with American gamers. The fighter in question attacks in tandem with Saddako, known to US audiences as Samara in the Japanese horror thriller "The Ring."

GGX2’s excellent design is complemented by its full array of display options. The game supports progressive scan, HDTV, widescreen, and VGA outputs. The large, detailed characters, beautiful backgrounds, and eye-popping special effects come through in a level of clarity never before witnessed in a 2D fighting game.

The only aspect of the game’s graphics that is not genuinely top-notch is the character animation. Though smooth for the most part, there will be a few sequences where it seems as the fighter completed skipped over an input command or had no transition between moves. While this doesn’t match the fluid animation found in many of Capcom’s recent fighting games, the other aspects of the game’s incredible graphics heavily outweigh this slight flaw. GGX2 is the best looking 2D fighting game on the market.

Fun Factor

Graphics, game play, and an extensive feature set are molded together to form a 2D fighter that is quite simply a blast to play. Whether you are a perfectionist who wishes to unlock every secret and perfect thirty hit linking combos, or simply a fan of the genre looking for some new blood, GGX2 will fit the bill… and then some.

For anyone who is willing to invest the time to understand the game’s mechanics, there is a terrific amount of replay value available just against the CPU in the various game modes. The enjoyment is only extended once you find a friend or two to duke it out against.

Overall

Guilty Gear X2 breathes new life into the very genre that introduced many people to the world of gaming. While many people may cringe at the learning curve or the inability to play as an easily identifiable character such as Ryu or a Marvel comics character, the technical and game play merits present more than make up for it. GGX2 offers incredible depth in a slick, highly seasoned package. Fans of 2D fighters now have a new series to herald as one of their keepsakes, and a new developer to keep an eye out for in the future.

The owner and editor-in-chief of Darkstation.com. I've been apart of the website since 2002 and purchased the website in 2010. Owning and running Darkstation is a dream come true. I love video games and I love writing and talking about them even more.