Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus, made by Arc Systems, is the latest version of Guilty Gear XX and was originally released in 2009 for the PlayStation 2. It has recently been re-released on both the Xbox 360 and the PS3 with updated online support. I really enjoyed my time with Arc Systems games in the past, especially the excellent Persona 4: Arena, but I’ve never played a Guilty Gear game before. I was excited to finally try the series out with this latest addition, and while I had a lot of fun with the game, there are some serious issues with this release.
Guilty Gear is a two-dimensional anime-style fighting game. There are five buttons: punch, kick, slash, heavy slash, and the dust button. The punch and kick buttons do exactly what you would expect while the slash and heavy slash buttons utilize your character’s weapon. The dust move acts as a launcher allowing for an easy aerial combo. Adding stick motions, such as the classic fireball or dragon punch, to these moves results in character specific special moves. The gameplay shares some features with other Arc System games in the inclusion of instant kill moves, activated by pushing four buttons, and a burst move that allows you to interrupt an enemy’s combo or build up super meter, referred to here as tension. Guilty Gear utilizes a recovery system, where you need to hit a button to make your character recover quickly after getting stunned. This is vital because the longer you are stunned the easier it is for your opponent to combo you.
There are, of course, other deeper mechanics, but these are the basics. The really unfortunate part is that the game explains none of these systems to you in its How-to-Play section, not even the basic button setup, which has to be found in the button configuration menu. I was only able to learn as much as I did because I have played Arc System’s games before and was looking for certain things I assumed were there. Even then, I found a ton of information online about system mechanics that I was unaware of. Even the best fighting games often do a poor job of teaching newcomers how to play them. Ironically, Persona 4: Arena did this very well, but Guilty Gear’s lack of information could make the game practically unplayable for those who don’t know how the game works or where to go online for information.
This is especially sad because the basic gameplay in Guilty Gear is a lot of fun. It’s fairly easy for someone comfortable with the genre to pick up and play. I figured out some simple combos fairly quickly and the characters move well and are very responsive to player input. The action is fast paced, flashy, and there are a bunch of different characters and game modes to try out. You can play through a story mode where you can experience any character's side of Guilty Gear XX story. You can change the outcome of the story via dialogue choices and even how you perform in fights. It’s a neat idea, but there is very little explanation for the story, which as far as I can tell is very much a sequel to the earlier Guilty Gear games. The world and characters are neat on their own, but it would have been nice if there had been a better introduction for those new to the series.
For those with no interest in the story, there is the basic arcade mode, which allows you to fight your way through a gauntlet of computer-controlled enemies, as well as a mission mode and another mode where you collect coins that fall off of opponents in an attempt to get higher scores. The game contains both local and online versus modes. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts at different dates and time, I was only able to get into a handful of online matches. This seemed to be due to low population count at least on the Xbox 360, as the game often couldn’t find any matches at all. The few matches I did play were okay, but there were usually at least one or two lag spikes in each match.
Arc Systems has always excelled at visual presentation in their games, and Guilty Gear is no exception. While it’s not nearly as clean or smooth as the later Blaz Blue games or Persona 4: Arena, it’s still a well-animated and artistically designed game. The art is stylized anime, with a distinct theme in several of the characters towards traditional heavy metal tropes. It’s not going to be to everyone’s taste, especially if you don’t like anime art or if you find the sexualization of female characters to be disturbing. I still enjoyed the game’s look, despite the issues I have with some of its female characters, but it’s something you should know about if you are interested in the game.
Despite its problems, I really do like Guilty Gear. It’s a fun and well-designed fighting engine. Unfortunately, the actual product being sold is little more than a shell for this fighting engine. The lack of tutorial is frustrating, even if you are familiar with fighting games. Because of this, I can only recommend Guilty Gear to those who just want a solid version of the game on modern consoles.