This is soon to be rectified, as Arc System Works (the talented people behind the BlazBlue and Persona fighting games) have seemed to have worked on their strengths yet again.
The new game called Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN from the famed anime-fighting game developers was already available at Japanese arcades back in February 2014, and its now making its way to the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 on the Japanese retail scene in the opening week of December, followed by a North American release two weeks later.
Though the news of a European release is unconfirmed as of writing, we could only hope it would follow in the footsteps of Persona 4 Arena Ultimax and materialize in the following months. Nevertheless the fine people at Aksys Games (the game’s publishers) were kind enough to let the demo for their new game onto the North American PSN, for a look at what could be the next big fighting game.
The demo consists of two modes: the tutorial and an arcade ladder. It is my guess that the tutorial is taken straight up from the actual game, wherein it teaches you the ‘basics’ of the duel while soon delving into harder tricks and systems that complicate the classic Guilty Gear formula. For starters its got your dashes, normal jumps, double jumps, air dashes, super jumps, punches, kicks, heavy attack, specials and overdrives that you find in any anime fighting game of this generation.
Then there are the Guilty Gear specific features like the tension gauge, the bursts, the dust attacks and the like. And finally the mechanics that Arc System Works have picked up over the years by incorporating them in their past games and refining them here to near perfection like Persona 4 Arena’s one-hit air juggle (the default Dust attack here) wherein the camera turns to 3D for an especially nice battle effect and BlazBlue’s Instant Kill attacks and special cancels, that comes in three flavours in Guilty Gear (Red, Yellow and Purple Roman Cancels). In fact, the Bursts too come in three variants: Psych, Blue Psych and Gold Psych Bursts each for different situations like when being hit, when blocking or when in neutral state respectively.
In the tutorial, you control Sol Badguy (the series’ staple) who is accompanied by Sin Kiske as his training buddy. The banter between the two in the tutorial itself is excellently localized, possibly hinting at a similar level of effort throughout the entirety of the game. But Sol is not the only playable character in the demo, Ky Kiske – the other series’ regular – is the Ryu to Sol Badguy’s Ken. Both of them are playable options for the arcade ladder.
The arcade mode is an 8-stage affair, which begins with a cutscene-heavy intro and after every third or fourth fight you are presented with another cinematic interlude concerning the narrative. The only hiccup presented in these sections is the frame-rate which often takes a turn for the sluggish. Specifically whenever the character animations in the cut-scene get excessive the frame-rate dips, in contrast when a less-animated close-up for a character is relayed the frame-rate recovers. The same is not true for when the fighting begin though, because the actual combat is extremely smooth and fluid, without any slow-downs whatsoever; which is what really matters in a fighting game.
The arcade has the two main guys: Sol and Ky searching for a certain Valentine with their personal agendas, while fighting AI versions of Millia Rage, Potemkin and Bedman among other new entrants and old favorites. There is no difficulty selection in the demo, so it is on a rather easy side, wherein only the battles around the end of the ladder require careful tactics and where it is wise to avoid button-mashing. The ladder is also followed by the credits and a fantastic accompanying Rock song.
An characteristically peculiar aspect of Guilty Gear (and other Arc System Works’ anime fighting games) that is highlighted during the demo is that defense is not always the best strategy. Because if players are usually accustomed to playing highly defensively (like blocking and back-stepping rigorously) they are usually punished by way of a ‘negative penalty’ to the Tension gauge and the real possibility of being guard-broken.
The only complaint with the actual combat is that sometimes the action appears too flashy and feels incredibly over-the-top when trying to keep track of the fighting moves and the opponent and the spacing. But I am hoping its only a matter of getting used to the animations and the characters’ antics. And “used to” we might get, come December 16th, when the game makes its way West and hopefully Europe soon, make it sooner Aksys.
In its form the game is more slower that other anime fighters – which is a departure from the Blazblues and Persona Arenas for Arc – and in so doing it translates to a more tactical and thoughtful fighter, wherein combos are shorter but more precise, hitboxes are more measured and the overall fighting more tighter. It is more akin to the pace of the recent Under Night In-Birth and even Street Fighter in certain aspects. But it needs to be seen if Xrd Sign gets the love – from the community – that Street Fighter is endowed, we do have our fingers-crossed.