I was controlling a seven foot tall version of Jehuty. I was fighting against a 16 year old girl dressed like a pirate, wielding an anchor and calling dolphins to attack for her. It was at this point that I realized that Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus might be just a little weird. And boy, was I right. But if you can put up with the weirdness, you’ll find that there’s a lot of fun to be had in this blazing fighter.
When I first powered up to play GGXX^C+, the first thing I noticed was that this game had more style than the coolest neighborhood in Paris. The character sprites are all rendered with a distinctly anime sensibility, and the animations deserve special recognition for looking about as good as I’ve ever seen any 2D fighter. Characters change from attack to defense smoothly, which gives the game a sense of fluidity unlike any other fighter I’ve played since Street Fighter II. Attacks are pretty spectacular looking as well, though between the flashy attack animations and myriad dials and meters taking up screen space, you might have a hard time figuring out what you’re looking at from time to time.
One issue with GGXX^C+ (no, that title does not get less ludicrous with repetition) was that it was clearly a PS2 game, and this poses a few problems when being ported to the PS3’s higher graphical settings. The game is played in a 4×3 aspect ratio, and the default sidebars are distractingly colorful, though you can switch to a simple black sidebar in the menu. The character sprites are gorgeous and well animated, but at 720p you can really see the pixels. Neither of these problems is deal-breaking, but they are distracting.
The audio of the game deserves a favorable mention. It’s clear that the folks at Arc System Works really love heavy metal, because the soundtrack is rife with the hardest rock you’ll hear this side of a DragonForce concert. One characterful even pulls out a guitar and plays the classic Van Halen solo “Eruption” as her victory celebration. On the subject of character audio, you’ll be glad to know that every character has their own voice. You’ll be less glad to know that all the voice acting is in Japanese, so you probably won’t be able to understand it, but having unique voices for all the characters does add to the fights.
The roster is incredibly varied, ranging from a Kenshin lookalike with a robot arm to a sorceress wielding an archtop guitar. Some of the characters seem to have names referencing pop culture, like a massive heavy named Potemkin. One of the characters is even implied to be Axl Rose. All the characters have their own feel to them, and they all look and act distinct enough to justify their place in the game. I feel I should point out that if you’re looking for a particularly progressive view of women, this isn’t the game for you, as almost all of the characters show incredible amounts of T and A. Then again, most of the male characters are topless eye-candy as well, so I guess that cuts both ways.
A diverse roster is nice, but the real meat of any fighting game is the combat, and I’m happy to announce that the combat in Guilty Gear (and so on and so forth) is fantastic. The action is frenetic, but merely mashing buttons will not get you anywhere. You’ll really want to plan your attacks with a bit of foresight, and take the time to learn the combos available to each character. The AI doesn’t mess around in that regard, and if you aren’t ready it’ll level you with devastating multi-hit combos. If you do learn the combos, though, you’ll find yourself more than a match for the worst the game can throw at you. Timing hits is precise, and you’ll quickly learn how to counter and dodge.
Control is a bit of a mixed bag. Some commands and combos are really easy to input, others don’t work half the time or less. It’s farily clear that this game is designed for the use of an arcade stick, and neither the PS3’s D-Pad nor the Analog stick can really match that. If you’ve got an arcade stick, you’ll have much more fun than simply using a PS3 controller. It’s a bit of a shame, but I don’t really see what more could have been done with the limitations of a controller.
While the core of the gameplay remains the same, there are a few different game modes. You’ve got your standard arcade run and versus modes, but you also have a few more unusual additions. The Story mode gives a bit of a branching plot to each character. The M.O.M. Mode is a kind of survival game, where you’re given one life and told to collect medals you earn by using combo attacks. Survival mode is exactly what you think it is–survive as many rounds as you can on one life. These different modes all add a bit of variety to the game, but in the end all they are is just an excuse for the game to put you back into the arena.
The basic problem with Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (despite that egreigious title) is that it is a fighting game for fighting game fans. If you aren’t into fighting games, the breakneck pace and split-second timing required by the game might put you off the genre for a while. But if you like fighting games, and you’ve already played as much of Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix as you can stand, you won’t have to feel guilty about picking this up.