Fighting games are really starting to take a shift for this new generation, with Capcom going all in with the forthcoming Street Fighter V (as well as a port of Ultra Street Fighter IV) and Netherrealm Studios putting some finishing touches on its bloodiest offering to date, Mortal Kombat X. But there are still some teams out there that remain devoted to the old-school, even though it feels like something new – and that's where developer Arc System Works comes in.
With Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN, the veteran developers behind the 2D anime-style fighting series shift to the PlayStation 4 effortlessly, with even more stunning animations than ever before, and the kind of 2D fighting tactics that newcomers and pros will embrace alike. And for those who want to learn, a tutorial system is more than ready to explain how everything works, so you can hone your skills and eventually become a bad-ass fighting master – which helps, since the series certainly attracts some hardcore players.
Gameplay As Deep As You Want It To Be
What's exciting about Xrd SIGN is that it's a game that everyone can grasp. For those that want to learn the fighting basics like combos or special moves, it's great to simply settle in and whoop some tail with your favorite brawler. However, if you really want to learn some top-level tactics, you can start getting into air dashes, Roman Cancels (not candles, don't confuse it), Bursts, and Clash systems.
It all sounds really complex, but Xrd SIGN's tutorial system walks you through everything that the game has to offer, and does so in an educative way that you can try and perfect each one before you go on. Very rarely does a fighting game go so deep with its explanation, showing you how each individual technique can come in handy with dominating a match later on. Even if you think you know everything about Guilty Gear, it never hurts to go through it again.
What's more, Xrd SIGN's gameplay, while approachable, is also incredibly fluid. Whether you prefer the analog style of play or using a digital pad, you'll find the controls are easy to get into, with moves that come off with very little error. Obviously, if you have a specialized fighting stick, it's even better, since that sort of thing is built for a game like this. But a typical controller does just fine, and you and your friends will have a blast knocking each other around and adapting new moves into a glorious fighting style. You'll be a master yet.
Modes, Modes, Modes…and Online!
Where Xrd SIGN really picks up is in its various modes. While not as top-heavy as other PS3 fighting games from Aksys Games, this is still a damn loaded effort. Along with a Tutorial Mode, the game also features a Story Mode that plays out like a slow-moving anime episode. It's worth enduring, but those who want to fight can simply jump into any of the other modes if they choose.
In addition, the game is fully functional online, and while we were only able to test out a few matches during the review period (Aksys should have full servers ready to go with the game's release this week), the game ran very smooth during our matches, with barely any noticeable lag. Again, once it picks up a mass audience, this has the possibility of changing slightly, but you probably won't have anything to worry about. Plus, it's awesome as a couch affair, as you can bring over friends and pummel each other like crazy.
There are plenty of other pickings as well, including a fully detailed Library that breaks down the history of Guilty Gear characters and events (that's best left for fans, but they'll love it) and a Challenge Mode where you'll take on a number of diabolical situations thrown at you. It's a full-fledged fighting package if we've ever seen one, and against the likes of, say, Super Smash Bros., that's really saying something.
This Fighter's Got the Looks…But Not Quite the Voice
When it comes to presentation, Arc System Works went all out to make Xrd SIGN the most luxurious anime-style brawling game to date. The animations are fluid and absolutely superb, whether it's a character setting up a taunt or unleashing their powerful super move, complete with a fireworks-like display to boot. The final blow is also worth watching, as the screen transitions to a 3D style effect, showing you the hit from a different angle. It's a neat trick.
Also, the backdrops are wonderful, with a surprising amount of depth, but not forgetting the roots that the Guilty Gear series came from. You'll see folks just doing their daily business while these two maniacs attempt to kill each other, and it's business as usual for fighting game territory. You won't mind in the least. Plus, the anime-style cut scenes are worth watching as well, even if they tend to repeat every once in a while.
Where the game does stumble a bit is with its voice acting. This is the first game to offer full U.S. voice acting, and it can be a mixed bag, with some characters sounding great and others, like Ramlethal, coming across like a disgruntled car salesman…or something along those lines. Thankfully, there's an option to go with the original Japanese voiceovers, and they're far better. On top of that, the music is a hard-hitting mix of guitar rock, and the sound effects are on par with the usual fighting territory, i.e. lots of "thwacks" and punches. No problem there.
These are the criteria I consider most important for Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN.
Between seamless animations, solid backdrops and good cut scenes, this is as good as an anime-esque fighter can look.
Some questionable U.S. voice acting, but the full Japanese set is included for fans, and the music is head-banging goodness.
Easy to adapt to, but there's something here for the hardcore fanatics as well. A deep, involving system that everyone will love.
Plenty to do, between a highly detailed Story Mode, a worthwhile Challenge Mode and other goodies. Plus, Tutorial Mode is incredible.
Online works very well, and Xrd SIGN just feels custom-built for good couch sessions.
Easily one of the best fighting games of the year, Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN shows that you can stick with basic fighting concepts while trying something new at the same time. As a result, the PlayStation 4 has yet another benefit to its library – and it's just going to get bigger and better as 2015 rolls around.
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