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    Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-: Heaven or hell? Let’s rock!

    He May Not be anywhere near as well known as the likes of Hideo Kojima, Shinji Mikami or Hideki Kamiya, but that doesn’t change the fact that Daisuke Ishiwatari is an absolute legend in Japanese game development. At a time when it looked as though 2D fighters were on the way out, he came out with Guilty Gear a complex and diffi cult fighter in a market where everyone else was trying to pander to everyone to keep the fighting genre afl oat but were instead drowning it by doing so. Ishiwatari had a hand in pretty much every aspect of the PlayStation fighter, from character design and system development to rocking soundtrack and even voice acting. It’s clear from the timing that he didn’t do it to try and hit the big time he did it for the love. Guilty Gear is a game born out of one man’s passion for rock music, and that love is just as present as ever in Xrd. In fact, it’s fair to say that it’s one of the defining features of the game, which, with so much quality on display, is quite the statement.


    We’ve never wished that printed screenshots could move quite so much as we do while writing these words, as seeing Xrd in motion is the only way to truly appreciate its impeccable artistic and technical achievements. Fully rendered 3D characters are cleverly designed and textured to give the illusion of hand-drawn 2D, and it’s so well done that you’ll frequently lapse while playing and just assume you are playing a 2D fighter. And that’s when the game strikes, sending the camera on swooping jaunts around characters in celebration of impressive finishes or deadly super attacks a common technique in 3D games but one that here manages to impress every time it occurs. It’s effectively a playable anime, only one happy to let the majority of the action breathe with a fixed side-on view and save the jaw-dropping panning shots for when they’ll have the most impact. It’s stunning, frankly, and in terms of pure, raw style, there’s nothing on PS4 that even comes close right now.
    “IN TERMS OF PURE, RAW STYLE, THERE’S NOTHING ON PS4 THAT EVEN COMES CLOSE RIGHT NOW”
    For such a technical game, it really doesn’t put up too much of an unnecessary barrier to entry, either. The tutorial is as comprehensive as Arc’s tend to be, walking you through everything from the most basic techniques to high-end cancels and genre staples, then offering the usual suite of character-specific combo trials to continue your education and teach you what each of the fighters is capable of. As long as you have the genre fundamentals down and don’t struggle too much with special move inputs, you’ll quickly be able to string together relatively impressive combos and with more time in the lab, you just might turn those into lengthier chains with which to punish your foes. The system itself isn’t nearly as complex as BlazBlue’s character-specific Drive attacks and with so many universal features, the basics you learn with one character are generally transferable to another without too much fuss. Sure, play styles differ between them, but such nuances are something you’ll learn by spending longer with your preferred oddball.

    While there are quite a few omissions in terms of legacy characters, Arc fighters always start out this way you get a solid if somewhat modest roster to begin with and more fighters join as the inevitable updates roll out. However you like to play, you’re already covered.There are rushdown characters, zoners, gimmicks and keepaway fighters ready to rock, so it’s just a case of trying them out to see who you like. If you already have a favourite, you’re likely to find them largely unchanged from when last you met, although each has a bunch of new tricks up their sleeves as well.

    You can customise your chosen weirdo to even better suit your play style in the new MOM mode, a curious survival campaign where perks, projectiles and all kinds of other silliness can be earned and bolted onto a character’s existing move pool to give you the edge in the series of increasingly tough predetermined challenges. Health carries over between battles but death only harms your streak bonus and not your progress yet another example of how Guilty Gear manages to be at once dazzlingly hardcore and admirably approachable. You can even use your saved MOM characters in competitive play, but that’s unlikely to see a lot of use, in all honesty. The purity of an even playing fiend and a good fight is always preferable when it’s two human players throwing down, after all.

    For that reason, it’s the online suite that has been robbing us of most of our time, and it’s as good as you might hope. You start by picking from a set of region specific lobbies to help avoid latency issues, before taking up residence in your own virtual arcade. Eight players can huddle round the same cabinet and play ‘winner stays on’ while watching (and commenting on, via in-game text chat that floats past the fight in progress) the current players, or you can all break off and go head-to-head with another player on one of the other machines. It’s a beautifully versatile system whether you want to watch and learn from the experts, try to see off all challengers or just casually train against a similarly skilled rival.

    Elsewhere, the suitably ludicrous Story mode is basically one long cutscene and has had fights stripped from it altogether, while Arcade features a typically cheap final boss. But you won’t care. Between core systems and mechanics that are undeniably top tier, a cracking roster and a comprehensive suite of training and competitive options, Xrd has everything a great fighter needs. In fact, the only thing it’s missing right now is a European release date, but importing has never been easier than in this digital age.

    Get involved today and help us send a message Ishiwatari, never, ever stop rocking. Oh, and give us an EU release.

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