guilty-gear-xrd-sign-365389.11.jpgHeaven or Hell? Duel 1. Let’s Rock!

Guilty Gear has always been known as Arc System Works’s fighting game crown jewel. Everything about Guilty Gear has always been unique, from the wild and unorthodox character designs, crazy rocking soundtrack, strange countdown (why not just “Ready?” Fight!”?), never-ending titles/rereleases (Guilty Gear XX Accent Core +R), and interesting battle mechanics.

Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign, however, sets a new standard for presentation in 2.5D fighting games, in my opinion. From the very first match I saw, I was absolutely in love with the presentation. Each character’s intro looks like a clip from an anime, yet fits in perfectly with the world around them. Each character is so detailed and moves so fluidly. Every effect, like flames or lightning are gorgeous and all the colors absolutely pop. Even super-moves get a miniature cinematic with interesting and unique camera angles, but still manages to not distract you from the rest of the game or take you out of the action. Every time a match is won, you’re treated with a cool camera angle that makes any knockout look great, yes, even low kicks. You are of course treated with a win cinematic similar to your intro upon victory, and nearly every character has unique dialogue based on the opponent. Speaking of unique dialogues, you’ll hear a number of unique intros and instant kill dialogues based on the fighters. It’s clear a whole lot of love went into the characters and the game in general.

014-25.jpgSpeaking of presentation and dialogue, this is the first time EVER that Guilty Gear has had an option for the voices to be in English. While I prefer the Japanese, it’s nice to see the options. Here’s hoping that there are options for each individual character in Revelator. The music, of course, is rocking and what you’d expect from a rock ‘n roll inspired game like Guilty Gear, though Xrd: Sign has a little more variety, with a number of Jazzy tracks (like Jack-a-Dandy, Slayer’s theme). Each sound effect is satisfying, especially on hit. With the combination of music, visuals, and sound effects, Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign is a treat for your senses.

Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign is not an art exhibit, it’s a fighting game. Luckily, it’s fantastic in that aspect too. While I’m not super familiar with the mechanics in other Guilty Gears (I’ve only played the first one as well XX Accent Core + R) this one allows for many combo and rush down opportunities with it’s cancels known as Yellow, Red and Purple Roman Cancels, allowing you to cancel your animation for a quicker recovery or to open up an unsuspecting opponent for a rush down. The Guilty Gear series has always been a fighting game heavy on combos and mix-ups and Xrd: Sign is no exception, giving you many tools to do just that, including launchers that toss your opponent high into the sky, setting up for an air combo (did I mention that it looks SO COOL). Getting yourself stuck in a combo or blockstring doesn’t necessarily mean you’re done for against a tough opponent, as you have a burst that knocks an enemy away from you (with multiple utilities) or a dead angle attack, giving you precious moments to regroup in these fast paced fights. Throw in other minor abilities, like a block that uses up your super gauge (called Tension) but negates chip damage, an air throw, and clashing attacks together that can open up deadly attacks with Mortal Counters, and you’ve got a mechanic heavy game that seems overwhelming at first.

axl.jpgLuckily for first-timers, there are a multitude of single player game modes to get you ready for online fights. A full tutorial mode that walks you through every mechanic in the game, as well as the basics and properties of performing simple attacks, a challenge mode that lets you get acquainted with each characters’ moves and combos, a mission mode that gets you ready for specific combat situations, as well as a free training mode are just the options under the practice tab. Other than that, you’ve got your classic arcade mode, which sets you up to start the story mode. Story mode plays out like a short anime series: there is no gameplay, just watching what happens in the story. This is good for newcomers as well, as it allows them to get attached to some of the characters before even getting into the fights. Personally, I wish I had more authority over the story mode, however. At least let me fight! M.O.M. mode allows you to collect medals with the character of your choosing, then level them up, even customizing the moves they can use. It’s a unique mode for those with the single player aspect in mind. You can even take your leveled up M.O.M. characters online if you so choose.

Guilty-Gear-Xrd-Sign_2014_02-03-14_002.jpgAs you complete things, you’ll gain World Dollars that you can spend on unlocking a new character, Sin, as well as many music tracks from older Guilty Gears for use in matches, and a plethora of sound test and gallery items. Not to mention that there is even a dictionary that will be fully filled out after completing the story, enabling you to read up on Guilty Gear’s past that you may have missed from the other games.

And, of course, the end-game for fighting games: Online mode. There are ranked matches with leaderboards, as well as unranked player matches, that anyone can make a lobby of. As Xrd: Sign gets older, it’s tougher to find a match, but the game will also try to match you with similarly skilled opponents, if you so choose.

I wish every future fighting game looks and plays as good as Guilty Gear Xrd: Sign, but beggars can’t be choosers. At least we know Revelator will!

The Bottom Line

Pros:

  • Amazing presentation, both visually and musically.
  • Tight controls, mechanics, and gameplay.
  • A plethora of modes and options.
  • Unique and interesting characters that are fun to play.

Cons:

  • I only wish there were more characters! (Revelator!)
  • A little intimidating for first-timers.

Final Score: 9/10

The only thing that prevents me from ranking Xrd: Sign as a best game ever is the anticipation that Revelator will be EVEN BETTER. Here’s hoping!