When most games are done, they’re done. Sure, with modern Internet connections, developers can release bug fixes and even downloadable content, but for the most part, there’s only one chance to get the core of a game right.
Not so with fighting games. Thanks to the precedent of Street Fighter II (which was released, what, a half-dozen times?), it’s possible to milk each iteration for everything it’s worth. That’s what’s happened to Guilty Gear XX; seven years after the game’s initial release, and two years after Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core came to the Wii, Nintendo’s waggle-rific console gets another version, Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core Plus. As is usually the case with updated games, if you plan to get a version of Guilty Gear XX, this is the one to buy. If you already own an older version and fall short of super-hardcore fandom, however, there’s little reason to waste $30 doubling up.
Those unfamiliar with Guilty Gear should know that it’s a pretty good 2-D fighter, with an anime look, dark heavy-metal music, an overall style inspired by that music, interesting characters, and a fine-tuned fighting system. It’s very much modeled on classic 2-D fighters like SFII and the various series that SNK came up with in the 㥢s. As was the case with those games, it’s relatively easy to get the basic feel for Guilty Gear XX, but it takes hours of dedication to master even one of the characters.
The Guilty Gear series’ offense-intensive fighting system is a cult favorite, and this latest installment will do nothing to change that, for good or ill. The system was tweaked pretty heavily for XX Accent Core, but this (“Plus”) time around, the changes are less dramatic. Not that newcomers, or even longtime fans of the series, have any need for more complications. Beyond memorizing special moves and figuring out long combos, players have to master the arts of the Tension Bar (which you build up and use for various moves), the Roman Cancel (a way to eliminate the time your character takes to recover after executing a move), the Force Break attack (which enhances a special move), and the Slash Back (a way to counterattack quickly). If that list doesn’t sound daunting enough, check out dustloop.com for what’s essentially a Guilty Gear strategy encyclopedia. High-level Guilty Gear play really is that nuanced and complicated.
The graphics aren’t fixed, but they weren’t broken to begin with. The backgrounds are remarkably detailed, unique, and colorful, and the characters’ drawings and animations ooze personality. The dust the fighters kick up can look a little cheesy at times, but otherwise, this is a polished and well-crafted presentation.
While the character designers dabbled in a few fighting-game stereotypes, each of the 25 playable fighters has a unique look and character. Indeed, the point seems to have been to come up with the most outlandish fighters and weapons possible, and then name them after metal bands and musicians. May fights with a boat anchor that, at the outset of each round, she can barely lift. Axl Low is a spitting image of his Guns N’ Roses namesake, though he fights with two sickles tied together with a chain and only speaks Japanese. Faust fights hunched over, wearing a bag over his head while wielding a giant scalpel. Even the scantily clad women stand out for more than just their bare skin; I-No, for example, jousts with a guitar in hand. It’s hard to find a crazier or more innovative cast.
In terms of control, Guilty Gear XX: Accent Core Plus unsurprisingly retains the ability for players to use the Nunchuk and Wii-mote, directing their characters around with the joystick and attacking with the buttons and various waggles. Not surprisingly, this is completely unworkable, as it was on the series’ previous Wii outing. Some might be frustrated that the Wii’s default control scheme can’t handle an entire genre of games, but deal with it. If you’re into fighters, you have no business owning a Wii without also investing in a Gamecube or Classic controller. Between those two options, the Classic has a slight edge for its considerably fighting-game-friendlier button layout, but either will do.
Long-time fans will want to know: what’s different this time around? For one, characters Kliff and Justice have returned (they were removed in the previous version), as has the difficult Mission mode, the goal of which is usually to beat an enemy while handicapped in various ways, or within a certain time frame. Survival mode has added some RPG elements. And there’s a Team Vs. mode, playable against the CPU or another player.
The biggest addition, though, is Story mode, in which players stick with the same character all the way through, learning through narration and between-fight dialogue what makes the character tick (the story continues that of the original Guilty Gear XX). The conversations provide a nice break between the one-round fights, but in the end the mode hits the same brick wall every fighting-game story does: each encounter has to end in fisticuffs, so there’s no real way to tell a tale that has any depth or variety. The fact that the voice acting is Japanese-only doesn’t help, either, though the English text will enable American gamers to at least follow along.
The other modes all return: Training, Arcade, M.O.M. (the initials stand for Medal of Millionaire; it’s an easier mode that gives you power-ups to grab when you perform well), and single matches (one- and two-player). Unfortunately, there’s no online option, which hurts the game greatly. Fighting games are best played against human opponents, and the inclusion of multiplayer on only the local level makes that impossible for a lot of gamers.
To the game’s credit, though, it’s unusually enjoyable to play alone. When the difficulty is set to “Normal,” the enemy A.I. provides a reasonable initial challenge that ratchets up smoothly. For those who have problems of boredom or frustration, there are five other settings to choose from. It’s even possible to make the inputs for special moves and Full Roman Cancels more forgiving. Also, learning the basics is a breeze, even outside the Training mode; you’re never more than a pause menu away from a moves list.
There’s no question that Guilty Gear XX is a great game, one of the best and deepest 2-D fighters to come out in quite some time. There’s also no question that Accent Core Plus is thus far the definitive version of Guilty Gear XX. Newcomers will love it, and hardcore fans will want to explore the few new features. However, casual and even dedicated fans won’t find the additions worth a whole new purchase. For that reason, this version really ought to put an end to Guilty Gear XX, and the developers should start working on Guilty Gear 3 (or Guilty Gear XXX as the case may be). It’s time to take an accomplished series and move it forward.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.2 Graphics
Well-drawn 2-D sprites, fluid animation, and detailed, colorful backgrounds. 3.1 Control
Through no fault of the developers, the Wii-mote won’t work very well. A Gamecube or Classic controller will do the trick, though even those options can’t compare to an arcade stick. 4.7 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
A great soundtrack of heavy-metal music. 4.0
This is a very deep, very enjoyable game, but it doesn’t add much to the previous version.
4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.