By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW)
So here we are in 2015, and finally seeing quality fighting games available on the PC is becoming a regular occurrence, rather than a blue moon event. If you’re part of the camp like me that skipped a lot of class in college because the action was too intense in the arcade to miss out on, but never picked up a console in the aftermath to scratch your fighting itch, then this might feel like the beginning of a golden era. The latest addition to that golden era of course is the arrival of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R on Steam, bringing the pinnacle edition of the classic Guilty Gear franchise to PC, with quality minimal lag multiplayer action, and more game modes on tap than random nonsense words in its title.
As I’m a casual plus Guilty Gear player, I’ll be writing my review directed towards the uninitiated PC gamer that might be considering picking this up. Why? Because if you’re a hardcore Guilty Gear fan, you probably didn’t need to wait for my review to snag this game on Steam on day one. In fact if you’re a hardcore Guilty Gear fan and reading this, you’re probably more interested in berating me for not agreeing with your opinion, or falsely describing the process of setting up a multi-roman cancel aerial combo off a wall bounce into an overdrive finisher. For fighting game fans not familiar with Guilty Gear, that last line should give you an indication of what type of game you’re getting into. Don’t be fooled by its visuals.
When I first picked up Guilty Gear X in the UC Riverside arcade, I was blown away by its Japanese animation style coordinated seamlessly into the fighting genre. By creating pauses when skills connect in the action just short enough that novices to the game won’t even notice it, Guilty Gear creates truly cinematic looking battles that might lull you into thinking this game is slow and beginner friendly. However, Guilty Gear is all about dashes, and that’s more apparent than ever in Accent Core Plus R’s edition. Combat flows smoothly, counters never seem visually forced, and overdrive and instant kill attacks are still a mixture of raw intimidation and a moving painting of death.
That said, you should be warned that this game is a port of a 2012 update edition built off a game engine that first went public for box arcade missions in Japan in 2002. If you’ve been thinking about getting into this version of Guilty Gear because recent Xrd trailers impressed you with their polished smoothness, second guess your intentions. There’s no 16:9 resolution here, and while Guilty Gear’s X graphics were mindblowing for their time, they now look pretty dated compared to the rest of the AAA 2D fighting genre. A plus if you happen to be playing on a lower end PC and can’t afford any second of graphics lag in your fighting game. But honestly I wish Arc Systems would have put in a least a tiny bit of visual updating between 2012 and now.
Though I have to give props for the number of unique pre-match interactions between specific characters complete with unique lines. Heck the lines are in Japanese and I can’t even be mad about it. This is what beyond the call of duty game polish should look like.
Roster and Balance
The key feature of Accent Core Plus R that might sell you versus the still console only Xrd edition is its combination of the full 25 character series roster mixed with what’s arguably (but not even that arguably) the most balanced edition of each character. The fact Arc Systems could put together such a diverse and massive roster as this and maintain any semblance of balance makes Accent Core Plus R a sort of wonder of the 2D fighting genre world. Everyone form former edition and rebalanced bosses I-no and Dizzy’s mom Justice are here, as well as alternative forms of the primary series rival’s Order Sol and Robo-Ky.
If you play your fighting games for learning strength/weakness match-ups, and like to think on your feet to overcome a massive variety of pressure combos, this game will hit S rank for your needs. To this day I feel the personalities and skill sets brought by the Guilty Gear X series characters make most of Street Fighter’s characters seem cliche, and Mortal Kombat’s roster a tad bit lazy in comparison. Get in the game and it won’t take long to understand where I’m coming from.
Once again I bring up the sheer speed of this fighting game compared to more methodical 2D fighters as it’s a key ingredient in the balance. Between air blocking, multiple throw types, bursting, instant cheap recoveries, and basic cheap super fast jab strikes, even a novice can get lucky and break out of a decent player’s combo if even the slightest mistake is made. There’s not much fun to be had getting juggled through a round by a 35 hit combo, and Accent Core Plus R will spare you this pain in most match-ups. And when it does happen, you’ll have such a respect for the skill ceiling and level of difficulty involved in locking you through it given all the ways you have to escape, that you won’t even be mad.
One piece of advise I need to bring up before closing out the balance discussion for new players to the series is cheesing. Guilty Gear does offer rather simplistic super attacks called Overdrives, as well as plenty of characters with super long range semi-spammable attacks. This is done to emphasis the nature of the high speed air dashing and double jumping so prevalent in their system. If you prefer your fighting game more fisticuff and less Smash Bros, it can be a big turn turn-off. But in the end it adds an element of strategy and counterplay totally absent in most fighting games, and I dig it.
As a casual fighting game enthusiast, I’ll say Guilty Gear’s controls are somewhere between solid and frustrating. Jumping into the game fresh, you probably won’t think that. Each character is incredibly responsive, with zero lag time between putting in your commands and seeing them acted out in incredible unique animated sequences. But once you watch the pros put their Olympian fingers into action, you won’t be able to look at your own gameplay with anything but disdain, as you feebly fail for countless hours to even match a fourth of the glory you know is possible to attain.
Guilty Gear offers easy enough to learn special moves and, combined with the minimal pausing during skill connects, an easier system than most 2D fighters for unleashing impressive skills at a regular pace. But combining how fast action is with how resource intensive the cool stuff like roman cancelling aerial combos and overdrive attacks, can leave new players to the series tossing their controller across the room during the learning process. I don’t want to knock Guilty Gear too hard as its not them, it’s us to blame for not living up to their insane skill ceiling. But I will say if you put the time and effort in to learn the intricacies of the system through and through, you will be rewarded.
Guilty Gear pushes story harder than most fighting games. Even with the huge roster in this game, you can expect each to be Japanese voice acted in cutscenes and during battle. Unfortunately if you are new to the series, this game’s story mode isn’t going to do you any favors in getting you caught up to speed. Nor am I going to waste my time here cluing you in on what Arc Systems should have offered themselves.
Through the story you might be able to pick up a sense of the character’s personalities and motivations, while battling increasingly challenging foes. On some of the higher risk ranked characters you may even be thrown into unique challenges such as when Dizzy’s sentient wings rampage out of control, forcing you to defeat Ky Kiske (the master of cheese mid-range stuns and countering the living hell out of Dizzy’s hit and run playstyle) utilizing only Necro wing based special abilities. All in all story mode is more there to give you a weak but present emotional attachment to various characters on the surface while upping your skills and understanding of a variety of roster characters through battle. But again, this story is like Mega Man X on PCP, so good luck getting even half of what’s going on without a little outside reading.
And Modes… and Modes!
Something Accent Core Plus R does to a fault is give you more modes than any fighting game probably ever needs. You’ve got eleven modes total to play with, from the simple Arcade and versus, to 3v3 battles, online standard vs ranked play, and even two separate takes on endless gauntlet depending on if you want a weird challenge or RPG elements to it. The Survivalist gauntlet is particularly unique to the fighting genre, offering a sort of Soul Caliber feel to character progression as you upgrade your skills by defeating bosses and level up from continued victories. Every 20th level a special shadow boss with strike, offering you a chance to regain your health. If you win, you’ll be able to choose between one of our power ups, ranging from tension charge to movement speed to air dashing, to HP, and so on! Later on you even start to unlock some special passives. Pretty dang cool! The 3v3 battles are also quite fun for testing a friend that only knows one character well. Being able to utilize a multitude of characters on the fly is the true test of skill in Guilty Gear.
Both local and online battles are available, and you can even take part in some of the less orthodox VS battles such as 3v3 team fights with friends. In a world where every game seems to hate the idea of friends sitting down together on one system to game, the massive support for local co-op was a breath of fresh air. And for those still mad about the PSVita not supporting online play for Accent Core Plus R back in the day, you can rest assured that a good majority of the time online play on Steam went smooth as butter. Granted that’s my experience coming from the west coast southern California. Experiences may differ for the better or worse depending on how far around the world your opponents are, and any lag time at all can ruin the Guilty Gear experience. Still I’d say Arc Systems found the magic bullet to make it work at a slightly higher than passable rate.
You can’t judge a Guilty Gear game without dropping at least one line about the soundtrack. Anyone that has the slightest bit of love for the 80s classic rock genre will dig not only the quality and plethora of recordings here, but the emotional connection each track captures in further building the individual characters of the story. I will say some of the audio sounded a bit less crisp than I hoped. But not to the point that it detracted from my gaming experience.
The Guilty Gear X franchise is past the point of winning any awards for visuals, especially when Xrd is already showing how Arc Systems’ lovable cast should look in 2015. But what Xrd offers in visuals, it lacks in the variety department. And polished variety is where Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R shines brightest. So many characters, so many years of painstaking balance tweaks to make them all viable, and so many modes to take them all for a test drive in by yourself or with friends. Scratch your old arcade itch by taking the fight online, or experience AI perfectly balanced for casual players that don’t want to hang with the 40+ combo maniacs lurking the net. For a PC port coming three years too late of a game over a decade old, somehow Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R seems to have been worth the wait. Some might gripe about the lack of 1080p support as they squint to look for tells of enemy overdrive attacks being entered, but its honestly a better alternative than if they had just stretched the screen to fit the resolution.
Graphics: 3/5 – Accent Core Plus R still continues to impressive with the level of detail on tap. But you’re just being a fanboi if you think it isn’t starting to show its age.
Controls: 4/5 – Hard to learn, but damn amazing what precision timed button pushes can result in on this game. Grit your teeth and grind through the first rough hours, and you’ll be impressed at the result. That’s of course based on a gamepad controls. If you think you’re going to play Guilty Gear on a keyboard, you’re probably a madman, and most certainly a barbarian.
Features: 4/5 – You’re going to find everything you could hope for in a fighting game short of an mmorpg leveling system and custom character builder. And let’s be real, these are things you might not even want in your fighting game.
Customization: 4/5 – Again not something necessary for a quality fighting game. You can remap all your skills though, even choose between voices for Sol Badguy, and pick a variety of recolors of the characters. Not bad man.
Community: 4/5 – They’re cool helpful dudes. Guilty Gear fans are rabid and love to welcome new members into the fold. Expect to find plenty of guides, help on the Steam forums, and a group of theorycrafters that may have put more research into characters than the developers themselves.