Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- Review

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-

Developed By: Arc System Works

Published By: Aksys Games

Available For: PS3, PS4 (reviewed)

Release Date: December 16th 2014


Fighting games as a genre aren’t the most accessible. Oftentimes, the gap between a new player and a veteran can be as wide as a canyon.  While Guilty Gear Xrd -Sign- does an admirable job at training new players, it also has a lot to offer to longtime players as well.

The first thing someone completely new to the franchise will notice is the diverse cast. Aside from (probably) being the only game you can pit a rock and roll witch against pirate, the characters also play remarkably different. Sol Badguy attacks using fire and even has a transformation to make him more powerful. Ky Kiske is much better at zoning and fights with lightning. After these two, the cast gets far more bizarre. Millia Rage fights with her hair and once your knocked down she can keep you on the defense. May is a kid who will throw the entire aquarium at you and wields a giant anchor. Possibly the most unconventional character of all is Faust, a doctor with a giant scalpel who will quite literally make sure the door hits you on your way out the match. While the size of the cast is relatively small (15 not counting DLC), the fact that no two characters are the same helps to set Xrd -SIGN- apart from other fighters.

Zato-1 can use his shadow Eddie to fight the opponent from two sides

Zato-1 can use his shadow Eddie to fight the opponent from two sides

The Guilty Gear franchise is known for having some of the most advanced techniques of any fighting game, but a brilliant tutorial system helps explain these techniques. Tutorial mode covers the simple stuff from dashing to activating a Roman Cancel. Combo practice is also available for each character and gives you thirty or more ways to beat your opponent. The most impressive feature of the entire game is the Mission Mode. In Mission Mode, the basics you’ve learned in the tutorial will be put into practice, which helps ingrain the techniques you’ve learned and make them feel like second nature. Other missions will teach you hardcore fighting game mechanics in obvious ways. Things that are normally tricky to explain like Reversal mechanics and whiff punishing are broken down and help ingrain a smarter style of play for its players. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- even breaks down individual character matchups for players willing to learn. As an example against Potemkin the game teaches you to read his attack string to figure whether he’s going for a hard knockdown(hits on ground) or his Overdrive move (which hits against aerial opponents). Simply put, tutorials teach you how, challenges teach you what, and missions teach you why. That kind of in-depth tutorial is remarkable, and the things it teaches you can transfer to almost any 2d fighter around.

The brilliant tutorial system would be for naught if the game didn’t control smoothly. The tight combat that the Guilty Gear franchise is known for is back. Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- runs on a unique five button system. Punch, kick, slash, heavy slash, and dust all have different reaches and uses in combat. Simple combos can be pretty damaging, but complex ones can be utterly devastating. Executing these difficult combos can be tricky, but it’s so satisfying when you finally do. Of course, the famed Instant Kill attacks are back and are a spectacularly painful way to end a match. When your opponent is assailing you, often Faultless Defense is your best bet. Faultless Defense pushes a blocked opponent away at the expense of your tension meter, though this can often push an opponent far enough back that his next attack will miss entirely, which sets up a counterattack. Defensively there is also the option to use the new Blitz Shield technique, which when perfectly timed can leave an opponent completely vulnerable. The most important technique of all is the Roman Cancel. This Guilty Gear staple has been improved so that you can cancel an attack at almost any time. Not only does this allow you to set your opponent up for massive damage, but it also can protect you should you miss or have an attack blocked. Proper utilization of the Roman Cancel is vital to mastering Guilty Gear Xrd’s combat system.

Ramlethal is about to fire her laser.

Ramlethal is about to fire her laser.

There are only a few modes for the game, but they are all executed well. Other than standard arcade and versus mode, M.O.M mode is the highlight. M.O.M is half survival mode, half RPG. Your character navigates a grid of fights against increasingly challenging foes to earn medals to bolster their power, and repeat. A loss in M.O.M doesn’t end your game, but it does reset your active win count. There is a story mode in Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, but you don’t actually fight and it really just sets the stage for the game. For franchise fans, like myself, there is an encyclopedia-like Library mode which breaks down the Guilty Gear Universe from Axl to Zepp

Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, like most fighters is best against other people. The lobby system allows four different games to be going on in the same lobby, letting you choose which line you want to wait in, or match you wish to spectate. Other than that, there are simple Ranked matches to be played as well. While your waiting on your match to start, you can hop in training and practice that combo you saw in an earlier match. The Arc System Works replay system is also present, and great matches from top players are easily downloadable if you wish to watch them. During online matches, you’ll even get a readout of how many frames the game is lagging by so you can adjust your play style based on the lag. As far as the actual netcode, while it wasn’t perfect, I never experienced any major problems. On top of everything, PS3 and PS4 players can play against each other, so the online community isn’t split.

Visually, Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is hands down the most stunning fighting game I’ve ever played. 3D models on a 2D field have never looked so good. There is a dynamic camera that will move during a Dust launcher or Overdrive move, but the camera never manages to get in the way of the gameplay. The entrances and victory poses of characters look amazing and it almost feels like a pain to skip them when I’m playing online. The game manages to run perfectly at 1080p and 60fps. Xrd’s soundtrack also deserves mention as it really sets up the fight well and even brings back some classic tracks from the franchise. Even the voice work is well done and often features mid-match discussions, especially during the instant kill sequences.

Guilty Gear Xrd’s action takes things over the top. The seemingly daunting depth of the game is eased thanks to the unique mission system. This deep gameplay along with absolutely stunning visuals make this not only the best fighting game I’ve played this year, but the best I’ve played in a long time.