Guilty Gear X Preview

We take a long look at Sammy's upcoming 2D fighter.

The hallmark of a top-notch fighting game is solid, evocative gameplay that seamlessly blends with exhilarating eye candy. Captivating storylines, however, are another matter entirely. Take the story behind the PlayStation 2's upcoming Guilty Gear X, for example. The year is 2180, and the last of a certain type of dangerous biological weapon--genetically reengineered humans known as Gears--has been hunted down and destroyed. After the defeat of the Gears' leader, the diabolical Justice, the threat of the Gears was diminished, until the emergence of a new Gear, apparently sentient and possessed of tremendous combative abilities. Terrified by the prospect of a second Justice, a second tournament is held, where the victor who can destroy the Gear will be awarded 500,000 world dollars.

Arguably, the best-looking sprites ever.

Guilty Gear X, the visually stunning 2D fighter from Japanese developer Arc System Works, was first slated for release on the Dreamcast, but it never quite reached US shores due to Sega's financial woes. Those looking for a distinction between Guilty Gear X and other modern 2D fighters will note that the sequel to Guilty Gear features incredibly detailed, non-pixilated character sprites--the highest resolution characters in any fighting game to date. Not one to drop the ball when it comes to continuing this highly acclaimed fighting series, publisher Sammy is releasing Guilty Gear X on the PlayStation 2 in October 2001. We take a look at the innovative fighting system and the diverse characters that set this game apart from the competition.

The action in Guilty Gear X is meant to be fast and furious, with players being rewarded or penalized for their tactics by the tension gauge. Fighters build up their tension gauge with offensive moves, such as attacks or forward dashes. As a reward for quickening the pace of the round, characters can use this tension gauge for a number of effects. The super moves in Guilty Gear X, which are called "overdrive moves," use up a portion of the tension gauge, as do dead angle attacks, faultless defense, and other special techniques. The freedom to chain together virtually any combo is one of Guilty Gear X's trademarks. With a technique known as roman canceling, you are allowed to end any move mid-frame, thus allowing characters to make contact with a move and then switch into a combo or overdrive move mid-frame. Any move in the game can be roman canceled, as can dashes, move recoveries, and even the stun animation. Another interesting move is the dead angle attack, which is reminiscent of the alpha counter system from the recent Street Fighter titles. Dead angle attacks capitalize on blocking an opponent's move by allowing you to respond with a fierce blow as payback. Dead angle attacks can be executed by pressing the directional pad toward your opponent along with any two attack buttons after a blocked move. By using a small amount of the tension gauge, players may also use a superior form of blocking known as the faultless defense, which pushes off of the opponent, creating distance and nullifying any guard damage. Blocking, then pressing the punch and kick buttons at the time of attack accomplishes this. Finally, warriors can launch their opponents into the air with a technique called a dust attack, opening the enemy up to incredible air combos. The number of different techniques available to master is absolutely overwhelming.

Despite its over-the-top pacing, there are some very deep mechanics in the system.

If there were a single trademark that could be associated with the Guilty Gear series, it would be the instant kill techniques. The first Guilty Gear introduced the powerful instant kill moves to 2D fighting games, with mixed reception from fighting game enthusiasts. Guilty Gear X keeps the spirit of the one-hit finisher alive, though with a somewhat more limited and well-balanced version. To pull off the instant kill, characters must first enter instant kill mode by pressing all four attack buttons, disabling the tension gauge. Once primed for the attack, the killing blow can be dealt for 100 percent of the opponent's life-bar. If the move is blocked or avoided, however, your character continues the round severely limited by the lack of a tension gauge. While cunning players can avoid falling prey to instant kill techniques, victories four seconds into a round are not unheard of.

The Fighters of Guilty Gear X

Sixteen fighters battle for power in the Guilty Gear tournament, each with his or her own signature moves and unique capabilities. We take a look at what drives these warriors to compete, as well as their instant kill techniques.

Anji Mito

Dragon rush for your face.

Anji is one of the last surviving humans of Japanese blood. Unwilling to stay in protective custody, Anji is searching for vengeance upon the creator of the Gears, blaming him for the demise of his people. Armed with a pair of magical fans and mystical powers, he is well suited to the task at hand.

Instant Kill: Anji transforms into a ball of pure energy, then flies off the screen, only to return riding on a giant dragon.

Axl Low

We've got dangling chains.

In a way not dissimilar to Quantum Leap, Axl is a traveler from a 20th-century slum who is chasing after another time traveler to find a way back home. His search has led him to the confrontation with the Gears, and relying on an unorthodox fighting style and the strength of his chained blades, Axl will find his answers there.

Instant Kill: Axl tosses his chains into the air, where they explode in all directions, trapping his opponent in a flurry of blades.

Baiken

One arm is all it takes.

Baiken is a proud warrior woman who has lost both an arm and an eye during her frequent battles. The sole surviving witness to the destruction of her lands, Baiken has entered the fray to exact vengeance from the scientist who brought it about.

Instant Kill: Baiken rushes toward her foe, who is then transported to a pagoda, where we can see the action unfold behind a silk screen. As we can see from the silhouettes, Baiken finishes her foe with a single bloody slash.

Chipp Zanuff

Pentagrams hurt.

A former drug addict, Chipp was tutored in the ways of ninjitsu by a mysterious ninja master, who was slain by the Mafia. He enters the tournament to prove himself and learn about the recently discovered Gear. Chipp utilizes teleportation techniques, great agility, and a deadly wrist blade.

Instant Kill: Five duplicates of Chipp rise into the air and trap his foe in a flaming pentagram of explosive destruction.

Fighters, Part II

Dizzy

Dizzy has no instant-kill.

The product of a union between devil and angel, Dizzy has lived her entire life without feeling that she belongs. Cast out from her homeland, Dizzy searches for a place to call her own. On this journey, she met Testament, who has vowed to protect her. Dizzy commands the powers of both her angelic and demonic backgrounds, which augment her own incredible strength and agility.

Instant Kill: Dizzy's unearthly powers are so great, she makes use of no instant kill move.

Faust

Faust is probably insane.

Faust is a bizarre character indeed. For some reason, he wears a paper bag over his head and delights in floating into battles under his umbrella, à la Mary Poppins. Faust makes use of inexplicable techniques and slices his foes with an oversized scalpel.

Instant Kill: After rendering his opponent unconscious he places the opponent on a hospital gurney and then tries to blow it up with some explosives and an antique detonator. The explosives do not detonate, though, so he approaches the victim to investigate, at which point the explosives go off. We're then treated to an image of Faust sporting a most contrived afro.

Jam Kuradoberi

Jam needs no weapon.

A former waitress at a top Chinese restaurant, Jam has decided that only by starting her own franchise can she bring the most delicious dishes to her customers. Jam has entered the competition armed only with her martial arts in order to raise the funds she needs.

Instant Kill: Jam flies toward her opponent to initiate this move, and, upon making contact, she treats the player to a series of charcoal drawings of herself in various action poses. Jam finishes off the technique with a very Bruce Lee-type flying kick.

Johnny

Jokers will get cut.

Johnny is the charismatic and mysterious swordsman of the Guilty Gear competition. He's decked out in a full-length trench coat and wields such weapons as deadly playing cards and gold coins, so the comparisons to Marvel's Gambit character are unavoidable.

Instant Kill: Johnny tosses his foe a playing card that transforms the unwitting opponent into a large 2D joker, which Johnny then proceeds to slice in half.

Fighters, Part III

Ky Kiske

Ky uses his sword to great effect.

A member of the Sacred Order of Holy Knights, Ky is charged with the protection of humankind. Confused by the last words of the evil Gear in the last tournament, Ky is searching for the true meaning of justice.

Instant Kill: Ky channels his power through his sword, enveloping it in energy, and then stabs his foe with great destructive force.

May

May was born on a pirate ship.

Raised by the pirate Johnny, May commands an airship and can call upon the powers of dolphins and mighty whales. Opponents shouldn't be fooled by her small stature, as this combatant swings a mighty anchor.

Instant Kill: May's instant kill maneuver is a tricky throw move, but pulling it off is quite rewarding. May tosses her opponent to the ground, and then the entire crew of her ship runs out to trample on the poor sap, including a hefty cook and a young girl. The young girl trips and falls, and upon trying to help her, so does the cook, to earthshaking effect.

Millia Rage

Death by follicle.

Millia was raised by a society of assassins and trained in the use of her hair as a deadly weapon. She entered the last tournament after betraying the society, and she defeated its leader, Zato, in that tournament. She has returned for the opportunity to finally destroy him.

Instant Kill: Millia shoots a column of pointed strands of hair up from the ground at her opponent. After the column connects, her foe is finished by a pair of massive crisscrossing braids.

Potemkin

Sometimes a fist is all you need.

Potemkin is a former slave soldier, and players will find the resemblance between his fighting style and those of the Dark Stalkers character Viktor and the Marvel Super Heroes' character Juggernaut uncanny. His great strength will be needed on his current mission, which is to protect the Gear from those who would destroy it.

Instant Kill: Potemkin unleashes his might with a move that would make Popeye proud. After tossing his foe into the air, he kisses his fist and then sends his victim flying with a final blow.

Fighters, Part IV

Sol Badguy

Sol's body becomes a deadly projectile.

Sol is the product of biological research, a powerful bounty hunter out to destroy the scientist who created him and his ilk. He utilizes various fire-based attacks and the long reach of his flaming sword with great efficiency.

Instant Kill: Enveloped by a wave of blistering flames, Sol flies through the air, destroying his opponent on impact.

Testament

Testament's familiar will finish you off.

Testament was forced to go through vile biological experiments that transformed him into a Gear. After losing faith in humankind, Testament has found hope in Dizzy, and he will stop at nothing to protect her from those who would capture her.

Instant Kill: Testament's raven transforms into her alternate form, a beautiful ghost, and sends his enemy into a slumber. She then drives her hand through the enemy's chest in a bloody final blow.

Venom

Venom is possibly the most bizarre fighting-game character.

Zato spared the shrouded Venom from execution, and in return he has sworn his allegiance to Zato as his lifelong bodyguard. He enters this competition to discover more about his master and learn where his true loyalties must lie. Venom fights unconventionally, armed with his pool cue and mastery of physics.

Instant Kill: What else but turning his foe into a billiard ball from this master of snooker? Venom produces a number of balls and racks them along with his transformed foe. He then breaks, literally.

Zato-1ONE

Zato decrees that you must die.

Visually reminiscent of Dark Stalkers' Dimitri and Marvel Super Heroes' Black Heart, Zato is the leader of a powerful society of assassins. In exchange for his sight, Zato was granted the power to control and manipulate shadows. Weakened by his last battle with Justice, the shadow that was once his tool has become cognizant of its own powers and has taken control of Zato's body. Searching for others like himself, the new Zato has been drawn toward this new Gear.

Instant Kill: Reaching out toward his opponent, Zato summons forth the visage of a lovely woman, which then transforms into death's macabre image, signaling his foe's demise.

After spending some time with Guilty Gear X, we were impressed by how well the game provided for exciting, competitive matches. Integrating the usage of and defenses against the still powerful instant kill techniques takes some getting used to for those familiar with the 2D fighters from SNK and Capcom, but all things considered, the gameplay is pleasantly intuitive, with plenty of depth for the higher level of competition. For more information on Guilty Gear X, check out our screenshots and streaming gameplay footage and look for our review upon release.

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