Guilty Gear Isuka Import Impressions

We imported Sammy's crazy, four-player fighting game and took it for a test-drive...which left our heads spinning. Find out why.

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We were excited to get ahold of the Japanese retail version of Guilty Gear Isuka, the latest in Sammy's long-running series of wild-and-crazy anime-inspired fighting games. Isuka distinguishes itself from other, recent Guilty Gear entries most notably by featuring four-player battles (accessed via a PlayStation 2 multitap) in which you and up to three friends and/or computer opponents can engage in ridiculous free-for-alls or team-based matches. Characters also gain the ability to fight on two different planes, either in the foreground or the background, much like in many of the old Fatal Fury fighting games.

The latest in the Guilty Gear series is packed with new gameplay modes. Click "stream" for a larger view.

Even if you don't have a multitap peripheral, you'll still be able to participate in a four-character match with three CPU-controlled fighters. Guilty Gear Isuka isn't just about four-player mayhem, though. It also contains a Final Fight-style side-scrolling beat-'em-up mode, a color-edit mode for customizing character appearances, and other features that--judging by our first impressions--seem like they could keep the series' fans happily occupied for a long time.

Guilty Gear Isuka offers lots of different characters to choose from, though if you played Guilty Gear X2, you'll recognize almost all of them. One new face definitely sticks out, though. It's a girl named Aba, who appears to be an undead murder victim armed with a gigantic key. Aba's a decidedly strange character, so she seems to fit right in with the rest of the Guilty Gear cast. The other two "new" characters are Robo Ky (who was hidden in Guilty Gear X2) and Robo Ky II, both of whom--as their names suggest--are robotic versions of Ky, the blond-haired, goody-two-shoes swordsman.

While most of Guilty Gear Isuka's cast is familiar, the four-player fighting dynamic certainly changes the flow and feel of the gameplay. Specifically, it makes the gameplay seem somehow even more reckless and wacky than it was before. To be perfectly honest, the four-player bouts actually seem a little overwhelming at first. Specifically, they feel less like highly technical fighting game experiences and more like zany antics from four-player "melee-style" games, such as Power Stone or Super Smash Bros. Melee.

As if the previous Guilty Gear games weren't insane enough, this one features two-on-two battles.
As if the previous Guilty Gear games weren't insane enough, this one features two-on-two battles.

The actual controls of the game will be pretty familiar to those who've played their share of 2D fighters, though there's one notable difference: Your character no longer automatically turns around if your opponent moves to the other side of the screen. That's because, well, you can be facing multiple opponents here, so it's very possible to get sandwiched and pummeled into oblivion. You toggle between facing left and right by tapping the R1 button. However, this mechanic takes some getting used to, because turning around happens automatically in most fighting games.

Even so, we got the hang of this quickly enough and were able to regain some of our deteriorated Guilty Gear skills in fairly short order. We were impressed at how the game manages to play as briskly as ever, even with four characters going at it at once. We also experimented with the new ability to step between the foreground and background, which seems like it'll be essential for getting out of harm's way. All in all, the four-player battles in Isuka seem like they'll give Guilty Gear fans a lot of new challenges and strategic opportunities to consider.

Incidentally, those concerned that the four-player battles will be just too chaotic should have no fear. You can still play classic one-on-one bouts if you prefer. Or maybe you'd like to try the new GG Boost mode? It's this weird side-scrolling beat-'em-up, complete with food power-ups and all the types of things you'd expect from a rudimentary Final Fight clone. You can choose any character to play with in this mode, and you may earn points here, which you may then spend in a new factory mode to tweak out and fully customize the moves of a fighter of your choice. This mode looked quite deep, and we barely scratched its surface. So it looks like something that could definitely be interesting for fighting game aficionados.

How about a side-scrolling beat-'em-up mode? Sure, thanks.
How about a side-scrolling beat-'em-up mode? Sure, thanks.

All in all, Guilty Gear Isuka looks like it has enough new and different features to appease those series fans--or 2D fighting game fans--that are looking for their next fix. The game's manic pacing may not be for everybody, but if you've played and enjoyed faster-paced fighting games in the past, then we think you'll want to keep an eye out for Guilty Gear Isuka when it hits North American shores in November.

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