Guilty Gear X Hands-On

We got our hands on an import version of what is possibly the best-looking 2D fighter ever.

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Guilty Gear X
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The Dreamcast port of the sequel to Guilty Gear - Arc System's circa 1998 2D fighter - has just hit Japanese shores, and, by all accounts, it seems to be in top form. Originally developed for Sega's Naomi hardware set, Guilty Gear X seemed from the start a logical fit for the Dreamcast.

Among other things, Guilty Gear X's masterful visual design demands attention. Consisting primarily of large, ultradetailed 2D sprites, the game in motion really has to be seen to be believed. Every element in the game animates marvelously, from the characters to the teeming backdrops, and the whole package is accentuated by judicious use of 3D particle effects, often rivaling those found in SNK vs. Capcom. To further exploit the Capcom analogy, you could say that the characters are at least as detailed as those found the Street Fighter 3 games, and they animate as functionally and fluidly as the characters in an Alpha or Vs. game. One would think that such an emphasis on visuals would in some way hamper the actual game system. Luckily, such is not the case with GGX.

While it'd be hasty to call the game innovative in the context of the genre, it's certainly inventive enough to garner the interest of most grizzled 2D veterans. The basic attacks consist of two sets of light and heavy attacks, whose effects vary with each character. The Medusa-esque Millia, for example, fights with her prehensile hair, whipping, cutting, and slashing her opponents with her animate locks, while the genuinely oddball Faust spars using a six-foot scalpel in tandem with a host of bodily contortions. Each character will have access to an arsenal of special attacks and supermoves. The special attacks consist of your standard 2D fighter fare - they're executed by half or quarter circles, "dragon punch" motions, and direction charging, and anyone who's played a SF or KOF game will feel right at home. Likewise with the supermoves - they're governed by a "tension meter" that gradually fills as you fight. When inclined to release a super, you merely input the command and watch the carnage ensue. Most supers deplete 50 percent of the tension meter with each use, though, and there really are a great many uses for your pent up energy. Instant kills, for instance - which, as the name implies, instantly vanquish your opponents - are only possible with a full (and altered) meter. Likewise with move cancels - they are achieved by holding down any three attack buttons in the midst of a special move, which will ultimately cancel the special move you were executing and deplete half your tension gauge.

All in all, the instant kills aren't as powerful as they were in the original Guilty Gear - they're more difficult to execute, and they don't end the match immediately, but rather grant their user the round. But their presence is significant nonetheless. In every other respect, Guilty Gear X behaves like a modern SF3-paced 2D fighter, complete with all the "innovations" you've come to expect from a more off-the-wall representation of the genre - double jumps, air combos, and the like.

We sincerely hope that a US publisher picks this one up, as the relative thinning of the 2D fighting genre is something that we find greatly disturbing. Fans of 2D fighters couldn't go wrong by importing this one - even though the single-player game is relatively weak, the whole more than easily makes up for it. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for the announcement of a US release.

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