Guilty Gear X2 Preview

We check out the latest installment in this 2D fighting game franchise from Sammy.

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The 2D fighting genre hasn't seen much action since its heyday during the 16- and 32-bit eras. Outside of the steady outputs of Capcom and SNK, there hasn't really been much to drive the genre's evolution. Fortunately for fans of fighting games, Sammy and developer Arc System Works' Guilty Gear franchise has provided a new take on the standard 2D fighter. Initially seen at home on the original PlayStation, the franchise rose to popularity with its second installment, Guilty Gear X, which appeared in arcades and on Sega's Dreamcast. The sophomore installment turned heads with its high-resolution sprites, anime-inspired characters, and over-the-top gameplay. Now, the franchise will continue on the PlayStation 2 and in the arcades with Guilty Gear X2, which will add some new faces to the roster of fighters and bulk up the returning characters' move sets. We had a chance to check out a preview build of the game to see how the latest installment in the franchise is coming along.

Guilty Gear X2 introduces some outrageous new characters.
Guilty Gear X2 introduces some outrageous new characters.

As with most sequels in the 2D fighting genre, Guilty Gear X2 expands on the core elements of its predecessor. You'll find that the game's roster of fighters consists of 14 returning characters and four new ones: Bridget, a yo-yo-toting brat; Slayer, a slick raconteur; I-No, a guitar-wielding rock chick; and Zappa, a bizarre Australian zombie. The new faces are arguably even more eccentric than the old ones (which is saying something, as one of the original characters wears a paper bag with one eyehole over his head), but they fit in nicely nonetheless.

You'll find eight gameplay modes: arcade, MOM, two-player versus, versus CPU, training, survival, mission, and story. Arcade is a standard run through the roster that leads to an unpleasant encounter with a boss. MOM is a battle to collect medals that you knock from your enemies during the fight. Two-player versus is a one-on-one fight against a friend, while versus CPU lets you take on an AI-controlled character. Training lets you familiarize yourself with a character's moves against a customizable CPU opponent. Survival is a standard test of skill against waves of opponents. Mission is a series of 50 fights that feature a wide variety of conditions such as a time limit or an enemy who regains his or her health during a battle. Finally, the game's story mode lets you take part in a unique series of fights tied together by story sequences revolving around the character you pick. As you go through each of the modes, you'll unlock assets such as sketches and movies that you can view in a gallery.

Of course, all the old favorites are back too.
Of course, all the old favorites are back too.

The game's fighting system uses the same four-button layout seen in the previous games--punch, kick, slash and hard slash--and Arc System Works has done a good job of mapping the scheme to the PlayStation 2 controller. You'll also be able to assign shortcuts to the shoulder buttons, such as punch and kick combos or punch, kick, and slash combos. The game's control is responsive and feels right. The returning characters have been tweaked and feature some new moves to offer a challenge to veterans of the series.

Graphically, Guilty Gear X2 is looking quite sharp, maintaining the detailed visual style the series is known for. The characters look great and animate well, although we'd love to see a few more frames of animation thrown in. The backgrounds in the game are equally well done and feature a broad range of locales, ranging from run-of-the-mill courtyards with fountains to hell. The game's resolution has been scaled back a bit from the razor-sharp clarity of an arcade monitor to look its best on a standard television.

The characters in the game all animate very well.
The characters in the game all animate very well.

Guilty Gear X2's music is a suitable collection of over-the-top guitar tracks and moodier pieces. The game's solid voice work has thankfully been left in Japanese. The sound effects in the game are well done and consist of a solid assortment of clangs and thuds.

Judging from what we've seen so far, Guilty Gear X2 is coming together quite well. The game's slick visuals, strong audio, tight gameplay, and meaty assortment of modes form a strong package. 2D fighting fans should keep an eye out for it early next year.

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