Game Review #347: Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Edition (Nintendo Switch)
Updated: Mar 23
Reviewer: Chad M.
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works, PQube
Category: Action, Fighting
Release Date: 5.16.2019
Price: Digital (Guilty Gear - $9.99, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R - $14.99), Physical (regular - £29.10, collector's pack w/ case £59.99)
Buy Guilty Gear from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Buy Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
Fighting In The 90’s...
I’ve always had a soft spot for fighting games. Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat both got their hooks into me as a kid, so much so that I was highly anticipating both film adaptations—a misguided youth indeed. But, in 1998, we had a bevy of fighting games, as it seemed the genre had hit a high point. We had the poly-fighting games like Tekken 3, solid fighters like The King of Fighters ’98, and a personal favorite, Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes.
These games, especially the Tekken series, began to be staple of games I played; but on the horizon, a new opponent would be ready to fight. On May 14, 1998, developers Team Neo Blood and Arc System Works brought an entirely new fighting series IP to life in the form of Guilty Gear. Over 20 years from its creation and this series has a strong cult following. Now, it has made its way to the Switch, with the original that started it all, and the most beloved and polished version in the series.
Heaven or Hell!
The original Guilty Gear changed the game in story, as well as other aspects. The story with fighting games had always been just some tournament from Tekken, DoA, Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter, but Guilty Gear went in a different direction with its story, as it’s set in a world destroyed by a war between humans and bio-organic weapons, called Gears. It follows ten fighters as they enter a tournament held to prevent the resurrection of the Gears' leader. Oh, wait… I was wrong… it is another tournament game where we battle it out to determine the fate of the world.
What I can say? Of all the fighting games at the time in 1998, nothing felt as deeply rooted in manga or anime than Guilty Gear. If you would have told me the game was based off a manga or anime show, I would’ve easily believed it, with the over-the-top characters and dragons that felt like they were highly inspired by anime I grew up on, like Battle Angel Alita, Ninja Scroll and Trigun. I know the fans love the characters, but the cult following for the game is from how it does things so much differently than the fighting games before it.
In Guilty Gear X2—aka Guilty Gear XX—the story picks up approximately two weeks after the events of Guilty Gear X, the sequel to the original Guilty Gear. In the time following Dizzy's disappearance, the mysterious Post-War Administration Bureau begins secretly investigating the Gears and fighters from previous tournaments for their own needs and ambitions. To achieve their goals, the organization has created several mechanical copies of Ky Kiske, the “Robo-Kys”. In addition, fighters find themselves in a reality beyond their control, most notably in the manipulative hands of the villainess I-No, who is revealed to be a servant of “That Man”, the creator of the Gears. Each character provides a different ending to Guilty Gear X2.
Build Charge to Defeat Your Enemies
As for the first half of the 20th Anniversary Collection, I’ll touch on a few things before moving on to the second game in the collection. Guilty Gear first started by doing away with the standard three-punch, three-kick system—which was prevalent at the time, and was made famous in games like King of Fighters and Street Fighter II—and replaced this with a six-button setup comprised of Punch, Kick, Slash, High slash, Dust, and Respect. Fighting fans had to wrap their heads around this new button layout and fighting style, and once that was done, you still had more in the form of Tension Gauges, Overdrive Attacks, Faultless Defenses, and Instant Kills.
Guilty Gear was able to set itself apart with its pace at which a fight develops, and speed and agility play a major part in this. The game is meant to be played with an offensive mindset, as special abilities, like chaos and overdrive, are linked to your tension gauge, which you fill up by constantly moving towards your opponent and attacking; but defending and retreating will see it decrease. The tension gauge also enables you to perform a Faultless Defense by holding down two buttons as you block, in order to nullify any damage until your gauge runs out—which is a huge help in match-ups.
The game has a lack of modes, with only an arcade and versus mode—pretty meager compared to the modes and options in the second game in the collection. We also have a rather small roster of ten fighters, with a few to unlock. It’s still a game capable of doling out its share of surprises, and arcade mode is a challenge even when playing on normal difficulty.
Instant Kill Just A Burst Away
With Guilty Gear X2 (XX), the version we get here is the final revision, called Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R. It is where the game took those deep core mechanics from the first installment and added even more for gamers to master. Some of the various new mechanics include the Burst Gauge, which fills as you take damage, enabling a Psyche Burst ability, which allows the player to break an opponent’s combos and super moves. This also fills your Tension Gauge to max immediately, if done correctly.
Where the first game was light on modes and characters, this installment makes up for it, with the largest Guilty Gear roster ever—25 characters—bringing in fan favorites and making sure everyone is modified to perfection for this version. As I mentioned, this revision is heavy on modes—and I mean it! They go on for days, with options allowing you to tweak even the smallest of things. So, here we have eight modes, starting with the standard Arcade and Versus modes, alongside a fairly large Story Mode. These are accompanied by Survival Mode, Mission Mode, M.O.M, Training Mode, and Online Versus Mode.
There’s an absolute ton of single-player content here, but where I was let down was the Online Mode, as the game online is a ghost town. It took me anywhere from ten to twenty minutes to get a match started, and when I did, it was sluggish and lagged quite a bit. At this time, I wouldn’t even say the Online Mode is an option until the community grows and things are ironed out; but, luckily, we have a plethora of single-player content to keep us busy.
Audio & Visuals - Collectors Edition
The rock soundtrack still bangs, as both games are known for having a sound heavily inspired by hard rock and heavy metal music. Not only the music, but all of the sound effects and characters sound very well-done. The first entry’s hand-drawn characters, although pixelated by today’s standards, are beautifully detailed. Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske are very much the Ryu and Ken of the Guilty Gear series. Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is even more beautiful, and really holds up over the years, as the characters look great and the levels are colorful and vibrant. As I said before, the game oozes anime and manga tropes in such a very good way.
If you snag the physical 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, it comes in a cardboard shell, and inside we have the standard-looking Switch case that contains the cartridge, with both games on one cartridge. Also included is a fairly good-sized art book called Guilty Gear Unaired Drafts Collection, which has concept art of everything from characters to stages.
It’s A Wrap!
Guilty Gear is deep and fluid, and for a game that came out when fighting games were already so rich with content, it broke into the genre and still made a name for itself. The first game held up well over time, and for me, it’s like playing any classic game: it’s fun to see how it started, but it’s not even close to perfection.
This is where Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R comes in, as this is the definitive way to experience and play this series. Hardcore fans would even take this over the newest installment Xrd. That being said, they both perform flawlessly in both modes, but docked and using a Pro Controller or a Fight Stick is the best way to play. If you can get your hands on the Collector’s Edition at retail price, I would highly recommend buying it, as, for fight fans, it’s a great addition to your collection. If you’re going the digital route, you can grab both, but I’d recommend grabbing Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R at the very least, as this is an amazing game that has been revised to perfection.
Buy Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R from the Nintendo Switch eShop here.
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*Review Codes Provided by PQube