Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN is the latest entry in Arc System Works’ much loved technical fighting game property. Marvel vs. Capcom fans will be in for a treat with this one. Aggressive and fast paced gameplay, mixed with cell-shaded graphics and flashy attacks, make for one hell of an entertaining beat em’ up. However, Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN can be a daunting challenge for players looking for an entry to the series. With its steep learning curve and breakneck battle pace, it’s time to memorise those combos or go home crying!
At a glance Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN looks visually alike to other popular titles in the genre, namely the Street Fighter series. With the leap to current gen, fighting games like Street Fighter have moved away from the classic sprites the genre was born in, to 3d models of current gen. Arc System Works have chosen the same route with their new release. Visually, Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN is like nothing else you’re likely to see in current games of the genre. The game is rendered in a cell-shaded style thanks to the unreal engine 3. It’s like a breath of new life into the game and genre aesthetically. All character models are rendered in beautiful 3d and perfectly mimic an old school sprite style fans have come to know and love. A bit of research online and you’ll find that each character frame seen, is hand tweaked personally by the team, and dabbling with game design myself, I can appreciate the amount of work that goes into this process. Mixed with an excellent rock/metal soundtrack, it ticks all the boxes and is just enjoyable to look at.
If you are new to the series, you will notice how unique Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN is compared to some other popular beat em’ ups you’re likely to have played. The most obvious difference is the speed at which combat plays out. There is an awful lot going on if you jump straight into the game, so new players will want to use the game’s very in depth tutorials and information to get started. You will spend quite a bit of time training as a new player, you can restart each section; and read the information again at your leisure. The tutorial is long and has a lot of complex information. There are so many button combinations to remember and mechanics to understand, it can feel like there is a lot going on at first.
Playing the game you will see how Arc System Works have done a great job at balancing what essentially seems like a game created for dedicated hardcore fans of the genre. There is still enjoyment as a beginner in the solo game modes. The fast pace of combat translates over to the easier difficulties well, the game feels and looks incredibly exciting. Once you start battling you will realise that all you’ve learned doesn’t have to be applied right away, and you can chose areas of combat to focus on, gradually improving on all areas of combat mechanics the more you play. There is some good fun to be had in M.O.M mode, beating down CPU opponents and collecting medals to power your character up as you work your way through a grid of enemies was surprisingly enjoyable.
My personal favourites are Faust, a weird guy with a paper bag on his head and a giant scalpel, Potemkin, a big armoured grappler and I-No, a sexy guitar wielding witch.
The world of Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN seems complex in content but also; mechanically, this could be the first beat em’ up you play that causes anger and frustration by, just learning the general button combinations and attack timings that keep you alive on the battlefield. For example, a Roman Cancel is a technique you will have to become familiar with. It’s essentially a way of stopping your character if you’ve mistimed an attack or want to start a new combo chain to surprise an opponent. The game is rife with these kinds of technical mechanics and can be overwhelming at times, but if you’re already experienced or new and prepared to learn, there has never been a better time to enter this series. Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN will leave players with a strong sense of accomplishment as your knowledge of the game expands.
Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN isn’t really the kind of game you’ll get a whole load of mileage from in the single player modes though; Arc System Works obviously intended the game to be primarily enjoyed where it shines, in a competitive environment. The online gameplay is a nostalgic lobby system based around arcade machines. Rooms are created, and players can join and battle (or spectate) at one of four arcade machines. I didn’t have a problem finding someone to battle once I was in a room, and it was relatively quick to get in on matches.
There are a few small shortcomings with the online connectivity (I’m personally on an excellent high speed broadband connection). You will notice how hard it is to find a room matching your latency specification (which is selectable in search options) forcing you into rooms with a diverse mix of players from around the world if you can’t find anyone you match latency wise. From the matches I did fight, there were noticeable latency issues and were fairy random in occurrence. There was also an issue of not being able to find matches or rooms at all, even searching multiple times. These kinds of problems are usually quite common in new releases and are ultimately something that can be fixed however.
Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN does feature a story mode, well kind of. A combat driven story mode players may have been looking for was a long series of cutscenes, full of anime clichés. No fighting, no gameplay, just a rather long film. This is something fans will probably want to watch, but this hasn’t been well adapted for new players. It could have benefitted from being an interactive experience to draw players into the universe and interact with the story content and cast.
The cast of characters is like nothing else offered in any other series. Everyone has a unique look and fighting style, and although the cast seems pretty limited in choice (Fourteen playable, plus three unlockable/DLC), you will find yourself not caring down to the fact there is someone there for everyone, and you’ll want to be spending your time mastering that character. My personal favourites are Faust, a weird guy with a paper bag on his head and a giant scalpel, Potemkin, a big armoured grappler and I-No, a sexy guitar wielding witch.
Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN is a great beat em’ up, that really pushes you to be your best, but can seem intimidating to new players. It doesn’t actually do anything new, but that’s ok, it’s fun and as rewarding as you want it to be. Returning fans will either love it or skip it, but anyone hoping for an evolution of the series may be left with a bitter taste in their mouths. This game definitely caters for those looking to hit the competitive circuit, but casual fans of the genre will probably want to skip this one. Who knows, hopefully this is the start of a series that will evolve into something greater with coming releases.