I’ve played Guilty Gear quite a lot. Around the Midnight Carnival era I was playing at low tourney level and I enjoyed the hell out every incarnation of the game, even Isuka. Because of Guilty Gear people slowly stopped playing fighting games with me, and thus I kinda stopped trying to play them for a long, long time. Well, long in Internet years, so that’s something around five to seven years. I’ve played the first Guilty Gear somewhat, but the PAL version suffers from bad PAL conversion. X was somewhat limited in pressed amounts, and XX onwards all games were far more common here anyway.
I enjoyed, and still enjoy, Guilty Gears aggressive gameplay. It has some things in common with Darkstalkers, and perhaps that’s one thing that got me into it in the first place. I wasn’t that good in Vampire Saviour, and I guess I’m the rare cases of being decent in the game rather than being a novice or good at it. I’ve got few friends who got extremely good at GG with me, and I’ve yet to met anyone who uses Eddie better than Mister Zydeniys. Goddammit, this man learned to use all those trap and mind game moves so well, that he could perfect me with two out of four characters I mainly used. It’s also funny to notice that I used Dizzy like a rushdown character, and managed to rack down good damage with few combos that I never really saw in tournament videos. When updated versions hit, especially Accent Core, I had to relearn Dizzy from ground up, but the lack of real life opponents really slows things down. As such, I’m pretty horrible at GG AC/+, but with the PlayStation Network release I hope to give birth to those days once more with few of my friends.
With this, I hope you understand how much Guilty Gear has been there for me.
When I got my (free) 360, one the first games that I wanted to get was Guilty Gear 2 Overture. Why? Because it was Guilty Gear. I knew that it was different, panned by the fandom and most critics. Now, about a year later, I got my hands on Overture. It’s time to get my shit together and see what’s the hassle has been about.
The manuals awesome, in colour and all. It does an excellent job on explaining what the game is about and how the game is played. There’s even a Notes section in the back! Now that’s a royalty these days, and tells that the overall quality of the game is good. Outside Xbox’s horrible green, the artwork is Guilty Gear alright.
The overall visual design is nothing short of spot-on for Guilty Gear. Sure the graphics aren’t high end by any means, but they do their job well enough. The GG series has always had this certain kind well over designed style that uses rock, punk, metal and other musical influences to create rather unique world. There’s a hint of Heavy Metal in there as well. The character design on the other hand suffers a bit. Sol’s new outfit is very good and follows the same line of design his outfits previously were. Ky has his own style as well the way he has been designed is believable. I do miss their original swords, but both of them carry nice redesigns. Valentine is one of the new characters, and her appearance is nothing short of attractive and very Guilty Gearish.
However, rest of the humanoid characters have rest than… to be honest, Sin’s outfit never looked right for me. I can see what they were going with it, and managed to achieve it, as Sin’s in-game graphics look pretty good, but otherwise it’s rather unimaginative design. Izuna is Guilty Gearified kitsune, so there’s nothing much to talk about.
Overall, they managed to follow the same sense of design as previous Guilty Gears. While we do not really see any familiar faces outside the core characters (and some Di- Maiden of the Grove) all the new characters and places fit well to the overall lore. It’s not just about how everything looks, but also how they’re shaped, how they feel and sound. Sure, some of the Guilty Gear sound effects are used a bit oddly, but the music is there, the characters are there, and the story is there. It’s all Guilty Gear in the coda and shell.
The characters, by all accounts, all in-character. Sol has always been portrayed the exact same way, but here we see his knowledge on the world at large, of Gears and magic, more than in any previous game. Sol speaks of twelve pitches of magic and how the events taking place works outside these twelve points. I love this kind of stuff in Guilty Gear, as it shows the love the developers have towards music. The little we see Ky Kiske tells that he has grown, but still keeps his own mind even as a king. I need to see more to filly say what Ky is like here, but as it stands now, there’s no outside deviations of the characters and their status in the lore is respected. This makes me smile.
Now, let’s speak of the story a bit. It was announced at one point that the Guilty Gear XX series (the least) was non-canon and Guilty Gear 2 was the true sequel to the original, leaving majority of the series outside the canon. They shot themselves in the leg, as Guilty Gear has an interesting and rather vast lore to back it up, and very easy to expand upon, especially after Overture. However, the plot of XX was never concluded and is still open. In a manner of speaking, it’s like a writer has somewhat successful book, and five other sequels to it are massive successes, and the fifth stops at a cliff-hanger ending. Then the writer writes the seventh book, and discards all the previous sequels and makes it sequel to the first one.
It’s important to notice that while the story or the lore has little to do with the gameplay of the series, it’s one of the charms. Outside King of Fighters no other fighting game has tried to create an interwoven universe in-game. As with every game of this kind, the story and its details have been greatly expanded in side materials, from books to radio dramas. Making a GG game without the plot is more than possible, and Guilty Gear Petit games are extremely well made handheld games that are a good example of this. Overture’s status as the true sequel was later pulled back, and it’s good. Nothing that XX has does not conflict with Overture or vice versa. However, now the developers have nothing but loose end in their hands, and I hope if we’ll ever get Guilty Gear X3 and Guilty Gear 3 they’ll make the proper decision and close these leads. This kind of world offers huge possibilities in story, that finishing the current ones would do only good for the series.
First of all, the game is structured on level/stage/mission based system. Each Stage has an event, and in most cases a Mission in them. Every Stage starts with a cutscene, then goes to the battle if there is one, and then closes the Stage with a cutscene. Very basic, and it works. You can access any Stage you’ve beaten afterwards to get a better score. All in all, very basic and works all around.
The structure is very console game all around and mixing mixing some PC game elements with arcade-ish controls. This is a game that could really exist on consoles only, and the 360 controller is well utilised. Actually, this is the most responsive game I’ve played on 360 thus far. I don’t know why it seems that most other games in my library feel mushy in comparison and not nearly as tight. This makes the game much more enjoyable that it would be. After all, a game could be great in design but it would still be bad if the controls weren’t up to the task.
Now, I didn’t expect a fighting game, and what I’ve seen I was expecting more strategic game that what the first hours showed me. What I got was a pretty cool feeling 3D action game based on tactics, speed and pure brawling. For the moment, I like this. As such keep in mind that I’ve got nothing against the game, but nothing for it either.
To simplify the gameplay, you control one of the main characters, and take over enemy’s control points. The first few fights are nice introduction, and the complexity of the gameplay really needs it. What I mean by complexity is that you need take notice of your own position, your command points’ position, their status, your Servants and cannon fodders’ status and placement as well as the enemy movements. Nothing special if you’ve played RTS games, but you’re not just a commander here; you’re the one on the front line.
There’s your normal attacks, your Tension gauge using attacks, jumps and item uses. You can combo normal into normal, and Special attacks into them. Jump button acts as a side hopping and backdashing button with the left stick, as it should. All is good and decent here. OverDrive attacks take the whole Tension bar thou, and there seems to be no variation from character to character. Running is one of the best thing in this game. You launch your character into a running streak by pressing the Left Stick button, and control then speed by up and down, but you can skid by pressing A and either side. This allows the stages actually resemble cities and the like, and your player character just runs through the streets in an awesomely glorious manner. It’s a bit hard to control first, but when you get how it works it’s just awesome feeling to run through enemies, do a combo, and then streak past them again. Of course, you have to mind your underlings while doing this. As such, a lot of gameplay design points just come together very well and work harmoniously. It’s a sad thing that the fighting isn’t the best part of the game, but it’s enjoyable enough to say that this game hasn’t been a total disaster. I’m actually starting to believe that this game might be pretty damn decent after all.
I’m not expecting you to watch this low-quality video all the way through, just small parts here and there if you’re not familiar how the gameplay actually works
Now, the last of first impressions ends with the fight with Raven. The fight uses the same mechanics as the overall gameplay, for the better or worse. It’s fun and tedious at the same time. The boss fight seems to end when the player managed to pull an OverDrive attack. The engine, while pretty good for the overall of the game, doesn’t really work here. It’s far too inaccurate, thou the lock-on helps, and most of the fight just feels off. Raven has two or three attacks which he repeats over and over again, and the tension of the fight isn’t what I’d want to feel. I’d like to feel excitement and quick controls, and while that’s where the devs have aimed, they failed. Now, you can hop side to side and backdash like in the fighting games, but here they feel completely ineffective. Even the there’s the running and all, Raven’s battle basically takes that away with Slow Field or the like. This isn’t Guilty Gear. Guilty Gear has always been offensive gameplay with lighting fast strikes. Not allowing the player to use the fastest method possible to reach the enemy limits far too much and is not true to the Guilty Gear spirit.
However, Raven’s theme is nothing short of Guilty Gear is spirit. A great boss battle theme overall.
Awesome theme is awesome overall, and really stands out from the first hour
The battles in Overture are chaotic as hell. I can’t say that I enjoy them as much as I could, the flaw of the game design really comes up after the Raven battle. While it’s clear that there’s a huge strategic element there, it clashes way too harshly with the spirit of Guilty Gear. I have to hand it to the developers that they tried to make them meld together the best they could, but it’s disappointing to notice that your carefully laid plans fail just because you weren’t helping your comrade-in-arms enough. The AI seems to be lacking in this sense, thou the enemy AI is always decent in their plans. This kind unbalance between sides is good mark of incompetence from the developers side, and while they try to give the player as much to do as possible, it always bums the player down when you’re having a good time at beating the enemy, and your AI friend loses, which makes the player lose the round.
Luckily, the game’s difficulty can be changed, and if you can’t seem to beat a mission, just change it to easier level. While some people see this as sort of unforgivable deed, they forget that there’s a fine line between unfair and difficult. Unfortunately, Overture is just unfair, BUT this just varies from mission to mission. When it’s just one against one, the game’s by it’s nature very balanced and fair to both sides.
That doesn’t help much that there’s also fetch quests. While the controls do lend themselves for skidding around fast, the architecture of some stages simply don’t allow that. While I did say that the gameplay inherently allows realistic cities and such to be built, there’s some levels where they could’ve made things a bit larger than life for simple convenience.
Speaking of game balance, it’s quite clear that the gameplay overall has been balanced towards human vs human gameplay. I’m not willing to test the online functionality (because fuck online gaming in general), but it’s a good question whether or not the game was designed as a multiplayer game first or second.
Whichever it is, the design does work in both cases, but the design does limit itself because of this as well. Fighting games are mostly multiplayers, and the best experience can be had in the arcades. This kind of mass brawler alá Dynasty Warriors in VS mode just feels off, and the reason lies in the looseness of the system where it stands on. Whether or not it’s good to have this kind of game design, as it stands on how good the players are, and willingly gimps the player’s side whenever the game designers want to in single player. This would be acceptable if there would be a feeling of empowerment in the game, but the characters stay on the same level of strength throughout the game. Now, in multiplayer this is OK, but in single-player campaign it would’ve been better to allow the player to rise in strength by adding slight RPG elements of some sorts.
Towards the closure
So, is the game any good, you ask at this point. To be honest, yes. I can see why people would call it rubbish. It’s flaws are not as apparent as one could think, and it’s very enjoyable once you get in the right set of mind. There’s the inherent Guilty Gear style that you’ll either love or hate (I’ve yet to meet a person who has opinion in-between) and the fast gameplay feels pretty spot-on.
But there’s so much things that has been missed as well. The fights, to be honest, feel somewhat empty. The stages, while not really sterile, look empty and lifeless if you have the time to look at them. In the fighting games there was always something alive, something to look at. However, the amount of different fields in Overture compensate this, and in a way they show more of the world. The overall architecture doesn’t deviate far from it’s predecessors, and this is why the link between the two different game design styles do create rather cohesive world, even if the first intention was to abolish the XX games.
Would I recommend this game to anyone with a 360? Now that the game has fallen way down in price, I’d recommend it IF the person in question isn’t what you call a “hardcore gamer” (mostly because these people do not exist and are PC gamers in reality. Such person couldn’t really appreciate this game, and most of the charm and fun does come from knowing the backgrounds. A newcomer can enjoy the game just as much as a GG veteran, but in a completely different manner. GG veteran also would rage in a completely different manner and at different things than a newcomer, but those are mostly plot and character related. Nevertheless, I’d still recommend Overture with a careful If in the middle.
I have to ask whether or not this game was really necessary. Seeing that the developers did start to deviate from the normal 2D fighting genre to 2D beat-em-up, this kind of game wasn’t any sort of surprise. Well, it was for reasons already discussed. Overture as a game nobody expected and only few wanted, but it’s a nice addition to the series and to the 360 library. What if they had developed a 3D fighting game instead? No, let’s not go there, we all know that very few games can do transition from 2D to 3D well, and I’m pleased to say that changing the coda how Guilty Gear plays for Overture was a successful decision.
Still, Overture didn’t seem to sell that well, thou it got decent reviews at the time. The reason is most likely the reputation Overture had within the Guilty Gear community was the reason, but it seems that as the time has gone by more people have given it another chance and the 360’s customer base at large have found the game to be to their liking. I admit that I was also one of the people who panned the game even before knowing anything concrete about it due to its initial status in the canon and due to the change in gameplay, but luckily people and change. But I also have to admit that I wanted to see and play the game from Day 1 because it peaked my interests, and that I knew that I can’t judge this game without really playing it myself because of my background.
I’d love to finish this review with Holy Orders (Be Just or Be Dead) as it is my favourite track in the series next to Awe of She, but let’s go with something else this time… yes, this fits well, as Guilty Gear is coming back, even if only as a re-release.
Do you see what kind of boots BlazBlue was made to fill? As with Mario, nothing can really fill the boots of this size. Guilty Gear, much like Street Fighter, Mario, Sonic or any other long living series, Guilty Gear has staying power and a solid place in the game culture. It has a customer base that can only be expanded upon. To abandon Guilty Gear is to kill a golden goose with platinum shine; an awesome golden goose that eats rock and shits metal while singing Queen.