New Guilty Gear and the expanded audience

Remember last year when I wrote a post about how complex mechanics were the appeal of Guilty Gear? Can’t really blame you, neither did the co-author on this site. With the that teaser trailer making some big hits and getting an overall positive reception, the fact is that it shows jack shit worth anything. We don’t really see anything outside few interesting tidbits like stage hazard transition. The teaser trailer, in itself, is nothing but proof of concept teaser, showcasing new designs, probable system additions and tweaks and such. As always, these things never represent the final product and getting your ass hyped doesn’t serve anyone. But hey, if you did get hyped and felt pumped, even a little bit, that’s the emotional connection with the brand working for you.

However, now we do have some information going on, and combining that information with the presentation of the teaser, we can pretty much say that Ishiwatari continues with his long lasting intentions to expand audience. In 2011 Ishiwatari, the man running the franchise, mentioned that Guilty Gear has become too hardcore for some people. Some people meaning to people who weren’t playing it. The people who weren’t the core audience or into fighting games overall. That the fans of the series are too old to pay games anymore. Ishiwatari has a history is misunderstanding his own franchise and its consumer base, with almost every iteration since Accent Core Plus getting first bad rap from the fans. Xrd was heavily criticised for dumbing down things. Timing became looser, Blitz Shield was added, something I’ve honestly never seen people use outside accidents and very few special cases and so forth. 3D seems to have the effect that the game plays slower, the same thing happened with King of Fighters XIV getting the same rap despite having the same game and movement speed. There’s something about 3D that just makes things look a bit dumb. 2D sprites snapping into animation looks natural, but 3D is expected to be smooth. I guess Ishiwatari agreed with New Guilty Gear and opted to use terrible motion smoothening effects to accentuate the action.

Also note in that 2011 article how Toshimichi Mori, the designer of BlazBlue, criticises Street Fighter IV 3DS Edition for implementing touch-screen special moves, and now autocombos and easy moves have genre standard for the worse.

I want to quote Ishiwatari from 2018 regarding his intentions on the next Guilty Gear right after Dragon Ball FighterZ was thrown out; “One thing that we have to do in the next installment is to reduce the number of systems [mechanics]; it’s too complicated for everyone. You can expect that in the next game.” New Guilty Gear won’t be just a new Guilty Gear entry. If ArcSys and Ishiwatari had the intentions of keeping Guilty Gear rolling like it previously has, we’d know the full title of the game now. Back when GGXrd -SIGN- was announced in 2013, the trailer didn’t back off from showing the full title. Now, what we get is subpar quality and no full title. We know that this game has been in development for some time in different stages, and what we were shown is more or less the first results of ArcSys tweaking the formula. However, with Ishiwatari saying that New Guilty Gear will be about breaking the series’ into its core elements, to the pieces that make the franchise unique. Complexity, timing, high execution with equally high risk-and-reward with forced focus on offensive gameplay even with characters designed with defensive move sets. Fun fact; ArcSys already had a brand new Guilty Gear experience with Guilty Gear 2 and that pachislot game, both of which were rather mediocre. Isuka counts too, I’d say.

All that said, New Guilty Gear is probably going to be what Xrd already moved towards, what Dragon Ball FighterZ ended up being, and what Ishiwatari has been talking about almost a decade now; a nerfed fighting game, or as some people like to call it, a spectacle fighter. A fighting game that is more concerned about the cool look and effects outside the game’s core play. Stage transitions are these in effect. Sure, its nice to see things like that, but the question is at what cost. Ky’s hair falling open and music changing to Holy Orders III, that’s attention to detail, that’s flavour and flash. A spectacle is what modern games do all the time with Super moves, with long stop-time, zoom in, effects, move, then reset and with time it has gotten worse and worse. A spectacle is when the game’s core design is intended to show cool shit from the get go and hype you up, but is all about doing that rather than giving you tools to reach do those yourself. Street Fighter V gave Ryu an easy parry that everyone could do Daigo Parry themselves stupidly easily for the sake to replicate that moment. Dragon Ball FighterZ is all about the spectacle, and the game suffers from every single way. A spectacle fighter demands the game’s systems to be nerfed in order to favour all the showy bits.

Fighting game accessibility is a modern myth. You can not expand audience by taking two decades worth of game genre evolution to the trash. Modern fighting games have taken direction of lessening mechanics and taking player options out. You have to think and worry about things less and less. This does not work and has never worked. No fighting game in the genre’s history has managed to expand its audience through nerfing it down. All it leads to is the long-time players having easier time against new players, which causes the exact opposite effect, and the old players will end up calling the company out for intentionally failing to deliver a high-caliber game. For years now Ishiwatari has been saying negative things about Guilty Gear the long-time fans have loved. The complex mechanics are not, have never been, a problem with new players. Funny enough, mechanics are not a seller either. Look at the latest Smash Bros. and how it changed its mechanics toward more competitive nature. What made it sell like hotcakes was that it had every single character in the game and the most stages in a fighting game ever. Want a reverse example? Marvel VS Capcom: Infinite had excellent mechanics in the end, probably one of the best entries in the series, but its presentation was absolutely dogshit and its roster was woefully lacking. Its content was against consumer expectations and wants.

Was I wrong then to claim that complex mechanics are the appeal of Guilty Gear and that its the spectacle that sells? Consider the above, Guilty Gear is extremely appealing to people who have been playing fighting games for a long time, people who understand what the hell is going on and how to understand the play. Guilty Gear made its mark during an era when Capcom ceased producing fighting games, SNK was in the rut and there was effectively no competitors. It was a niche franchise still, because nobody knew who Sol Badguy or why there was a nun fighting with a yo-yo. Xrd’s main impact came from its legacy and core fans, but also because its presentation, music and the whole presentation won general audience over. When you play a Guilty Gear title, those complex mechanics come together in a very satisfying manner. It feels good to pull off a simple Gatling Combo, it feels great to run and dash, it feels good to Burst your opponent properly, it feel good to Dust somebody in the air and do a combo, it feels good to Roman Cancel to reset a combo and its absolutely great to use all the mechanics and options you have there. Content, presentation and complex mechanics that make the game feel great are ingredients for a great fighting game. The new Samurai Showdown is a great example of this; a game with absolutely pristine presentation, a great cast of characters and yet the mechanics are hardcore 1990’s high-octane adrenaline pumping complex that extremely satisfying. You just have to let the player to do all that themselves, the end goal that the mechanics serve. Not give automated options, not nerf how the game plays. Xbox One may not have many games to attract consumers per se, but Killer Instinct absolutely nailed how to make the initial entry easy and fun, and everything after was all about having absolute blast, the hype the game’s play causes. You won’t win audience over if the mechanics don’t allow all that, if it is just the same thing over and over, like with Street Fighter V. SFV is an eSport title, and how it looks, the spectacle it gives, ultimately drove it more than making it a great fighting game.

If I’m right in assessing the history of ArcSys’ developments and Ishiwatari’s statements and attitudes, New Guilty Gear will be more like Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy: Versus rather than Guilty Gear XX. Rein the hype, wait and see what happens.To tell you my honest to God thoughts, Guilty Gear never came back with Xrd. What we have been playing since 2013 has been a facsimile of Guilty Gear. God this post probably reads like an incoherent ramble.

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