Top 5 games of 2016

It’s that time of the year to make possibly the most self-indulgent post in this blog and tell you what were my Top 5 games of the year. As per usual, the year the game was released doesn’t matter, just the fact that I played the game for the first time in 2016. There is no order to these either, thou to be honest with you here, I really should write the games I think could be good contenders down as soon as possible in order not to wonder what the hell did I play this year. However, one of the criteria for personal top games is that I still play them after an extended period of time and don’t just drop it. Let’s get on with the show and start with a Vita title.

Continue reading “Top 5 games of 2016”

On retro throwbacks

Double Dragon is one of those classic game franchises that a generation grew up. Not just on the NES, but in arcades and whole slew of home computers as well, including the likes of Atari 520ST. With time other franchises came along and did things better than Double Dragon, namely Final Fight and Streets of Rage, not to forget all the belt-scrolling-action games Konami put out. There is a huge legacy for Double Dragon, which has been tapped on an occasion after the disaster that was the 1990’s. These range from extremely poor to absolutely incredible. In hindsight, Double Dragon Neon is a terrible game, only beaten by that Korean Double Dragon II title nobody ever played. The best game in the franchise, and one of the best games on GameBoy Advance no less, is Double Dragon Advance. That game didn’t just aim to push the game to its possible peaks without compromising much with what the series had already built up, but also expanded what the series could be. Every game that have upheld the Double Dragon name since then have been utter trash in comparison. Oh yes, this’ll be one of those more personal posts again.

So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that ArcSys was going to release Double Dragon IV early next year. What possibilities had opened up. ArcSys could do even better than what Million did in 2003.

Of course, if I had not just taken triangle pills to kill down my fever and chugged down a bottle or two, I would have remembered that ArcSys has been milking the Kunio-kun franchise as a retro dot graphics throwback for number of years now. Even the opening text announcing the 30th year anniversary looks lazy and thrown in there by a six years old.

These throwbakcs work once in a blue moon when there has been sufficient time between releases. Hell, people flocked New Super Mario Bros. because it was a new 2D Mario game decades and New Super Mario Bros. Wii outsold Super Mario Galaxy just by the fact Nintendo brought back the Koopalings. However, the main reason why these two titles succeeded was because consumers fucking love 2D Mario boatloads more than 3D Mario. The same happened with Mega Man 9 and 10. Mega Man 9 saw some success because it was the original Mega Man back in action in a title that was based on a survey… that the hardcore fans had filled out. No wonder the game played into perceived tropes the series has instead to the ones it actually has. Mega Man 10  didn’t just have worse design overall, but at that point these dot graphics games were dime in a dozen. Hell, most indie titles seem to go for faux-old school look or use Minecraft‘s voxels.

The Kunio-kun warm ups were fun little games, I can’t argue against that. Nevertheless they still feel disappointing in how they look and play, because the cutesy dot graphics don’t carry the impact the game should have. It’s playing on the nostalgia of the consumers while ignoring to advance the game franchise further. Even the silliness the new Kunio-kun titles had worked for their favour, because those games were inherently silly… after the first arcade title, at least. Nevertheless they had an air of seriousness about them and each new title in the franchise tried to push a little bit farther.

Double Dragon Advance is still a retro throwback on its own rights, utilising pretty much the same overall visual design, just upgraded to be more detailed and fluid than the original games, whatever system you want to pick Double Dragon from. Perhaps this has been deemed to sell less than using the same fucking sprites they made thirty years ago. Who am I to judge a business decision that’ll make a company more money? Well, everything really, as it’s my damn money I want to spend that hard-earned cash for something else than just another rehash of 8-bit sprites with a new overlay.

Even 2D Mario saw declining sales with New Super Mario Bros. U and New Super Luigi  U, partly because nobody owns a Wii U, but mostly because the New Super Mario Bros. had run its course. There was nothing new in the games and the production values were laughable compared to its 3D sisters. If the same care would have been put in the 2D games, given the same orchestral treatment and not the WAH WAH music, Nintendo wouldn’t bat an eye at a suggestion of a new 2D Mario game. At the surface, it would seem the same thing happened with the new Kunio-kun titles, except the nostalgic cashgrab element they had going on. As mentioned, Mega Man met the same faith.

I don’t expect anything major from Double Dragon IV and no way in Hell I’m willing to put money down on it. Personally, I’m sick and tired of 8-bit graphics on old franchises. I would have expected game developers to want increase the potential of their games with new hardware and find ways to breathe new life franchises of bygone years. All I’m getting now is sprites from thirty years ago with terrible remixes. Somebody tell ArcSys to hire Vertexguy to remix their music rather than using shitty synth.

Perhaps the current hardware and retroware worship has made developers lazy, and kids and nostalgia blinded forty years old still eat up these titles. Just gimme new entries in these old franchises that aim to be their own thing with the aim of pushing the envelope.

Black is still Black in Guilty Gear designs

We haven’t seen one glimpse of Dizzy, and while I’ve been holding back from going into any new Guilty Gear character design comparisons, the time’s been too long since we ventured into this territory.I admit going way overboard with Jam, and from now on I’ll stick with two characters per post. That’ll keep me from going into too much useless detail.

This time we’ll go over two returning cast members; Raven, who originally appeared in XX #Reload as a non-playable story character, and Elphelt’s Revelator redesign.

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Above we have Raven’s Guilty Gear 2: Overture and Xrd: Revelator designs as a comparison. The change in style is drastic, but he had a different look originally.

Raven mock

The only real thing that has survived across Raven’s designs are the spikes. His original visage above is basically a black, skin-tight bodysuit with dark grey skin with the occasion spike coming from his body. His left eye is completely white, and while it’s not clear from this angle, he has a crack going just over his eye, running down to his jaw with spikes jagged next to it. The chest plate he has us supposed to be some sort of bird, but looks more like generic chest hair. It’s not the most unique design out there, and feels rather 1990’s in its own way.

The bodysuit theme survived into Overture, as we can see from his left arm, but now he dons a mask, dropped painting his skin in grey and seemed to have moved to more tactful finger spikes. Because the promo pictures have him don that cape like a little prance, we’ll need to check some of the books for a better visual.

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I can’t fault ArcSys for consistency and sticking to the idea. Raven’s Overture suit carries the bird motif further with far better, if not more generic green chest plate, added feathers and he is supposed to have the kanji 烏 (karasu) on it, meaning, crow or raven. It’s pretty much what you get, especially how they hammer in his resurrection power with LIVE tamped unto him. Of course, the whole Raven motif itself is from the UK heavy metal band. There’s not much subtly in him. The coin on his eye is taken from the Roman tradition of giving the dead a coin to the grave so they can pay the ferryman over Styx.

The same really goes for his Revelator design. The only thing that really got carried from the previous incarnations was the spike driven through his head, as even the finger sticks he has have been redesigned to have golden rings instead of steel ones. The cape saw an overhaul with more slender and ragged feather ends to it with a hood, and much like with other Revelator designs, he has text stamped into him pretty much everywhere. He also looks far more slimmer, nearly anorexic.

The bird on his chest has been dropped, and while the cape governs most of his design, the constant raven references have been tidied down to the YATA reading on his crosses. This is of course a direct nod at Yatagarasu, or the Three-Legged Crow. The bird from his chest has been moved unto the cape’s back. The second element that governs his design are the two, immensely large belt buckles on his waist. These two don’t keep anything up and are simply for showcase. Raven’s design overall is rather neat, but I would argue that the existence of these two bits drops its effectiveness. Prior to this designs, Raven has been rather lean and lacking in any bulky accessory, and now he has these two. The weird thing is that in-game these two buckles are much smaller and sit far more in his sides rather than in front of him. His lanky outfit also is supplemented by his baggy pants with generic metal plates on them, which of course don’t seem to have any weight to them.

Raven’s design is contrastive to the rest of the cast in that it’s very 2010’s in every regard. From the broken neon-mint straps on his shoulders to the bandage design on his torso, it looks more like how a modern designer would create a Guilty Gear character. The rest of his colour scheme is very subdued, laden with broken colours outside the white and black. He looks the part, but perhaps

The last two notable things, outside his open shirt he wears, is that his hood has what looks likes eyes, and the rest of the spike on his forehead forms a raven’s head. The second one is that Raven uses his cape to fly, like Gatchaman. Raven’s edgy, and he looks the part.

Now, until redesigned newcomer, Elphelt.

GGXRD_Elphelt_Portrait
She dropped red and opted for black because of plot

Whoever decided that Elphelt needed a redesign because of plot reasons should’ve gone back to the workbench. The overall character silhouette is still the same and recognizable, but the amount of tweaks is large.

First off, she doesn’t haven have a wedding gown any more. She now dons more or less a dress and with a corset with black undergarments. These garments are largely the key to her design look, as they are ragged and ripped, unlike her original trim and proper “strawberry” patterned one. She lost the bulky half belt and spiked ends in exchange for a white-striped black belt with only two hanging crosses. One big one without a red centre sits on her left hip. Strange that they didn’t that consistent.

Original design had spikes, or rose thorns around her body, and the redesign pretty much just paints them black. Elphelt changed her gloves though, and the wrist belts grew in width, as did the buckle on them. She lost her spiky bow and replaced it with what looks like a black tiara. She also lost her soft collar with the clover, which got replaced with a large dog’s collar with a chain coming from the back.

What was pink is now green, and what was red is now black, outside the roses on her back.  Her hair lost its colour and went white, and the laces she had from her hair and under her bust are gone. While her expression hasn’t changed, her eyes are more green with far smaller pupils. The rose markings on her headdress/hat’s “ears” were also replaced with something else.

The change Elphelt went through, visually speaking, is from pure bride to a more Gothic one, someone who has gone through some rough shit. Spoilers here, but in Xrd she’s a sleeper agent, programmed to get close to the main cast, observe them and ultimately taken them down. Seeing how she’s very bright, smiling and positively lovely, being used in that way really dents her conscious self-image, and the redesign reflects this. Then again, being a Gear with developed feelings must suck. Her nature in Revelator is partly amnesic, remembering the basic points, but e.g. can’t remember who Mother was.

She also has small shields on her shoulders instead of puffy shoulder pieces, connected by two red straps
She also has small shields on her shoulders instead of puffy shoulder pieces, connected by two red straps. Note how the collar doesn’t sit on her shoulder naturally, but floats in the air just in front of her chin. They should’ve done away with it, or at least make it far smaller

However, I must say that the redesign is not all that successful. While both contain some elements of wedding as a theme, Revelator version should’ve stand more apart from the original. Going with black  and white is far too obvious choice. The collar on her neck should’ve really been much smaller, as it looks tacky, maybe the worst huge-as-hell accessory in the franchise and that’s saying something. However, much like with Raven’s two buckles, the collar looks more reasonable in size in-game.

Despite the plot changes, pretty much all of her animations and after-match scenes are largely unchanged, giving this redesign overall a half assed feeling. Even Elphelt’s Instant Kill stayed the same, despite being a right opportunity to play with her new status. At least Elphelt got a new intro, which was pretty much the only thing couldn’t get away with. If her redesign was supposed to reflect her shattered persona, all that’s coming through is the easy way they chose to go with.

Elphelt also has larger hips in the new illustration, and I think we all can approve that.

 Next time, whenever that is, maybe we’ll tackle Sin and Leo. Unless Dizzy is revealed.

The Three Guilty Gear Xrd newcomers

It’s been some time since we discussed Guilty Gear Xrd’s comparative character designs. This is because the rest of the characters they put in are, more or less, the same design. Bedman didn’t warrant his own post, and Ramlethal was out of my radar at the time. With the latest new character addition, Elphelt, it would look like it’s time to make another Guilty Gear Character design post.

The thing we need to remember that the original Guilty Gear is very much mid/late 90’s game in visuals. The visuals in Guilty Gear have always had an edge to them with heavy musical influences, like Sol wielding his sword like Queen held his microphone stand in one of the iconic shows in his life. However, just like any long standing franchise, additions reflect their time. Jam Kuradoberi is a very much early 2000’s design with her modified cheongsam. With Xrd we’ve seen how the 2010’s has affected the game from ground up with the use of 3D models. Of course, the designs also reflect their time, and everything has become more clean, clinic even, as compared to the roughened, sketchy nature of the first two games. XX series already had a motion towards for the cleaner and removed a lot of the charm the garage like feeling GG and GGX had to them.

With modern style, the new character designs need to balance with the preset Guilty Gear visual choices and with the new addition they are to bring in. On one hand we can’t have a generic character with Guilty Gear sensibilities that are rather out there, but we also don’t want characters that are just full blown stupidly unique little snowflakes.

We won’t cover Sin Kiske, because his design hasn’t changed significantly from Guilty Gear 2, so we’re left with the rest of the three.

Bedman

Bedman's most likely a reference to Bedemon, but I'm most likely off with my guess
Bedman’s most likely a reference to Bedemon, but I’m most likely off with my guess

Bedman is… strange. Guilty Gear has had a slew of strange characters before, Zappa being the prime example. I can’t decide whether or not Bedman is too strange, or not strange enough. His design is very Guilty Geari-ish so to speak, but there a lot that don’t make sense, even in Guilty Gear’s terms. One of these elements is the giant screws that protrude from this shoulders. While this explains how he just doesn’t drop from the standing bed, he is also bound from his hands. This is perhaps one of those points that is completely up to the opinion whether or not it works.

Despite Bedman’s somewhat busy appearance, it is surprisingly sparse and lacks certain amount of detail. The bed’s limbs are the main concentration of points of interesting, and the sleeper himself, as well as the platform he is bound to, lack any proper points of interests outside the aforementioned screws. Well, the person does have a pink arrow on his forehead, but that’s not all too interesting. However, what is interesting is the crown the bed’s head wears. What it represents may be that either the person or the bed is considered some sort of king of a dream realm. Most likely the two are one. This is not really supported by anything and I’m just musing myself over the issue.

There are scriptures around Bedman, and in Guilty Gear scriptures have always represented the character and their motif. Sol has Free on his belt, whereas Ky has Hope. Robo-Ky has Ennui. On the bed’s head is etched Dreamlike Reality, which most likely is some sort of music reference I don’t get. The screws that hold the person on the bed real Déjà Vus, which may or may not have some sort of meaning. It just may mean that within the Dreamlike Reality, the person relives something over and over again. The wheels read ONEIROI, which could be translated as one colour. This would reflect the colour scheme Bedman has, where the pink, or washed out royal purple, is the governing colour with only a dash of gold here and there. Black is used to fill in areas with steel gray in order to balance the certain complex simplicity. Speaking of wheels, despite the bed being wheeled in to the fights, it lacks any sort of wheels before the bed takes it fight stance.

Outside these Bedman feels like it’s a character designed to take advantage of the 3D models. In most promotional illustrations Bedman looks towering, a character with an imposing height, but in-game he is rather normal sized. Because the character’s design lacks typical Guilty Gear accessories outside the screws and the arrow on the person’s head, it leaves me rather cold. It lacks the same bold design choices most Guilty Gear designs are known for, and all for its uniqueness Bedman looks something like what could be a good background or a non-playable character rather a straight out newcomer. The concept has solid idea, but the execution leaves something to be desired.

Ramlethal

Condescending petite girls? Now where have I seen this before...
Condescending petite girls? Now where have I seen this before…

Be it Ramlethal or Ramletherl, this Valentine continues to proud mainline Guilty Gear tradition of having a female boss character. Ramlethal’s design mirrors very much a certain type of female character we’ve seen in Japanese media for some time now. She is somewhat a character archetype with a cool and emotionless front, but then just turns bears a row of monster teeth and proceeds to devastate the player. Unlike I-No who was a sadist, Ramlethal seems to enjoy defeat of weaker ones as per rich lady like persona.

Ramlethal’s motif is teeth. She enters the stage from a mouth that her cape forms, with saliva and all, and her familiars carry her two swords with their highly visible rows of teeth. The cape’s teeth are used in a throw as a buzz saw. As with Justice and Dizzy, Ramlethal has a giant beam as one of her Over Drive moves, where we see the two familiars combined into one big blob with teeth. It would seem like that all Valentines and bosses related to them share this Voltekka kind of attack. Ramlethal’s beam Over Drive reminds me of Gradius’ Core for some reason.

All the main series bosses have been rather contained. Even Leopaldon, despite his huge size, didn’t take too much screen estate outside his body. Ramlethal’s design is spread into two main elements, which naturally are her main body and her swords. The swords themselves are nothing special, having elements from traditional katana and Zone of the Ender like aesthetics otherwise. One could almost make a comparison between them and Type-74 PB Blade from Muv-Luv. However, the similarities between the two are purely coincidental. However, overall the amount of space Ramlethal takes is about the same as previous bosses because of her petite body size.

Ramlethal’s body design, however, is where the you get a nice mix of old and new. Ramlethal has nice amount of details here and there. All around her body one can find golden locks holding straps in place. Black locks hold her shoulder amours in place, which adds some colour juxtaposition to her. It should be noted that her normal colour is very much ganguro, with plain white contrasted against her tanned skin. Green is splashed here and there to balance out, and the inside of her cape is naturally flesh shaded as per the whole teeth and mouth thing going on for her. This is similar to Ky’s clothing, where strategically placed blue is contrasted against plain white, but there’s nothing to that outside the interest of note.

Her certain lack of clothing is nothing new in video games, or even Guilty Gear, but it should be noted that it’s not fetishised either. Then again, everything is somebody’s fetish. Combined with the cape, Ramlethal has a nice balance with nigh weightless body and heavy weighted paraphnelia.

The hat she is wearing has same round locks that could be holding the belt straps. The hat itself has similar feeling to the previous Valentine’s hat, but this time it’s somewhat clear that Guilty Gear has a bit more emphasized animal ear element.

I haven’t found any proper screen shots or promotional pictures of what the scriptures around her body say, but her right sword has something like Right Here is * I’m Left. If you can make out what the * says, drop me a message. The left sword seems to have the same scripture, so I’m Left could mean leaving.

Ramlethal is a good design overall. Guilty Gear has seen a healthy number of female contestants through the years, and her design stands out from the crowd just as much as the rest. It’s not intentionally over-strange like Dizzy’s and manages to balance between bringing in something new and sticking to the preset aesthetics. There are numerous nice little details, like her cape being a gaping jaw and does impossible things for a clothing, that keep her interesting and wholesome design.

Elphelt

A bride rabbit , I guess?
A bride rabbit , I guess?

Even a music illiterate like me recognizes the Guns & Roses motif going on here. And the animal ears. And the wedding gown. Elphelt is the latest addition to the roster, and like Ramlethal, Elphelt’s main colour is white. Perhaps subduing the plain white with a hint of red to make it more rosé in colour could’ve been a better option, as now you’ve got around six or seven characters with white as main coloured, accented with something else. Well, alternate colours exist for a reason.

Elphelt ‘s rose motif carries over to her main body, not just to the bunch of three on her hip. Her skirt has spikes around the lower rim, the belt straps’ ends have rings with three spikes, her wrists have three spikes protruding outwards from her body and even her head has three spikes. Three could be one of her motifs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There are five pink four-leaf clovers on her body. There’s only one spike on her shoulders, has one bow tie under them. There’s two metal straps on her upper arms as well for no other reason than Guilty Gear accessories. It could’ve been an interesting thing to do with the character to have three of everything and it wouldn’t have been hard to accomplish. Outside having a consistent numbering motif, there wouldn’t been anything more that.

Incidentally, she has three guns. Huh.

It should be noted that Elphelt has two points where your eyes may be drawn to; her eyes and her bosom. Elphelt’s eyes are icy blue and strand out strikingly well from otherwise reddish colours scheme, and combined with her larger breasts create a certain kind zone that stands apart from the rest of the body. The skin coloured area is nicely broken down with a pink strap and a green clover, which is also repeated in one of her guns. Naturally, the eyes and overall shape of her dress, open bosom and all, represent femininity to a large extent. She also wears overknee socks with straps going up her main body, further solidifying her feminity. Also, her rifle is pink and a pink bow on it. Her shotgun, while pink too, has a red rose and a green clover on it. Her handgun has a pink cover with an underside of dark metal gray, but with golden wings attached to above the grip. Elphelt also carries a pink sword with a bow tied to it, and seem to use it in her Instant Kill, where she places the opponent atop a wedding cake and proceeds to cut in half.

I’m getting a bit mixed messages here.

And oh, she has a broom she flies on. Or is that her flower bukee?

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The front of her skirt has some sort of scripture there, but no shot, promotional not, shows what it says. What interest in her the most is that she seems to be a departure from the melee weapons used in Guilty Gear. I won’t go into her gameplay at all, as I would need to play as her first to say anything.

Elphelt’s design is rather generic, but it works to the needed extent because of the added Guilty Gear flavour. There is less strangeness to her as much as there is a grandeur. Even from her design we can deduce that she is a sort of klutz. That is what good design conveys; elements what the character is like without giving any proper hints. That also may say that the character archetype is overused at this point, but I’m giving her the benefit of doubt this time. There’s a chance that she will see quite a lot of doujin made out of her.

Elphelt is a character that couldn’t have been made for any of the previous games. Her very clean cut look sits very well in this time. Bedman could’ve been made at any point of the franchise, Ramlethal to lesser degree, but both of them would’ve seen much more sketchier appearances with either 90’s or 00’s thrown in. Even during 00’s Elphelt could’ve become a gun wielding nun with nunchucks rather than what she is now. Because of Xrd new take on the franchise, mixing old with the new, Elphelt managed to be what she is now. Her design wouldn’t work in BlazBlue either because of the aesthetics in that series.

It would be interesting to see more character getting major overhauls with these new characters. However, it would seem like ArcSys got cold feet from the divided fan reaction over the previous changes, or hasn’t got any time to redesign most of the veterans. Xrd is still a good place to make changes to the visuals as long as they are kept true to the core, and the tree newcomers show that the visual direction of Xrd is still true. I hope they will keep it that way in the future.

Continuing Guilty Gear Xrd comparisons

So, the new HD twins are around the corner. I see no reason to talk about them yet as they have no games to talk about. That’s pretty much every console launch ever. The only different launch was the NES, where it had few years of Famicom games to back it up. Japanese PS4 release was pushed to Q1 of 2014, and that’s an advantage for them. In the meantime more games are coming out and SONY most likely will sort out bunch of problems and hopefully pre-patch the machines.

I really should write a review of the machines’ appearance one of these days.

But Guilty Gear Xrd saw some added characters to its roster, and we’ll take a look at them. Sadly, no new characters have been revealed as of yet, but I hope the roster will see at least one or two new characters. I’m sure it wouldn’t be surprising to see that the devs decided against any new characters, and only limited characters from past games. If I may so, I hope ABA won’t be included until the second version of Xrd. There’s also possibility that Jam won’t be included due to her not really being a core character, like all the ones revealed thus far, but I really do hope she’ll appear with heavily altered movelist.

Speaking of the movelists, there seems to be little to no changes thus far. This is a little bit disappointing, as the difference between Guilty Gear, Guilty Gear XX and finally Accent Core was rather hefty, especially in the case of the two first mentioned. It would seem that ArcSys is playing safe and mainly just importing existing lists rather than revamping them. Too bad, I would’ve loved to see total revamps with few of the characters just for the sake of change.

 Since our last check up, I-No, Dr. Baldhe– Faust, Axl Low and Slayer were added in. Much like Chipp and May, their design is not really wildly different. Or are they? Let’s take a look.

Axl’s design got a total overhaul. Thus far I haven’t seen one completely negative comment on his redesign, and there’s a good reason for it; his new look is spiffy. Well, sort of.

Xrd - X+XX - GG
Xrd – X+XX – GG

The new look is a mix of Axl’s Guilty Gear and X/XX look. The most prominent element from his previous fashion is the shorts and the flag flaps hanging off his belt. While the GG Axl didn’t have Union Jack as a prominent element in his clothes, it now seems to define Axl’s look the most. A flag shirt wasn’t good enough for him, I suppose. It should also be noted that he wears St. George’s or St. Patrick’s Cross scarf in his head, but with opposite colours. The red cross should be red while the background should be white. Overall, the balance between blue and red has inverted as well, mainly due to the his shirt being white now. It more resembles his old GG look than X/XX look.

Axl also learned to be more like a British gentlemen as well, as he is now wearing a leather tie with trinkets punctured on it. He also has two buckles on his belt and few belt straps in his jacket’s sleeves to boot.
Axl’s new look works with him. It uses the same elements that existed before, but toys with them and add the Guilty Gear flavour in there as a final touch.

The rest of the bunch really don’t have any changes with their attire. Slayer keeps his double belt buckles, I-No’s still a red-cladden sex bomb, thou her hat is less crumbled and its brass details have seen a slight redesign. Her boots also have new brass plaque at their tip, but these are nothing major. These details are just adjusted detailing rather than redesigning. The guitar also got more detailed, but it’s essentially the same one.

Faust too shared the same with I-no. that is he got adjusted details. The straps on his arms have now red crosses to further sign his (ex-)profession and his green pants are now striped. His tie is also yellow rather than black. It would have been an interesting twist if the devs had decided that Faust was redeemed himself at some point and had returned to be his old self. That, or taken him a step further than before.

There’s one empty slot in Xrd’s webpage to be filled. [As of 16th of Feb 2015 the site has been revamped and this does not apply]. I hope this doesn’t mean that we’ll get one more character, as twelve characters seems a bit poor seeing how the series has a rich pool of characters. The site does have the disclaimer And more… which would promise at least small handful of characters. Hopefully some new ones too.

It took CAPCOM a little while to realize that they should include character across the Street Fighter history in SF IV, whereas SNK was doing its best to pull every character they ever had into the King of Fighters. It would be a good thing for CAPCOM to pull off a dream match like game and just shove all the Street Fighter, Rival School and other fighting game characters into one, massive ’bout. That will never happen, because they’re in deep shit and if they won’t make anything insanely successful, they’re most likely going down. Anyway, in a perfect world, Street Fighter X All CAPCOM would have been a massive fighting game with almost hundred characters to choose from. Ah, the things we can only imagine about.

It’s a bit underwhelming to see that ArcSys has decided against redesigning most of their characters. While I’m always all in updating character’s look properly, it looks like they thought the negative comments they were getting from Sol, Ky and Potemkin has made them to steer to a more traditional path. Of course, it might’ve been that they only decided to redesign few selected characters, which is half-assed attitude and only serves the purpose to fulfil the designers own desires, and we all know what I would say about that.

Oh hey! It’s… on Unreal Engine?

I know I recommend people to avoid hype, but Guilty Gear has been one of my favourite games since… a long time really. Since PS1 days. That’s why I’ve been disappointed in ArcSys and all that they’ve been doing with the franchise.

Now, while I really dislike the use of Unreal Engine, I understand the reasons why this selection was made, but it still make me a bit disappointed. Every game really needs their own engine to run on, but seeing that they’ve managed to make the game look like an animated 2D piece, I won’t complain about it too much. It looks pretty and let me have this momentary giddiness.

It doesn’t look as fluid as it should at the moment, but damn if they didn’t nail Sol’s and Ky’s character design updates. While Sol’s body suddenly experienced some sort of widening, the style, look, feel and attitude is there just as it should be. While Sol barely has any changed in his design outside Fireseal (or is it a new sword called Bullet Heaven?), Ky has more changed details everywhere which I approve wholeheartly because it just works, and Thunder Seal looks sweet. I love its sleeker design. Guilty Gear has a nice lack of katanas, reserved to few characters only. Millia’s appearance in the ending is fitting, goddamn she looks pretty. Her completely revamped outfit looks very Guilty Gear-ish to boot, and I hope that every character will have optional outfits.

Oh hell, I’m gonna get beaten up by my friend and his Eddie, Millia and Venom gameplay. He’s damn good with those.

ArcSys, please don’t fuck this up. Make it the next generation Guilty Gears and disregard BlazBlue’s influence altogether.

Overview review; Guilty Gear 2 Overture

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.

First Impressions
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.

She does look cute, but there’s something familiar with her face…

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.

The Gameplay

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 Design

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.

How not to treat your customers; BlazBlue

Seeing that it took ArcSys a long time to notice that the Guilty Gear fandom didn’t really continue onwards to BlazBlue, they finally decided to port GG Accent Core Plus. However, they can just blame themselves, or Daisuke Ishiwatari, who said in an interview that Guilty Gear fans are too old for video games. Fighting words from a man who still tries to look like he still is twenty. So BlazBlue was created to be accessable to new players. What they meant with that was something less desireable.

Guilty Gear had a large fanbase. It came out and became a mainstay fighting game during the big name fighting games’ absence, mainly Street Fighters, or any CAPCOM’s fighting at that matter. Nobody really cared about the King of Fighters, as it had been stuck in a loop for some time and the 3D games didn’t do much to elevate it’s life. So Guilty Gear almost became the only proper choice for 2D fighting. It did not only offer something nice to look at, but good and fast fighting as well, with some of the best fighting game musics to date.


There’s exactly two people who are willing to play Guilty Gear with me, and even then we’ve agreed that I shouldn’t use Dizzy

When Guilty Gear Accent Core Plus was released, Guilty Gear went on a hiatus. Everybody expected the following version to bring something new to the story, to the characters and to the balance. Accent Core Plus was one of the most balanced, fun to play and well played game, so naturally ArcSys would finally bring us completely new Guilty Gear out of the XX series. Well, no. As in the staff mentions in the interview linked above, they wanted a whole new audience because they felt that the Guilty Gear fans were getting old.

Now, let me get few things out. It’s 60% harder to get new customers than keeping the old ones. Keeping the old customers is easy and cheap in comparison. Abandoning your current customers because you want new ones can lead to a business suicide. The company may have to invest more resources to a completely new and different product for the new audience, put loads of manpower for a new ad campaign and put high amounts of effort to showcase that this product is for YOU. After all this you’ll most likely fail, or will lose money rather than gain it.

ArcSys did this with BlazBlue. The biggest selling points they had was HD 2D sprites with 3D stages, dramatic story mode and lag free online fighting… and that it was made by the guys who crafted the Guilty Gear series.

Remember our agreement on references and alcohol?

The first BlazBlue hit the shelves and got a positive reaction. In every review it was compared to Guilty Gear, and the general agreement seemed to be that it was Guilty Gear’s little brother. It had a small character selection, the graphics were nice and the music was a disappointment. Some of the Guilty Gear fans didn’t move over to BlazBlue, but the newborn crowd that hadn’t stepped into the complex and large world of Guilty Gear gladly purchased a pretty 2D game for their brand new HD systems for some street credit (read as; for enlarging their e-penis.) Most of Guilty Gear fandom in general play multiple fighting games, and they naturally wanted their hands on this new game.

Personally, I’ve got nothing against BlazBlue. I’ve got a lot against ArcSys management for letting Guilty Gear to die out while they try to start a new phenomena. Guilty Gear grew complex with time, not that it wasn’t rather complex to begin with, but there’s a reason I can’t satisfy my hunger with BlazBlue. BlazBlue is Guilty Gear lite by all means, to put it simply. Every character had rather large movelist and thus options what to pull off. You could link high amounts of normal attacks together without thinking about the special moves that much. Four attack buttons and was enough; Punch, Kick, Slash and Heavy Slash. In BlazBlue most of the characters moves have options within themselves. The most clear example of this would be Noel with her Gunkata styled Drive combos. The amount of unique moves is rather limited, just like with the King of Fighters XIII. While every move gets used and the balance is kept, it feels rather empty. Restrictive.

Boring.


BlazBlue has pretty boring music as well. Where’s you usual flamboyancy, Ishiwatari?

I’m not calling BlazBlue itself boring. The decision of three attack buttons and one special Drive button is boring. JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure used this same exact layout first, and did it better with the Stands. BlazBlue tries to be better and more different from Guilty Gear, but from the get go it can’t escape from comparisons, and the simple point that it doesn’t do anything new or on its own detracts a lot from it. It’s fun to take few battles here and there, but then you’ll sit back and wish you could play Jam Kuradoberi in HD. It’s not the same, and it wasn’t meant to be. It doesn’t have the same high quality feel, even if it looks damn pretty and over-designed in a good way. Take a look at Nu-13’s Astral Finish for an example of over-the-top finishing move. Even then for every well made Astral Finish you get uninspiring one, like Noel’s or Tager’s.

And I didn’t even mention that some of the characters have clearly made so that their moves resemble Guilty Gear cast, and one Chinese lady even has extremely similar screen to another Chinese lady’s Instant Kill.

Most likely ArcSys managed to gain a new customer crowd with BlazBlue. I have hard time to believe that it grew as large as Guilty Gear, and that it managed to sell the same amounts. Seeing that they’re doing the traditional second-game-gets-shitloads-of-updates route that every game company has made since Street Fighter II, BlazBlue is here to stay. However, seeing that there still is a large crowd wishing for a new Guilty Gear (or even a port for the HD consoles) ArcSys has no right to ignore them. They’ve made a lot of bad decision with Guilty Gear and BlazBLue, and I hope that they’ll start apologizing soon. Otherwise we have to start using video game politics again to make a statement.

A service provider, in this case ArcSys, lives on as they make the customers satisfied. This brings them money. Ignoring the customers wants is stupid, and this stupidity won’t bring in money.

Guilty Gear getting old-new release

Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus is getting an arcade release. ArcSys is saying that this may be not the final release, which actually makes me a bit hopeful.

This release seems to be an HD conversion similar how Arcana Hearts did it, with the side bars on the sides and all. Also, it’s a good call making a digital release on both PSN and XBLA, which most likely means that they’re testing waters if Guilty Gear still sells. They could release Accent Core just as a port and it would be good, but hinting that Accent Core might not be final release causes false wishes for Guilty Gear 3. And I do mean Guilty Gear 3 as a fighting game, not like the one we don’t really want to mention.


Well, yeah…

I’m pretty sure this release is because the falling sales ArcSys games are having. BlazBlue isn’t really selling as hot as they wished for, even after all the updates and whatnot. Guilty Gear is like a safebutton, as it’ll sell to the fanbase no matter what. We just have to hope that the conversion is not only good, but superb as well. Now I’m having more and more reasons to get a proper arcade stick for PS3.