Guilty Gear Design comparisons; Millia Rage

One of the cast members of the first Guilty Gear, Millia Rage has been a fan favourite and a mainstay in the series for her fast, close-combat mechanics with few options for ranged attacks. In this way, she’s similar to Jam, but does not need to rely on wall bouncing and card stocking for high damage. Her most prominent design feature is Forbidden Beast Angra, her hair, which takes all sorts of forms as she attacks. Millia is named after the band Meliah Rage, and the hair probably comes from their constant use of skeleton of Meliah tribe member with the iconic Indian chief headdress. However, her most prominent and famous musical reference is her Instant Kill, Iron Maiden. She’s essentially a rock and metal band reference package, Winger, Emerald Rain, and even Angra are all band names. Millia may be easy to handle, but just like her namesakes, she hits hard.

With the intro out of the way, let’s get on the design business.

Xrd, Original, X and XX designs

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Complexity is the appeal of Guilty Gear

In a recent interview, ArcSys’ Daisuke Ishiwatari and Toshimichi Mori were discussing the company’s different fighting games and what they’ve learned from them. What they see is that the less complex and easier to master mechanics of their two other big titles, Dragon Ball Fighters Z and BlazBlue, are selling more than Guilty Gear, and the next title will have less complex mechanics. Because, y’know, everyone is supposedly having hard time with them and everything.

Which isn’t the case.

Guilty Gear as a series found its place with the X and XX titles, something Ishawatari has historically being rather against, first trying to remove these games from his beloved story with Guilty Gear 2 Overture and then reinstating them back as side-stories due to fanbacklash. Let’s not forget him telling the fans that they’re too old for games, essentially doing a Shattner bit where he told Trekkies to get a life. Considering how BlazBlue helped him to regain Guilty Gear‘s license and was considered the fighting game franchise during the time when Capcom’s fighters were absent, Ishiwatari & co. really should reconsider their approach to the series if their first realisation is downgrading the game.

This lesson of theirs isn’t anything spectacularly special, both Mori and Ishiwatari have grown into businessmen first and businessmen tend to be reactionaries instead of trailblazers. They see certain kind of aspects selling well, wagering their bets and materials, and then changing existing products with an aim to cater for larger audiences. After all, once you’ve achieved a popularity within a niche, it’s much easier to expand outwards. The niche’s positive view on a product often travels outside this smaller section, and can catch on if the marketing and product meet with larger audience’s expectations.

The main problem with Guilty Gear being that the genre it is in itself has always been in the middle of being popular with the masses and being within a niche. As a franchise, Guilty Gear has a prestige spot of being recognised as damn good by most consumers into the genre and gained a small pop-culture status by the mid-2000’s.

In short, Guilty Gear as a franchise is a deluxe product. As a game it’s easy to get into despite its complex mechanics, but in the end they are hard to master. It may have generally lower consumer base as BlazBlue, which took GG‘s spot during its absence, yet neither series will never reach the popularity of Dragon Ball Fighters Z due to sheer amount of Dragon Ball fans out there.

Being a deluxe product with a limited consumer base isn’t anything bad, especially if the general view towards the product is highly regarded. ArcSys did a great job at building one of the best tutorial modes in fighting game history, but they can’t force consumers to get into said game. As mentioned, Guilty Gear‘s appeal is in its complexity, which really has been overstated. The sheer amount of options and unique methods to realize those options per character is rather unpresented in other fighting games, and by that extension does take a bit more time to learn. That goes for every fighting game, really. Games are, after all, all about learning the rules and trying to become the best you can. It has always been counter-intuitive for gaming for the games to hand-hold the player through them, as that’s essentially removing playing from the game. Some people just don’t want to play, they just want to spectate or walk around a house in search for a diary.

ArcSys would be doing damage to the franchise if they began to move against its established fame and history. Guilty Gear‘s complexity is not damaging the franchise, but as a businessman would rationalise it, it’s not for everyone. Naturally, the answer is to lessen those systems to make appeal the wider audience. Ishiwatari claims that it’s a difficult issue to balance with the controls and trying reduce the systems in the game, but in reality it isn’t. Keep Xrd as a series as it is, there’s no reason to muck around it. If they want capitalise on Guilty Gear while still appealing to the general audience, ArcSys should consider creating a sub-series. They actually have one they could re-use all the while poking fun at the fans and the franchise as a whole in good faith. Guilty Gear Petit is a thing.


You might want to turn the volume down, WonderSwan’s sound is rather spartan. The game looks better on a real screen, believe it or not

ArcSys won’t give two cents about this idea, because it is much easier just to recycle everything they have now rather than plan a new, more wider audience friendly entry in the franchise. Of course, a game like this would be considered a toned-down, dumbed down second rate entry by some, and because of this it would require a solid, well thought approach to make it competent. This being ArcSys, this will never happen in a million years, they’ll make more money on releasing most characters as DLC and concentrating on milking whatever they have left for now.

It’s a good idea to expand a company’s market, sure. However, it’s not a good idea to do this at the expense of your product. The market where most fighting games are, and all but one ArcSys games are in, is in the Red Ocean. You can’t expect to expand within this limited area, you’ll end up cannilibizing. The best option often is to offer more alternatives. A Metroid to Mario and Zelda, all three sharing different sections of the overall market, all offering different play. Expansion means you need to expand the lineup as well and maintain it, not take an existing piece and mangle it up for general markets that were not interested in it in the first place. Keeping your current consumers market is easier than trying to appeal to a new one, especially if you’re using the same damn product, just not even trying to keep it the same anymore.

Guilty Gear design comparison: MAY

May’s one of those characters that were there from the beginning. Not really sure how to describe her but as the Dan of Guilty Gear, where she puts the joke where others are dead serious, except she’s actually viable character to use.

Some say May’s design hasn’t really changed. It’s true that her overall silhouette hasn’t changed, but the design of her costume went through rather significant design overhaul when Xrd hit around. It’s not a total change of outfit, but it is the little bits a total sum is build upon. She’s a pirate, and that’s what her design reflects. There isn’t too much anything deeper to it, though her name, May, is probably an allusion to Brian May, the lead guitarist of Queen.

X, Isuka and Xrd

While the above omits original and XX‘s designs, May’s one of those characters that didn’t exactly change during the Midnight Carnival haydays. Interestingly, she has few takes in the original, with slight tweaks to her design, one of which is probably an earlier picture that got used.

The two above May’s are different in tones and details. While the one of the left has two clips on both sides of her front flat, the right one does not. The skull on her hat doesn’t have a nose on the left one either. The belt is also shorter, as we can see it flapping much freer on the right one. It also lacks the metal end cap on the right card. This is the level of things we’re talking about when it comes to May’s details, but if you’ve read any of my previous comparisons, you know this is par for the course.

From head to toes, here we go.

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Guilty Gear design comparison: BAIKEN

Baiken is a hodgepodge of samurai tropes. While her initial design does come from Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin (whom Ishiwatari thought to be a woman at first,) Baiken is quite a lot more than just that. She gets her scar and lost arm from the literary character of Tange Sazen, though which eye has been scarred has been switched around. While Sazen is a man, the very second movie the character starred turned things around and starred Michiyo Okusu as Lady Sazen in Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword.

onna sazen.jpg
She may lack the Demon Tools, but Lady Sazen cuts people down like grass

Certainly we can trace some elements of Baiken’s designs to characters like Tezuka’s Hyakkimaru as well, but all this really is to show that Baiken encompasses characteristics from an archetypical ronin samurai stories, including her traumatic past and thirst for revenge. Hell, she even kicks tatami up with a special move, and let’s not forget she gets her name from Baiken Shishido, who probably influenced her use of Demon Tools through his proficiency with the kusarigama, the sickle-chain. However, I do argue that Lady Sazen and Kenshin were the main influences here, and everything else was more or less a supplement to fit popular samirai tropes.  Hell, she even has a pose where she holds her chin like Sanjuro from Yojinbo. Let’s get it on after the jump.

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Guilty Gear design comparison; Johnny

Johnny Sfondi didn’t enter the series until Guilty Gear X, but what I remember from that time he quickly became the favourite on many feminine guys who played the game. To some Johnny has always been part of the series, if you jumped in during the XX craze. Of course this was to be expected from an adolescent audience, but it does tell volumes of Johnny’s design overall. It may be rather simple without huge as hell belt buckle thrown into the mix, but his shades combined with that self-confident as hell attitude just works and has a balance to it. Johnny is, after all, an eye candy that works both in visual flavour and in gameplay.

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Guilty Gear design comparisons; DIZZY

The reason why both Dizzy and Jam get so much attention from me is that they were the characters I mained. Seeing them back is great, and I got to pay my respects to ArcSys for going through and respecting the poll they had about what should be the character to be added.

This is gonna be an image heavy entry.

Dizzy as a character was set up to be a tragic one. Born from one of the most hated Gears in history, fathered by a hellhound roaming the Earth and being targeted for the sake of being a Gear, most stories would’ve end up her hating humanity or have her meet a bloody end. Instead, Dizzy was shown compassion by numerous different characters who couldn’t give less a damn about the world history and the fact that she’s probably one of the strongest Gears in the story. She was allowed to have a chance at a normal life as an air-pirate alongside May, until she had an accident due to an enemy and met Ky. Now, she’s probably one of the best mother’s out there, despite that one situation where she needed to seal herself.

Xrd, AC and X respectively
Xrd, X and AC respectively. Remember to click for full-sized versions

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Continuing with Guilty Gear design comparisons; Kuradoberi Jam

Kuradoberi Jam is an interesting character in Guilty Gear Xrd. Not because she got a new voice actor or new moves, but because she is a good example on how 2010 character design sensibilities often clash with late 1990’s/early 2000’s. Jam was designed fifteen years ago, and the time shows itself.

Jam’s overall visuals have stayed relatively same to the point that she can be recognised as the same character, much like how Ky can be recognised despite all the little changes. Unlike Potemkin and Millia, Jam’s design follows the same school of updating as Sol’s; tweaks and exaggerations. I’ll be using Jam’s Guilty Gear X and Accent Core designs to contrast her Xrd design. In reality, her design went through a lot of small changes with each new illustration, changing little things here and there, like touching up the can on her head, but let’s just stick with the original and AC design. This entry will be long as it is.

From left to right; Xrd, X and AC. While the Xrd illustration makes Jam look a bit scrawny, her in-game model is much softer and fuller
From left to right; Xrd, X and AC. While the Xrd illustration makes Jam look a bit scrawny, her in-game model is much softer and fuller

The main points we notice from Jam’s design is that her sleeves have grown again. Originally, they were low key, but you still noticed them. They’ve now grow to half of her body length and have a kanji for centre on them with cooking flames above them. This element is very much something BlazBlue would have. Litchi’s main theme may be mah-jong, but her outfit and theme carries some elements from Jam. It’s not too farfetched to assume that the centre kanji 中, which happens to be the red dragon tile in mah-jong, was put on Jam’s sleeves to reference Litchi back. Hell, Litchi’s name itself is a reference to riichi, thou the name is directly taken from Lychee, the Chinese plum. Fits her colours and all. Speaking of sleeves, the straps that kept them together are now connected with one bigger buckle rather than two, despite there’s still two straps. It must have a some sort weird locking mechanism inside. There is also an additional piece under armpits that connect to the sleeves somehow, leaving her shoulder exposed. This most likely has something to do with keeping hose sleeves better in place. It’s a nice additional detail.

To keep with exaggerations, Jam’s hair has more volume now, especially towards the bottom and top. The hair that’s coming from the oolong tea can has now consistent shape, making it look like an upside down omega. Her forehead hair is sleeker and she wears a pink pin to keep it in place unsymmetrically. She had shorter, wilder forehead hair before. Hair in general has been a point in character design that changes a lot, and currently we’re in an era where sleek, unruly and even hair is most utilised. Compare to either GGX or AC Jam to see how there’s less strands and more even mass. Speaking of the can, it also got a visual update. The can itself reads 烏龍茶 for oolong tea, and was originally modeled after Pokka oolong cans in colour, but the current one seems to be revised to look similar to Suntory’s oolong can. While the can carries that metal sheen-rye colouring to it, the black shield where the text is placed can’t be mistaken. The kanji also dropped 茶 for tea, simply reading oolong. It even has that small underlining text to it, reading OolongTea. What is important that with these changes the can is more prominent detail than before.

Nice perky tits, eh?
Jam’s makeup is far more feminine than before, which fits her vain nature. Then again, she is a headstrong character that does her way and does it the best she can

Jam’s face has gone through some revisions. Much like every other character contracted some sort of face cancer in GGXX until AC’s revisions, Jam’s face went from quote round to sharply shaped to this modern pseudo-round with visible bones. In-game Jam’s face is much rounder, much like her eyes and mouth. While you still recognize her, they’ve done some significant tweaking. For example, Jam’s jawline has been revised completely and her cheekbones are of different roundness. Similar tweaking was done to her qipao’s collar, where it has a black angular design on it to expose it. Before she had a very traditional high collar.

A closer look at her hair as well as her collar
A closer look at her hair as well as her collar

Similar things have happened elsewhere in her design as well. Jam has always had an attractive physique, and as that’s something that changes with time, her physical appearance has become slightly rounder from before. Jam’s frontal assets i.e. honkers have gained a bit more volume to, and in-game that actually changes her overall visual balance. Combined with the larger hair and longer sleeves, Jam’s a much more filling character on-screen. This contrast is best seen in her Asanagi no Koukyuu (Morning Calm’s Breath), (22+K/S/H), where before her breathing and circular hand motions kept it tight, but the Xrd version has a lot more happening in there, mostly due to the sleeves and her hitting fist to palm at the end with a slight knees bent stand. For those who don’t know the idea behind the move most likely just see Jam waving her arms around, which is sad to see as the whole idea behind Asanagi no Kokyuu is that Jam uses a breathing technique to control her chi in order to charge her moves up. I haven’t found if the form she does is on any wushu system, her older animation charges the chi at middle tan t’ien at the level of her heart. This fits, as the middle center is place of storing chi. The newer animation implies that she breathes for the lower tan t’ien located just below the navel. This center is more about the root of all things, where the purification of essence into qi begins. As such, it’s a place of regeneration, but also for sexual energies and is an essential spot for life. Worked for Jam. It should be noted that the effect animations have shifted too, as the old one vanished in Jam’s lower center while the new one finishes higher. The new effect also has a taijitu to it in red and blue.


Jam’s GGXX guidevideo shows the same basics that still pop up in Xrd

That CHESTO-ARU! is spot on from the new voice actor

Breathing has been part of Jam’s idle pose from the beginning, her taking sharp inhales and exhaling out while lower her arm. Xrd version of her still has this in, but it’s a bit toned down from previous. Her breathing rate has also been upped a slight amount, but like before, there’s no real sign of her controlling her breath during moves. It’s nothing major, but breathing is often described as one of the main methods of controlling one’s chi. Another example for this sort of approach would be Hokuto Shinken’s Tenryuu Kokyuu Hou from Fist of the North Star, which results Kenshiro losing his shirt. Jam actually had a parody Overdrive of Hayakuretsuken in GGAC in form of Tosai Hyakuretsu Ken.

From this angle you notice that there are a bit more sharp corner on her, like on the upper parts of the sleeves. The extra black knotted lace also is very visible
From this angle you notice that there are a bit more sharp corners on her, like on the upper parts of the sleeves. The extra black knotted lace also is very visible

Her qipao is in overall shape the same. Main changes are the little tassels on her chest are again more exaggerated. I’m glad they’re not gone, but they could be far more animated in-game like the sleeves. Jam’s overall design is very simple, and details like this add character to her. Modern Jam is still simple in comparison to some others, but the few spots where that simplicity has been exaggerated gives off another kind of flavour. Sometimes these details aren’t even all that big but add information, like the new little straps in her qipao’s sides. On her left hip she has an additional tassel, which looks really nice, but again could be bit more animated. The skirt has lost its black trimming and the round emblem has been changed to straight hard angled variant of it. She also wears a black underskirt instead of white. This actually throws her colours scheme off-balance a little bit. Previously she had black in places to further enhance the rest of colours on her outfit, the red and yellow, but with the sleeves being bigger and her shoes getting more exaggerated with black line on them, she’s darker than before. The black underskirt also cuts the light visual cue from her upper body to her legs. Arguably this brings her legs out a bit more.

Her in-game stance is similar to previous games. The center kanji is visible from this angle
Jam’s in-game base stance is very similar to her original. It’s not exactly the same, but it’s not exactly different either. The center kanji is visible from this angle

Her shoes’ collars were already exaggerated in GGAC’s design, and in Xrd those and the belt have ended up being even larger. Her shoes are also a shade duller than the rest of her outfit, which is really strange considering the red on her has been consistent to this point. In-game model still uses the same pallet, which is only a good thing. She’s also wearing a red garter on her left thigh, and while we’re going into this territory, Jam still retains some panty shots. Like previously, her qipao’s skirt doesn’t bounce around too much and is almost strategically placed at times. At times you don’t see any flashing, but seeing how Jam’s design is a bit more full this time, rest of her design shines through, especially with legs and torso. I’m not complaining, I’m just pointing it out. While Jam has been accused of panty flashing, this isn’t really the case. Most remember one of Jam’s winning pose where she goes over the opponent to wonder on stuff, but outside that one there’s not many spots where there’s gratuitous flashing. Her fame is a bit undeserved in this regard. She is a flirty character, being flashy in every aspect is to be expected.

The changes to Jam's facelines are pretty jarring when they're not in a right angle. Compare to the previous screenshot
The changes to Jam’s facelines are pretty jarring when they’re not in a right angle. Compare to the previous screenshot

In gameplay Jam hasn’t changed in how she’s approached. Still a rushdown character, still doing only bits of damage that you need to combo together, but she’s gotten some new moves, some moves have been changed to look different, but these changes make her feel like she’s been progressing with her style. The same can be said of GGX Jam compared to her GGAC iteration. During GGXX Jam got a whole slew of new options to work with and tweaks how she works, and in GGAC she became a character that was fun and easy to pick up, but required good execution skills to utilise her moveset properly. Since GGX, Jam has been my choice of character because of these points.

Jam’s new voice actress is Rei Matsuzaki. While she does good job and everything, I do have a personal preference towards Manami Komori’s way of pronouncing things and having an interesting depth to her yells. They’re both fine really, it will just take some time to get used to how Matsuzaki ends most move names in a very, very different fashion from her predecessor. I do love her Chest-aru! yell a lot already.

One last point I want to make is about her Instant Kill, Gasenkotsu. The kanjis used are 我羨惚, standing for Self, Admiration and falling in love with. The last one also can stand for Idiot. As with names like this that play with words, Gasenkotsu is something like Admiring One’s Self-love, but as per her IK animation, it might just as well be Admiring One’s Idiocy. Narcissism doesn’t really cut it, but fits in the allotted slot.

During Gasenkotsu kanjis for Tenjou Tenge Yuiga Dokuson, 天上天下唯我独尊, appear. This line is traditionally translated as I alone am honored in heaven and on earth, and it can be transliterated as Above heaven, under heaven, I alone am worthy of honour. It is believed that Buddha Śākyamuni said this after his enlightenment. Thus, Gasenkotsu is Jam proclaiming her admiration for herself in how she has gained enlightenment. Because of the kanji 惚, she’s also proclaiming her stupidity and self-conceit on the matter. You always knew there was a reason why Jam looked like an idiot during her Instant Kill. All in all, as Jam’s character is about having her own way and seeing it as the true one out of all, Gasenkotsu reflects this attitude. She admires herself for choosing what she sees as an enlightened path.

Her stuff always gets screwed up ever since she got the reward in GGX…