Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- First Impressions

It’s a pretty titanic moment in my “gaming career,” in my lifetime, even — although it doesn’t feel as jarring or emotional as it sounds. Having played Guilty Gear for nearly a decade, and Accent Core, which was the latest, and longest-running game in the series (approximately 2007 until 2013), it definitely was a big deal to play the next generation Xrd -SIGN- last night.

My guess is that I’m among a relatively small crowd of veterans who didn’t look to the Xrd nearly as much as others, and as some new comers. Freshly forged anew in Unreal Engine, Xrd looks like a compilation between BlazBlue and Street Fighter devs (which may be true if teams crossover a lot in ArcSys, not as true with SF). The pace is much slower than the breakneck-rate in Accent Core, and the team made frequent use of 3D camera pivots, especially for character intros and for supers. Rather than going merely with new technology, I’m thinking that they wanted to draw in a bigger crowd than before, it’s meant to attract a lot of newcomers.

Fan of slick 2D visuals and its best-to-date spires in Accent Core (aged, but still admirable), this style just doesn’t appeal to me. Honestly, the 3D moments are the worst-looking ones, in my opinion, and I feel that the roster lost some character and edge that felt very distinguishing in AC. The in-combat effects look good though, and I can live with GG even if art isn’t 100% pleasing me – after all, it’s about the fighting and the there’s the music as well.

Another big deal is the roster. My characters, Anji and Baiken are gone. I heard that the devs do plan on bringing everyone back, and seeing that Colony is a stage, that seems likely. But rather than despair, I turned myself to newcomer Sin Kiske, who fields a flagpole, debuting earlier in Guilty Gear 2: Overture.

Sin’s flagpole gives him a mix of long-reach attacks and short-range pokes. He’s a fairly fast, mobile character with a lot of pressure options. He relies on chaining special attacks together, and among his interesting tools is a command hop which lets him enter the air in combos or blocks. Furthermore, any of his specials can be chained into another — sounds great, the catch is that he gets hungry. For real. There’s a special move “Still Growing” that lets him eat and refill the power bar. The more he chains them, the more calories are used up. Damage is great, although even though he has a full-screen overhead, it’s relatively slow. When blocked right, Sin can leave himself open a lot. At least we have something in common, with the eating.

Going back to Xrd’s mechanics, the new Roman Cancel system does feel fresh, maybe even innovative. More than just immediately negate the rest of a move’s animation, the various cancels (colors and tension costs vary on situation) also put the game nearly in bullet time, slowing the opponent more than your character. Interestingly, one can just do a cancel in neutral.

I haven’t really seen what crazy things can be done with it, and overall I like them, though I fished out situations where I felt the mechanic is too strong, unreasonably. Approaching Venom from the air, air dashing at him as he is busy launching a ball seems like a pretty advantageous situation for the air-dasher. For a mere 25 tension, Venom YRCs and slows down time — not only he safely finishes the ball, but since the opponent is slowed down, he can easily jump and beat out anything coming from the air and combo.

I don’t know yet if the air dasher could just YRC back or do something else, but this is a little too much for 25 in my opinion. In Accent Core, FRCs, the blue cancels that cost 25, didn’t just give a clear-win slow-down time beat-all solution. The FRC was entirely on your character and didn’t affect the opponent, forcing the FRCer to play cleverly and use it to cancel into defense or surprise with another move.

All in all it’s pretty obvious that many things in Xrd seem simplified or streamlined, which is good for their “wider appeal” plan. Watching this weekend’s NEC and seeing really good people play Accent Core reminded me of how fast, complex, rewarding that game is. The arcane knowledge it requires, the crazy “special abilities” and tools every single character has that’s far from being listed on command lists — those are the qualities that made the game what it is.

It’s hard to really call a lot of things on Xrd as I’ve played it for little, so those are mere grumpy first impressions. For now, best I can do is await the return of my favorite characters and look forward instead of backward, but I’m naturally a very nostalgic person. I’ll get on the Sin Kiske guilty grind.



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