Japanese developer Arc System Works dropped an atomic bomb on the fighting game community at their 25th Anniversary Arc Festival last weekend. It wasn’t the international Blazblue: Chrono Phantasma release window everyone was expecting, but it was something undeniably better: A full reveal of the very long awaited third original Guilty Gear title. Excluding updates, rereleases and spin-offs, Guilty Gear Xrd – SIGN - is the first truly new Guilty Gear game since 2002’s Guilty Gear XX.
That’s 11 years of waiting, ladies and gentlemen. This is the most exciting reveal on the fighting game front since Street Fighter IV.
Arc didn’t just tell us the game was being developed – that alone would have sent the fighting game blogosphere into a frenzy. Instead they released a debut trailer that runs for nearly three minutes. The trailer debuts a vivid new visual style, redesigned characters, new Daisuke Ishiwatari music and a few other tidbits. As someone who has been waiting for a proper “Guilty Gear 3” since childhood, I simply couldn’t let this trailer pass by without closely examining every moment of it and establishing a brief wishlist of features for the game.
Visual redesign – Unreal Engine 3
A complete graphical overhaul from past games in the series is immediately noticeable. The characters have a vividly colored and extremely sharp and detailed appearance. ArcSys has implemented the Unreal Engine. What’s really puzzling about the visuals is that the characters actually seem to be 3D models. Although they look like amazingly detailed 2D sprites, the 360 revolution that occurs when Sol and Ky first clash suggests that they could be 3D models. If those are actually 3D models, then Arc has accomplished something incredible with the game’s visuals.
Whether it’s 2D or 3D, the game looks absolutely wonderful and I cannot wait to see the rest of the characters rendered in this new engine.
Once Sol and Ky actually start fighting, the game looks even better. The fire effects of Sol’s attacks and the lightning flourishes of Ky’s attacks seem to jump from the screen. The explosions are so bright and colorful. Both Ky and Sol can be seen using several of their signature attacks. Two visual touches that really stood out to me were the dynamic camera angles during the launchers and the elaborate super cards or transitions. Both Ky and Sol can be seen using what appear to be launchers at about 1:55 in the trailer. The way the camera flips around for this is very exciting and dynamic.
I’m fairly sure those are startup animations for super attacks at 2:12. The super attack startups seem much longer and far more dramatic than they’ve been in past games in the series. General consensus seems to be somewhat split on the games new visual direction, but I think it’s looking absolutely incredible. Besides, Blazblue already has gorgeous high definition 2D sprites. Now Guilty Gear looks even more distinct.
In addition to the completely upgraded and overhauled graphics, the trailer also gives us a look at four characters. Ky and Sol are the stars of the trailer, but Millia can be seen clearly at the end of the trailer and within the reflection of her eye we are also given a glimpse of Eddie. Other than Eddie (as we can’t see him very clearly), every character shown in the trailer has been somehow changed from past games. It’ll be interesting to see if these changes are due to a passing of time or if they’re just there to make the characters look fresher (not that there’s anything wrong with the older designs).
Sol seems somewhat buffer than he has been in past games and he’s using a new weapon. The design of this weapon looks more similar to Order Sol’s concrete sword than it does Sol’s perennial Fuuenken. He also has a crucifix on his chest, but that about sums up his changes. Similarly, Ky has only a few immediately noticeable changes, although one is quite pronounced. While his clothing is almost exactly the same as it has been in older games, he now has a ponytail. It looks tacky, I know.
His longer hair could be indicative of the passing of time, which makes me very excited to see the other characters. He still appears to use the Thunderseal, but he now wears a scabbard for it around his waist. Other than the ponytail, I think Ky looks pretty cool.
The last character that we’re given a good look at is more than likely the hair wielding assassin Millia Rage. Of the characters shown, Millia sports the most significant redesign. She now sports an elegant black and yellow outfit, complete with a hat and high heels. Her lethal blonde hair and blue eyes are intact though. She looks somewhat…thicker? Maybe it’s the black stretch pants. I can’t really make out the engraving on the tag on her hat, but I somehow think it’ll have some significance. I’ll miss seeing her legs all the time, but otherwise I’m very pleased with Millia’s redesign. I can’t wait to see her in combat.
Our glimpse at Eddie is so limited and brief that I can’t really make any comment on him, but he doesn’t appear to have changed much. For the most part I’m am liking the redesigns of the characters. I’m excited to see what Arc will do with Dizzy, Baiken, A.B.A and the rest of the gang.
Guilty Gear XX released a whopping decade ago and the landscape of the fighting genre has changed considerably since that time. Arc has been releasing Blazblue so it isn’t exactly as if they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to developing new fighting games, but Guilty Gear is a prized series that many fans are quite passionate about. I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that I hope Arc considers as they develop Guilty Gear Xrd.
If ain’t broke (and it isn’t) don’t fix it
I trust ArcSys fully with the game’s fighting system, but I do feel that this should be said. The game’s mechanics have been slowly and precisely refined with patches and updates in the decade since XX’s release. To the best of their ability, I think ArcSys should keep the game’s mechanics intact. The transition from Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R to Xrd should be natural and reasonable. The fighting system doesn’t need the same complete overhaul the graphics needed.
Furthermore, every character that has been playable in the series up until this point should be present in Xrd.
Now, because this is 2013 and I do wish sales success on the game, I do hope ArcSys considers adding a completely optional simple or stylish mode to the game. I’m sure any hardcore competitive GG player reading this right now is cringing, but the olive branch of a simple, “auto-combo” mode is invaluable. I have enjoyed countless casually fun matches with friends and family in Persona 4: Arena, Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Blazblue: Continuum Shift, all because those games were so beginner friendly.
Arc already has a game that is, in my opinion, easier on the whole to play than Guilty Gear – Persona Arena. Therefore, I’m not suggesting that they make the game in any way intrinsically simpler, only that they consider adding an optional beginner mode.
One thing that I’d suggest Xrd stay away from is the dreaded comeback mechanic that has become such a genre staple. Please don’t add anything like Marvel vs. Capcom 3’s X-factor to the game. I don’t dislike the whole idea of a comeback mechanic – I’d say Persona Arena’s is relatively tame – but I don’t think they should add one that changes the course of a match too much. However, I think it’s worth mentioning that I have complete faith in whatever Arc decides. They never cease to impress.
Throw everything and the kitchen sink into the console port
These suggestions are for the inevitable console port of Xrd. First and foremost, for the online suite, ArcSys should do what they do best. That is, create a perfectly functional and fully featured online suite with all the bells and whistles you’ve come to expect from new titles in the genre. We’ll need lobbies, replay saving, spectator mode, the works. There are also a few features that the Blazblue games have omitted that Arc could introduce in Xrd. For example, replay uploading to YouTube and online training mode.
For the single player side of things, Xrd should have a rich visual novel story mode with art and anime cutscenes, just like in Blazblue. I think this is pretty much a given, but the game should also have a gallery where we can view illustrations and listen to the game’s soundtrack. An in-game story primer or digest that recaps the events of all the past games could really help both new and old series fans get better invested in the story.
If those really are 3D character models, then Arc may be able to do something they’ve never been able to do with 2D sprites. I’m talking about alternate costumes. Even (or especially) if they’re premium DLC, Arc should release lots of additional costumes for their characters. Tecmo surely made a mint off of Dead or Alive 5’s nearly $100 worth of additional DLC costumes. Even if it isn’t possible, they should still release leagues of alternate color palettes, system voices, etc. This kind of cosmetic content doesn’t really affect the game and it allows serious fans to further support the company by snatching this stuff up – which we’re typically very happy to do.
Thus ends my analysis of the brief but extremely exciting Guilty Gear Xrd trailer and my suggestions for the new game. If you haven’t seen it yet (shame on you!), check it out here. We have no information regarding when the game will be available, although we do know it’ll of course release to Japanese arcades first. I think most fans are content simply knowing that such a game is being developed, and we’ll hopefully have Chrono Phantasma to help satiate us until Xrd is actually playable.