[ Writer ] = BAD
[ 02/06/03 ] = Like Fish Gasping In Insufficient Water
ARC System Works' Guilty Gear X took the gaming community by surprise. Powered by the Naomi hardware, GGX was an anime-lover's dream come true, with some smooth visuals, unique characters and gameplay, cool moves, and some decent backgrounds. Some praised GGX highly (OkonomiyakiIchiban), while others (CMoon) thought the game was overrated. In fact, some even rated it over every SF and SNK title! Anyway, back to the point. Not a Capcom fighter but not quite and SNK fighter, the GG series falls somewhere after Capcom and SNK fighters, but above many others. Coming from a company not known much for fighters (if anything), ARC System Works brought a new fighting series that is gaining more popularity with each entry. ARC System Works developed the first installment of GG on the PlayStation hardware, a while after developed GGX on the Naomi hardware, and then put Guilty Gear Petit and Guilty Gear Petit 2 on Bandai's WonderSwan system. After ARC System Works' decision to put Guilty Gear X Plus on the Naomi hardware, one was left to wonder if the next installment of GG was to be developed on the Naomi2, or the powerful PlayStation 2-compatible System 246 hardware. Capcom and SNK had interest in the GBA hardware, and shortly after ARC System Works stated their interest in putting GG on the GBA hardware. Fast forward to Sammy's release of Guilty Gear X Advance Edition. How does it fare in light of the quick reputation the series has established in the gaming community? Does the game live up to the GG name? Those who liked GGX will probably like GGXAE, but will be left divided just as when GGX was released. Here are my impressions on Guilty Gear X Advance Edition.
Guilty Gear X Advance Edition features the same character roster of its Naomi-powered cousin GGX, including the likes of Sol Badguy, Chipp Zanuff, Johnny, and Dizzy. Like GGX, GGXAE features some of the most unique fighters ever in a fighting game. Characters like Zato-1one, Dizzy, and Faust make you wonder how such designs came from a human brain, while characters like Venom, Chipp, Jam, and Sol Badguy just look cool. GGXAE, like GGX and any other entry in the series, does not lack in unique character design. The series' dark environment and unique character design go hand-in-hand, and should please most fighting fans. GGXAE allows control of the default fighters, with Dizzy and Testament as unlockable fighters, as well as "Extra" unlockable versions of each character. That's a lot of characters. GGXAE's bosses are the same as that of GGX, with no hidden boss fights or anything of the sort. GGXAE's character selection is alright, but the developers should have taken a few out and put a few new ones in, or just taken a few out, completely, to deflate associations with GGX's character roster. It would have been nice to see GGXAE feature a new boss, or a few deleted characters in exchange for better backgrounds (I'll get to this soon). GGXAE has some good fighters, but in my opinion it could have been better with an altered character roster. As strange as it may seem, GGXAE would have actually benefited the most from a slightly smaller character roster. GGXAE is a different game than the other GG entries, but its roster induces a comparison by many to GGX that hurts the game.
GGXAE's animation is of ARC System works' distinct style. GGXAE's characters are that of GGX, but the game's animation looks somewhat like that of the original GG. GGXAE also runs on the GGX engine, but with re-drawn characters. ARC System Works did a good job with the characters; although some of them will cut your eyes, the characters look fine and have some good detail. Like the PlayStation and Naomi hardwares, GGXAE's developers found a way to somewhat smoothly represent some of the characters, and GGXAE presents them with a different style of animation from SSFIITR and KOFEX2. GGXAE's re-drawn fighters look good, and they animate pretty well. The characters aren't as smooth as those in SSFIITR or KOFEX2, as some look a bit jagged, but some characters look really good when they animate. Animation is, by far, GGXAE's strongest point; almost every character in the game animates so well that it magnifies the cheapness of the backgrounds. Characters like Jam and Baiken move about the screen smoothly, while others like Chipp and Sol Badguy deal pain in style. The walking and standing animations of each character are some of the best graphical aspects of the game.
I wouldn't place the animation in GGXAE over that of SSFIITR, KOFEX2, or KOFEX, but GGXAE does have some good animation for a non-Capcom or SNK game. Where SSFIITR and KOFEX2 have detailed character faces, GGXAE's characters have blank-ish colored faces to fit the animation style of the game. Although I liked this and think it suits the style of the characters well, some may prefer the more detailed faces of Capcom's or SNK's fighters on the same hardware. Special Move animations look good, as do Destroy and Super Move animations, but among the best are just their walking frames; some characters have different forward and backward walking animations. Some of the win poses in GGXAE also look good; Johnny's coat animates nicely as it flips in the wind, and Dizzy's "companions" move fluidly. Sol has some cool animation when he does just about any of his Special Moves, and Faust, in all of his exagerrated animations is absolutely hillarious. Another cool thing about the animation in GGXAE is that some of the characters have special intros that are pretty funny to watch. Overall GGXAE features some good animation that fans of the series will enjoy watching (or playing). With huge Special Moves, some cool Destruction Moves, lots of hit animations, and lots of other graphical touches, GGXAE's animation is a builds a strong foundation for the game. However, GGXAE's good animation comes with the price of some ugly backgrounds.
Backgrounds are the most painful part about playing GGXAE. Your eyes will hurt. Your heart will hurt. Your hopes will fall. The animation is so good that it makes the game's already ugly backgrounds look even worse! There are maybe two backgrounds in GGXAE that are marginal at best, while the others will completely disappoint those who have seen the beauty of other fighters' backgrounds on the same hardware (SSFIITR, KOFEX2). The developers were able to find a way to animate the game's characters smoothly, but it's hard to enjoy the characters with such sad backgrounds. Some of them (like Dizzy's stage) look like they tried to put too much detail in, while others, (like Jam's) look like they just gave up halfway through the development process. The development team should have taken out a few characters and put the work toward fewer and better backgrounds. It wouldn't have even mattered if there were only four backgrounds in the game, just as long as they would have looked nicer. The biggest problem with GGXAE is not so much its sound or gameplay, or character animation, but the bland stages that leave you in disappointment.
GGXAE's sounds are marginal, with some speech here and there, along with your typical sounds of battle. The sounds of punches, clanging blades, fire, thunder, and the other sounds of battle just don't fit the game's boring soundtrack, though. I think the sound in GGXAE could have been better if they would have built the soundtrack from the ground up, but the developers decided it would be better to try to convert GGX's soundtrack to GGXA. It doesn't sound too good, considering again what we have heard on other games on the same hardware; compiling a shorter, completely new soundtrack would have made GGXAE's sounds so much better than cramming in lots of boring tracks. Oh well, I guess there's some music to listen to (in your CD player). Where GGX2's music can get some people to rock, GGXAE, despite the different hardware it is on, can't even seem to even keep me from turning the volume completely off. Hearing the awesome music in KOFEX2 just makes me think of what could have been done to GGXAE's music.
The second strong point of GGXAE is the game's frantic gameplay. All of the chaos from the past GG titles has been faithfully carried over to GGXAE. Tons of flashy Special Moves, Roman Cancels, Air Dashing, Double Jumps, Air Combos, Super Moves, and the instant kill Destroy Moves all made it into the gameplay of GGXAE. GGXAE features the dial combos similar to that in Capcom's VS games, as well as some nice, flashy effects when you launch your opponent. GGXAE's moves are over-the-top; for example, in one of Dizzy's Super Moves, a huge demon appears and shoots a beam out of his mouth that takes up almost the whole screen. The instant kill Destroy moves are back, and with all of the mayhem that made them so fun to watch in the other games. As always, the instant kill moves require luck or really good anticipation to get off, but I can't tell if they were sped up or still just as slow in this entry. GGXAE also features some strange tweaks that allow some (maybe all?) characters like Chipp to perform re-dizzy combos; intentional or not, I have no idea. Needless to say, GGXAE may have the most lethal and damaging combos out of any game in the whole series; downed opponents in GGXAE are at a big disadvantage, it seems. Added to GGXAE are Tag and Assist attacks similar to that of Marvel VS Capcom 2, to compliment the new modes of play.
In addition to good gameplay and animation, there are various ways to play GGXAE. GGXAE has three new modes of play; Survival, 3 on 3, and Tag. Survival is the typical continuous battle mode to test your long play endurance, 3 on 3 is KOF style fighting, and Tag is just like the tag system found in Marvel VS Capcom 2. When playing the 3 on 3 battle system, the new assist moves are at your disposal, which act just like those in MVSC2, allowing you to do some insane combos (and slow your game down). The addition of the assist move in the 3 on 3 mode of play is a good addition and should please fans because it cannot be abused like in MVSC2 (it takes energy to use). As if GGXAE didn't have enough going on already during gameplay, the inclusion of the assist feature allows 4 players to raise hell on the screen all at the same time. Absolute hell. Even as fast as GGXAE is, the game chugs when four fighters are on the screen, with some slowdown. Those who weren't happy enough with the sheer chaos of GGX will be happy to see multiple bodies flying about the screen in GGXAE's 3 on 3 mode. While not as fun as the 3 on 3 mode, the Tag mode is good, and with the Tag feature players can do some rotten things to their opponents (like Roman Cancel into a Tag to continue a damaging combo). The 3 on 3 and Tag modes are good additions to the game, but they are similar to the Survival mode because they are never-ending; in other words, don't play the new modes without lots of time on your hands. A good feature of the Survival mode however, is that the hidden EXTRA characters are unlocked through winning special, gold-colored opponents; the gold opponents you beat are the EXTRA players you earn. For someone to unlock every character in the game, they have to play GGXAE in the normal mode and the Survival mode. For those who get bored of fighters quick, GGXAE has enough modes of play to satisfy any fighter's style.
So far, GGXAE has good gameplay and modes, with some good animation, but terrible sound and ugly backgrounds. So how is the game's overall presentation? Well, looks aren't always everything, but in the design dept. GGXAE breaks fifty-fifty. The character portraits, while nothing to run home and tell mom about, are pretty good and convey the feeling of the game well. The character select screen looks cool with some decent character drawings, but the in game lifebars look ugly just as they did in the first GG. The on-screen messages before and after matches also look a bit cheap in GGXAE, considering all the designers did was try to cut and paste them from GGX; again, it would have been so much cooler if yet another aspect of the game was created from the bottom up - design. with new sounds, music, stages, and design, GGXAE could have looked a lot better than it does. Unfortunately though, those behind this game's development thought it would be better to try to rip as much as they possibly could from GGX and put it into GGXAE, no matter the outcome. Too bad.
Overall, GGXAE is a good game, but by no means a great one. The fast, furious gameplay, various modes, unique characters, and crazy moves will keep fans coming back for more, but the cheap backgrounds, bland audio, and somewhat ripped design will disappoint. Arc System Works because of what they did in the past, had me expecting more than the hack job that GGXAE was subject to. By looking at other titles on the same hardware, it is clear that the game could have been better in more than one way. GGX was a good game, but I don't think it was so good that it the staff had to try to rip as much as possible from the game and put it into GGXAE. If Arc System Works does decide to make another GG on the GBA hardware, let's really hope that its development direction is more carefully considered than GGXAE's was. This game is a perfect example of the kind of game you like and dislike both at the same time. Better luck next time Arc System Works.