[ Writer ] = CMoon
[ 12/14/01 ] = Guilty Gear X: Stupid fans Do Not Make A Game Great

Listening to fighting game fans has always been a source of entertainment for me. While I've been humored by much of the talk about Marvel vs. Capcom 2 (even the players seemed to know full well that they're playing a big trashy), the advent of GGX seems to have marked a new low for fighter sensibility. The first installment had been utter nonsense; the perfect fighting game for crack addicts and people who wanted to push the dial-a-combo aspects of the vs. games to a new ridiculous limit (like being able to kill someone with one combo, etc.) For reasons that should be apparent, the gaming community didn't budge, but this may have been because the game wasn't widely distributed. Lord knows the gaming community is STUPID enough to start heavily praising Guilty Gear! Featuring an almost uniform combo for all characters, instant kill moves, double jumps and air dashing for all but one character, Guilty Gear pretended to have style and substance while having neither. A faceless spazz-fest that is mostly memorable because it was absurdly trashy (yes, one character could simply power up super move while the first one was hitting you, catching you in an endless stream of supers! Oh yeah!)

But gamers had already voiced their dissension with the street fighter series. Loads of criticism have been heaped on Capcom but withheld from every other equally deserving fighter franchises--to a point you'd think that every fighter fan was a wailing old granny who must have her soup at JUST the right temperature. Guilty Gear X arrived on the scene in just this climate, and all the bitchers and whiners jumped ship like a bunch of fucking lemmings, making sure to burn their bridges behind them. One of the moderators of for instance, not only declared that she would never play another Capcom fighter until they all went high-res, but further declared Capcom greedy for milking their franchises. I'll deal with graphics and the like below, but greedy? Let's remember that Capcom has never gone bankrupt like other video game companies we know and love (SNK, Sega, etc.), and they've done a hell of a lot more for us than Sammy has or probably ever will. Perhaps this particular individual should realize that Capcom's continued business and enrichment of the video game industry is proof enough that they're making the right decisions.

But back to GGX. When everyone and their mother was saying GGX was the savior of fighting games and throwing their copies of Street Fighter III off the top of their apartment buildings, I was reflecting back on the bullshit that was Guilty Gear. Fun shit, yes, but not the sort of thing that supplants the classics. I wasn't up for paying $60 to import it at the time, so didn't end up putting in any serious play until recently. By this time, popularity for GGX had only grown and with the onset of Capcom vs. SNK 2, some people were writing off the game without a second glance--calling the graphics substandard and the game play worn out, that is, in comparison to GGX. Now all this would be fine and good if GGX was truly a good fighter or even a decent fighter. My point of contention and why I think so many gamers haven't a clue about what makes a good fighting game--even after 11 years!!--is that GGX isn't even a decent fighter. In the end, I'd rather take its prequel for its stupid trashy goodness than the manic-borefest (yes, you heard me right) that is GGX.

Since I've already hinted at it, lets talk about character originality. Jesus! How many shotos (or other SF/SNK clones) are in here? Virtually all the characters continue to have a standard punch->kick->light slash->heavy slash combo. Most of the characters can still double jump and air-dash, again stripping away another layer of personality. Worse yet, variation in character design is de-emphasized by the lame-ass fighting system (which I'll cover in detail later), forcing characters to constantly be on the offensive. Any good fighter knows that a well developed game is about the versatility--going from offense to defense and knowing when and where to do it, not to mention the mind game. GGX virtually eliminates these components, and hence reduces the individuality of the characters to a point that it's more about the game engine than the thin facades posing as characters.

More seriously though, there are subtler aspects that I don't like. Someone compared this to Samurai Shodown, but it really isn't that. In SS as in most SNK games (and in SF3 too I might add) the characters have real mass. I'm going to pick mostly on SF3 here because the characters move like living breathing people. They do not just launch themselves in the air and torpedo across the screen. They move like real physical objects in a physical world. I guess this isn't really an issue, but the more I play GGX, the more I feel the game/characters lack a soul. While all fighting games possess definite personas for their characters (often going so far as to define what the character eats, their favorite music, etc.), nothing tells me so much about the character as the way they move--and most of the characters in GGX move the same way, just with different speeds. It all leaves me wondering whether claims of 'style' really have much merit here. A shiny coat of paint does not equal style.

Well since I've touched on the game engine, let me finish what I've started. This is among one of the worst game engines I can think of. I've heard someone liken GGX to all the best qualities of games like Marvel vs. Capcom 2, the Samurai Shodown games and Street Fighter Alpha 3. Let's rephrase that, imagine all the WORST qualities of those games. Alpha 3's dumb ass juggle system, MvC2's absurdly cheesy combos system and lack of game depth...and...well, I'm not sure what bad qualities of Shodown, but if there was a really shitty Shodown game (maybe that 3D one I've never played?), I'm sure it would be in here too. What I come to again and again is that by eliminated the possibility of playing defensively (you are actually penalized for doing so!), it just turns into chain combo madness! Matches resemble two sumo wrestlers throwing themselves at each other more than a fighting game. Who can land the biggest chain first, roman cancel into a super, get additional air moves, then beat people senseless on the ground?!! I'm not saying the inclusion of these sorts of thing in a fighting game is bad, but rather the exclusion of all other fighting strategies turns this into a borefest. Sure, it's frantic, but that doesn't make it interesting.

The other thing that GGX fans will rub in your face is that GGX looks better than any other game and companies like Capcom and SNK are just lazy for not going high res. They are quite right that GGX is the most beautiful fighting game if all I am looking at is a still screen. When it comes to actual frames of animation however, this is not up to the standards of many of the Capcom and SNK titles. SF3 beats it easily, using more frames of animation instead of glitzy special effects (effects I actually find distracting.) I've heard it said that the first GG looked great when characters were standing still, but when they were in action the frames dropped. This remains true in GGX to a point that in the midst of big combos it becomes difficult to tell what's actually happening. Likewise, I find that Last Blade 2 is more visually impressive as far as animation goes, but GGX has it beat on MANY of the backgrounds and its over-all sharpness. Funny enough, GGX fans never talk about animation--just resolution. A point I find ironic since it is the animation the in the end makes the characters more than just hunks of pixels.

In the end, GGX simply doesn't seem that original, nor does it even live up to the claims of visual perfection. Some of the animation just looks sub-standard and choppy! The game play is smart only to a point. While the Roman cancel system seems so incredibly innovative, its no more original (nor any less gay) than having Iron Man and Dr. Doom whip out a 500 hit combo on you. Mark of the Wolves at least found a good use for this--and I must admit, playing any and all of the games I've compared GGX to left me wanting more of them and less of Guilty Gear. What I really fail to see in this game is depth. I understand the technicality of the game, but having played both this and GG, this thing has worn thin on me. I don't find any new or revolutionary ideas--and where SF3 seems as deep as the ocean, GGX seems ultimately dissatisfying: just the icing on the cake, nothing more.