If you were a gamer in the 1990s you no doubt remember the dozens and dozens of fighting games on the market. Names like Street Fighter
and Mortal Kombat
are well-known by today’s generation of gamers, but remember when names like World Heroes
, Fatal Fury
and Primal Rage
were of the household variety? It’s just a sign of how far the market has changed as games like Tekken
and Soul Calibur
now rule the Arcades, leaving the 2D fighters in the dust. That’s why I’m thankful that Sammy Studios decided to re-introduce its fighting series, Guilty Gear
, on the PlayStation 2 a few years back. It retained all of the great elements that I enjoyed about yesterday’s fighters while adding in a number of new features that brought the game into its own. This latest entry builds upon Guilty Gear X2
by adding a plethora of features and the end result is the best 2D fighter available on the market today.
Isuka is an extension of GGX2
in the way that Super Street Fighter
was an extension of Street Fighter II
. When taken at face value it’s essentially the same game with a small handful of changes, but unlike Capcom’s annual “updates” the changes in Isuka actually make a noticeable impact. Instead of adhering to the traditional one-on-one formula the game kicks it up a notch and accommodates up to four combatants. You can have all kinds of melees now, one-on-three, two-on-two, every man for himself. It all sounds very chaotic and it is, but in a very deliberate and controller sort of way. GG is already a hectic and frantic game so fans of the game are already used to seeing their screens convoluted and filled with action. Through all that’s happening there isn’t an instance where the player doesn’t feel in control of the battle. You always have full control of your character and the action holds up fairly well. The only problem with this mode is that you’ll need to purchase a multi-tap in order to take advantage of it. At least the guys at Sammy had the foresight to allow players to setup the AI to fill in the other slots, so if you only have two controllers you can still enjoy the four-player action.
"I swear! I didn't know it was steroids!" Said a suspicious Barry Bonds.
The other key addition comes in the form of a side-scrolling aspect. When I was younger I had always envisioned what a 2D brawler featuring the characters from Street Fighter II
would be like. All my friends said it would be impossible and that the special moves would be too difficult to execute against multiple enemies. Well, Sammy has just proved them all wrong with the GG Boost
mode, one of the best things to ever happen to fighting games. It takes you out of the 2D fighting realm and into the 2D brawler realm, much like what you would expect to find in a game like Final Fight
. Instead of beating up on one opponent you’ll use your skills to mash multiple opponents that stand between you and your objective. What makes this feature so great is the fact that you fight the enemies just like you would fight a normal foe. You can link up combos, use special moves and execute supers just like in a normal fight. Special moves are also made easy because your character always faces one way; in order to turn him around you’ll need to manually do so by pressing the R1 character. This ensures that you won’t accidentally turn around in the middle of executing a move. The best part of this feature? You and a friend can have at it and dish out the punishment, co-op style. Without a doubt one of the best things to ever happen to the 2D fighting genre and just gamers in general.
Aside from the aforementioned features, you’ll have access to a new character, the ability to change the color palettes for all of the characters and a new create-a-character mode that adds some depth to the game. A.B.A uses a giant key as her primary means of attack, which means that she fits in perfectly into the game’s quirky universe. The create-a-character mode is pretty basic; you have a basic template to build upon and as you level up, you’ll be able to add new abilities and upgrade attributes. It’s kind of neat but I wish I would have been able to personalize him a little more, and no, changing the color of his hair isn’t classified as customization. The color edit mode is pretty decent if you’re not content with the default palettes that come with the game.
We’ve covered the fighting system in-depth in our review of Guilty Gear X2
so we’ll avoid traveling down that road again. It has
been almost two years since that review, however, so we thought we’d see how the fighting system has held up over the month. Right out of the box the game plays well and the controls will be familiar to anyone who has picked up a 2D fighter in their lifetime. Combos are easy to link-up thanks to a fairly intuitive system and the characters have a satisfying amount of control to them. There’s a significant change and it was done in order to accommodate the new four-player action. In order to turn around you’ll have to press the R1 button, otherwise the character will continue to face in the same direction. It’s a bit disorienting when you jump in for a combo and end up on the other side of your opponent, but it’s pretty intuitive once you get used to it. It would have been better had there been an option to manually turn the character around, it would have made one-on-one battles easier and more familiar.
This is one great looking game, proving that a next generation 2D-fighter can indeed be comprised of beautifully rendered sprites. This game makes Capcom Vs. SNK2’s art direction look amateurish in comparison. The characters are sharp and look great against the beautifully rendered backdrops. There’s really a great sense of beauty inherent in the game. Whether it be the girlish looking boy or the demon possessed thug, every character just looks amazing. Every move looks great, featuring some of the most impressive animation ever seen in a 2D fighter. In order to squeeze every last bit out of the graphics department, the game includes support for High Definition monitors, taking the game to an entirely new level.
Nice touches are strewn about the game such as dust clouds that arise in the wake of your characters, bright visuals that can blind a cat and my favorite, minute versions of your characters by the energy bar that mimic your character's current actions. Making contact with the enemy yields an equally pleasing result that is very anime-ish but like everything else, feels right at home in this game.
This isn’t to say that the visual look of the game is perfect. Sometimes you’ll notice some pixilation when executing some of the game’s flashier moves. Other times the backgrounds just don’t quite look up to par. We also had a few problems with the game’s interface because while the fighting portion of the game looks great, the interface just pales in comparison. The character selection screen, which requires you to move your pointer over the portrait of the characters, seems kind of strange as it promotes some characters more than others. It should be noted that the game rarely shows hints of slowdown, even when it is accommodating four or more players.
I also appreciated the audio for what it was. Isuka doesn’t depend on crystal clear samples and high quality music in order to press the issue, it’s an arcade game at heart so the sounds are rightfully tinny. They have that hollow and loud feeling that you’re accustomed to hearing amongst the hustle and bustle of an arcade. It’s not amazing but it fits in well for this kind of genre.
If you’re looking for a 2D fighter look no further than Guilty Gear Isuka
. Sammy Studios is intent on bringing the gaming style of yesterday to the gaming masses of tomorrow. And if you ask us, it’s doing a damn fine job. Anyone who is remotely interested in fighting games simply needs to own this game.