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Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN: Where the hell is Zappa?
Arc System Work’s Guilty Gear series has always been an odd animal with its high speed combat, nonsense storyline involving time travel, and ridiculous characters that have enamored us to the metal-inspired fighting game series. Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN is no exception to this rule with its guitar riffs, rock and roll witches, and anchor-toting, seaworld-wielding pirates.
The storyline in Guilty Gear has always been confusing, if not outright stupid, and has (until this installment) played like a visual novel, rightly deserving airquotes. However, the storyline pleasantly surprised me in this incarnation. Instead of picking text choices your victory conditions in a battle counted as your “choice.” In the older Guilty Gear games this led to some brutality from the extremely strong and harsh AI punishing me because I needed to kill the computer with a special while specifically being between a certain percentage of my own health. This often resulted in restarting fights due to not getting the proper choice fulfilled. This thankfully has been scrapped in favor of a much more traditional story supplemented by a new graphic style.
This new style, combined with a complete lack of combat, actually improves the experience and makes it feel more like an episode of an anime or a cartoon special than a video game. Normally these kinds of games have odd circumstances where you annihilate the opponent, the cut-scene kicks in where you barely win, and the enemy laughs at your pathetic baby damage. Not this time. It’s odd, but the story is just as cinematic and I am not mad at all considering Guilty Gear is all about ripping time and space apart with guitars and punching infernos at my opponents while turning into dragon men all to the names of Queen songs and metal bands and for once it feels like the right call. While this is usually shitty because you want to play and be a part of the story, Guilty Gear has had a lousy story, s0 just kicking back and enjoying this wild ride as you watch Sol Badguy ride a rocket Contra style while you smile at the absurdity of it all enamored me a lot more than I expected from a fighting game.
The thing that saddens me greatly about Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN is its roster changes. We get five new characters in this one. First up is Ramlethal, a girl with a carnivorous-looking coat who wields two humongous swords and can deploy them similar to Mu-12 from BlazBlue. Ky’s son, Sin, joins the roster as well and is an overly enthusiastic idiot who wields a flag, hits like a train, and needs to eat or keep his special meter filled or he turns into garbage as half his moves cancel themselves before you want them to because he becomes oh-so-hungry. Next up we have Bedman, who is a man in a bed who plays kind of like Bridget and Anakaris from Darkstalkers and uses a replay function to make his attacks come from odd angles and allow some good mix-ups. We have Leo who likes to punch people with giant crucific tonfas and can fight you with his back turned like Voldo from Soul Calibur (and that’s awesome). Finally, we have Elphelt, Ramlethal’s shotgun-toting, sniper rifle-wielding sister who uses a variety of weapons and has absolutely brutal corner combos with her shotgun and some mean setups once she gets her opponents on the ground.
Sounds awesome right? Five new characters added to a roster of 24 or 25 depending on your game? Nope, we lose Jam, Anji, ABA, Baiken, Bridget, Dizzy, Johnny, Kliff, Zappa, Justice, Order-Sol, Robo-Ky, and Testament. So we gain five, but lose twelve. I have no issue with losing a few characters, but literally less than half of the roster returned and that is saddening as someone who has been a fan of the series for a while. This is only compounded by the fact that those who do return we’ll need to pay for which is just salt on the wound. Sin we can unlock, but we already had to shell out for Elphelt and Leo, so it’s very rough for fans who want all the characters and may need to pay $5-8. Sure, Dizzy and Johnny are already in the game storyline already, but it’s just maddening to see them as we know they’re down the pipeline as DLC. As sad as it is, this is the type of game where a sort of season pass for DLC is needed just to reduce the brutality that is going to be brought to my wallet.