When it comes to fighting game franchises, there are few notable as Guilty Gear. Released two decades ago, the original pioneered the genre for many to come. While developing BlazBlue, Persona 4 Arena, and even Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc System Works what was great about Guilty Gear then builds upon it. Celebrating the series’ 20th anniversary, Arc System Works rereleased both the first and the final 2D designed Guilty Gear entries on the Nintendo Switch.
Can this classic live on to fight another day?
Back to Basics
In terms of Gameplay, the original Guilty Gear is very much like any modern rendition. Players each select a character and duke it out within a 2D world. Each fighter possesses a punch, a kick, and two weapon attacks. In terms of controls, the game is about what anyone would expect. Even in its earliest days, Guilty Gear was able to provide controls that where simple to learn yet nigh impossible to master. It is this very depth that has allowed Guilty Gear to stand out from the crowd these past 20 years.
Where the game differs most is in its game balance. Ultimately, the first Guilty Gear was a product of its time. In an age before system updates and downloadable content, a game could not be rebalanced post-release. Some characters just feel like a bad matchup, leading to some pretty one-sided fights at times. The biggest offender of game breaking can be found in the Destroy Attacks. Destroy Attacks have remained an iconic inclusion in the series since their inclusion. However, currently, they require a fair amount of set up and risk taken to initiate. In 1998’s Guilty Gear however, this was not the case. A Destroy Attack could be activated at any time, immediately concluding the match entirety.
When looking at fighting games today, the player will find a plethora of different modes to choose from. These options range from single to multi-players and almost always offer online play. Unlike the simultaneously released Guilty Gear XX Λccent Core Plus R, the original Gear only offers three modes. Both of which are of the offline variety. The first of which is Arcade Mode. While the game does not offer a true Story Mode, Arcade offers the closest thing to it. Guided by a paper-thin plot, combatants clash leading up to an overpowered final boss.
Before trying Arcade Mode, new players should first visit the Training Mode. Training Mode is pretty self-explanatory. Players may use this safe zone to practice their attacks and chains against an unintelligent AI. Seeing how technical any Guilty Gear can be, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for any player to check out.
Unfortunately, Versus Mode is offline only in this rereleased first outing. Players may share a screen and duke it out whether the system be docked or not. Please keep in mind that this release has none of the updates or game balances the series has seen over the past 20 years. A fight between friends will be a blast from the past. Whether that is a good thing or not.
While Guilty Gear may be timeless, the graphics have certainly seen better days. Especially when compared to Guilty Gear XX Λccent Core Plus R, Guilty Gear (1998) shows its age. At times, it almost feels that the action jumps around due to the fewer sprites and fewer frames per second. While the game’s controls are about as responsive as they have never been, the outdated may scare away all but the most devoted fans.
As proven time and time again, the art direction of Guilty Gear is some of the finest. Series developer Daisuke Ishiwatari can also be thanked for each and every character design. As hard as it may be to believe, “anime fighters” were mostly non-existent in the ’90s. In time, Arc System Works would be thanked for a number of these titles. In 1998 however, it was thanks to these anime and “heavy metal” inspirations that the series first stood out upon its release. 20 years later, these iconic designs remain incomparable to any other fighter.
Speaking of Daisuke Ishiwatari, the series veteran is also to thank for most of the game’s sound. 1998’s Guilty Gear was one of Ishiwatari’s first game compositions. His catchy tunes and aspiring guitar riffs perfectly match the fighter’s gameplay. It is no surprise that even today his music is the heart and
Sol soul of both BlazBlue and Guilty Gear. Did I mention that he also happens to voice the series protagonist, Sol Badguy?
While Guilty Gear‘s music has always been one of it’s greatest assets, the same cannot be said about the character voices. While there’s nothing wrong with the voice actor choices as later games would prove, the actual recordings are pretty terrible. It is important, however? to remember that voicing characters wasn’t something commonly done in the ’90s. That being said, low audio quality may be a deterrent for a new player. A new purchase of a 20-year-old game may be a hard sell when nostalgia is not a factor.
Overall Guilty Gear is a fun reminder of how far the series has gone. Undeniably, the gameplay remains solid, albeit unbalanced, to this day. With outdated design and sound, however, this release may not make a great first impression. With Guilty Gear XX Λccent Core Plus R releasing digitally the same day, this game should really only be played as a trip down memory lane.
HEY! HEY!! LISTEN!!! gives Guilty Gear 7.3 gears out of 10.