Preview: Guilty Gear Isuka (PS2)

Game: Guilty Gear Isuka
System: Sony Playstation 2
Genre: 2D Fighting
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Sammy Studios
Release: Q4 2004.

When you hear talk of 2D fighting games these days, fans usually fall into one of two camps: the Capcom camp (Street Fighter) of the SNK camp (King of Fighters). However, there has recently been an introduction of a third main camp: that of Sammy and their Guilty Gear series. It’s been rapidly gaining a unique fan base, pulling people from both the Capcom and SNK camps and converting them heavily. And it looks like Guilty Gear Isuka series is going to continue the trend.

Guilty Gear Isuka is more of a “side game” than a true sequel to Guilty Gear X2, considering the arcade version contained no added characters, and a largely same move set. However, this is not to say we’re not being treated right with the home release. And I can honestly say that after spending some quality time with an import copy of the game, I feel this game will be a great one.

THE GAMEPLAY

Guilty Gear Isuka will bring for the first time true 4-player combat to a 2D fighting game. Nothing like a tag-team fighter (Marvel VS Capcom) or one of those fighters with one-on-two modes (Street Fighter Alpha 3). We are talking four separate players, with four separate life bars, all fighting at the same exact time.

In order to achieve this, the fighting engine had to be altered a bit in order to accommodate four players on the screen at one time. The basic controls are still the same, with Punch, Kick, Slash, and Heavy Slash buttons still laid out the same way, and all the previous gameplay mechanics are still included (except for Instant Kill techniques). To begin with, players no longer automatically face their opponents. R1 is now the “Turn” button, which makes your player face left and right. This comes as a necessity, considering if there are more than two fighters on the screen at a time, you will be able to pick and choose which characters you fight. It seems weird at first, but after playing a while, turning becomes second nature. A special “back attack” has been added for each character to score a hit on players that try to attack you from behind.

Players can also fight on two planes in this game: the foreground and the background. This evens the action out a bit, allowing four players to square off two against two, or any other type of combination you wish. Players can actively switch between the foreground and background by pressing Turn Heavy Slash, knock fighters into the other plane with Turn Slash, or switch planes while attacking with Turn Punch. You’ll barely have need of this option in 1-on-1 fights, but is quite useful in multi-player battles.

All characters from Guilty Gear X2 (that weren’t hidden) return for this game. There are also a couple of characters that have been added to the line-up since being ported from the arcade. First, there’s #Reload Robo-Ky, or the version of Robo-Ky that debuted in the Japan-only Guilty Gear X2 #Reload. His look and move set have been completely changed, along with his personality. Also immediately selectable A.B.A., a brand new female character making her Guilty Gear debut. She is nearly completely covered in bandages, and carries a gigantic key with a face as a weapon. She has two different fighting styles with unique moves, which can be switched on the fly during battle. Also new is Robo-Ky MKII, but we’ll get to him a little later.

THE MODES

The main Arcade Mode is a gigantic change from what we are used to. The game has managed to fuse this mode with the Survival Mode from the home versions. Up to two players go through the mode at the same time, which is a nice touch. Players will progress by going through a series of matches, and gaining Survival levels in the process. Every 20 levels at up to Level 60 (and every 10 levels after that), players will be forced to fight in Daredevil battles consisting of a team of two fighters. But once you reach Level 99, you’ll have to go against Leopaldon, the hugest, baddest, cheapest boss you’ll ever encounter in a Guilty Gear game. Triumph over him to get to Level 100, and then you’ll have the option going even farther, in 50-level segments.

New to the home version is GG Boost Mode, which takes the characters and places them in a side-scrolling beat-em-up ala Streets of Rage. The controls are altered yet again, as jumping is now assigned to the L1 button, and holding a direction and pressing the Turn button will allow you a quick dash.

There are five stages here, and each stage is split into several parts. In each part you must fulfill a condition, such as beating up X amount of thugs, defeating the leaders of a gang, or simply running out the time limit and surviving. Making it to the end of the stage rewards you a battle against Robo-Ky MKII, and each time he has a different move set. The end of Boost Mode pits you against massively powered up versions of Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske. The funny thing is that once you beat this mode, you can unlock three of the random thugs you fight for versus play.

And finally, there’s the Robo-Ky MKII Factory. Remember earlier when I mentioned him? Well, it turns out that RKII is unique in that you can customize him completely. You can alter his color, his stats (Speed or Power? High Attack or High Defense?), and even buy special moves used by other characters for him. (Consider him this game’s “Emerl” from Sonic Battle.) By taking him through Scramble Mode (essentially GG Burst Mode), you earn points to buy him moves, upgrade kits, and special move upgrades. You could spend weeks powering him up to be as broken as you can, and then take him to a friends house to pit him against THEIR version of RKII. It seems weird, but its addicting as hell.

After spending a good deal of time with the game, I can honestly say that it is a very good game. Perhaps there will be some additions or tweaks made before the final American release, but for now, American audiences are going to eat this game up.

You can look for Guilty Gear Isuka for a Q4 2004 release.