There's no need for feeling guilty about still liking 2D fighting games in this day and age. Though the genre has seen few changes since the release of Capcom's Street Fighter II a decade ago, the fighting game remains characterized by its fast, responsive gameplay and competitive spirit--features that will never go out of style. Guilty Gear X, a visually impressive and altogether very Japanese fighting game, is good evidence that the genre isn't going anywhere, for better or worse. The game's bizarre yet likable characters, familiar mechanics, and colorful, high-resolution graphics can make it a lot of fun for fans of previous 2D fighting games. At the same time, Guilty Gear X offers little that hasn't been done before--not that its tried-and-true concepts don't make for fun matches.
Guilty Gear X is actually a port of a Dreamcast game that was never released in this country, which itself is the sequel to the 1998 PlayStation fighting game, simply called Guilty Gear. As a sequel, Guilty Gear X offers what you might expect--better graphics, some new characters, and some new moves and techniques. Like in its predecessor, the far-flung setting of Guilty Gear X immediately stands out. Each of the game's 14 initially selectable characters looks unusual to say the least, though on the other hand, the game's roots in anime and manga are obvious, as is the direct influence of other popular fighting games on Guilty Gear X's character design. At any rate, the cast of Guilty Gear X--featuring well-built, strangely clothed lanky guys with names like Axl Low, Chipp Zanuff, and Sol Badguy, and cute yet not-so-surprisingly powerful gals like Jam Kuradoberi and Millia Rage--will more than likely make or break the game for you. If you can't deal with special moves with such names as "Mr. Dolphin!" and "Dim Bomber," or characters that look nothing like normal people, then you won't like Guilty Gear X. These same things might just as soon attract you to the game, though. Guilty Gear X is the sort of game that provides a brief glimpse of how different gaming can be in Japan compared with this country, and if nothing else, it's always good to see domestic versions of games that are so decidedly foreign.
The gameplay isn't nearly as weird as the game's style and appearance might first suggest. If you're familiar with other 2D fighting games, you'll soon recognize that most every one of the game mechanics found in Guilty Gear X can be traced directly to some other fighting game either by Capcom or by SNK. Guilty Gear X uses the PlayStation 2 pad's face buttons for attacks--your character can execute punches, kicks, and light and heavy slashes with his or her weapon of choice. The game takes many cues from the spectacular battles of Capcom's Marvel Superheroes games, in that most characters can dash back and forth, execute super jumps several stories high, chain together strings of punches, slashes, and kicks, block in midair, counterattack from a blocking position, and much more. Guilty Gear X also borrows Street Fighter Alpha III's midair recovery system--you can juggle your opponent with consecutive hits in midair, but the opponent has a chance to snap out of it by pressing two attack buttons simultaneously as he's getting pounded.