The Dreamcast was the go-to console to truly play arcade perfect fighting games at home. While the controller wasn’t quite as perfect for the job as the SEGA Saturn’s own comfortable wired showcase of engineering, the number of combat killers released on the ambitious system could make your eyes bleed. One game that I was introduced to on that particular console in 2001 was Guilty Gear X. It was one of the main games that my friends and I would often cycle between outside Street Fighter, Capcom crossovers, Power Stone and, of course, the original and most superior version of Soul Calibur. Garou: Mark of the Wolves was another favorite, but there was something quite special and infectious about Guilty Gear that somehow separated itself to stand on its own. Developer Arc Systems Works must have believed that also, for they would shape and tweak the X series for over a decade until it became the high-octane mouthful that is Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R.
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R closes the doors on the series 2D pixel roots before using sorcery and witchcraft to make the 3D visuals found in the later Revelator series look like a fully-fledged anime. Yet, while the Guilty Gear Revelator series has the advantage of moving the camera around to capture interesting action-orientated dynamics, there’s a certain wonderful arcade characteristic flow that Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R contains that’s somewhat lost in many modern fighting games of today. However, this particular final rendition isn’t quite as old as you may expect it to be by just looking at it. The 4:3 screen display alone would convince most that its old enough to be served a drink at a bar. In actual fact, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R was initially released as an update to its predecessor – minus the R – in Japanese arcades in 2012. Not only that, this particular title is the fifth and final update to the ten-year-long Guilty Gear X2 saga. Think Street Fighter II: World Warriors’ path towards Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
What’s more, the original 1998 Guilty Gear in itself paved the way for the BlazBlue series and, eventually, Dragon Ball FighterZ. Yet, the blueprint game that started it all would be undeservedly missed by many as would its sequels over the years by the common gamer. Thankfully, both the very first and the very last of the 2D renditions are now available for the Nintendo Switch either as a physical combo package or as two separate purchases on the Nintendo eShop to celebrate its 20th anniversary. While the first game pales in comparison in both content and vigor to its last entry, the original is still very playable in its own right.
In any case, if you are after something that is much more balls to the wall and exciting, then getting the standalone port of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is certainly the best way to go. Each character in the 25-strong roster plays vastly different to one another, while sharing a core mechanic that keeps the action constantly feeling kinetic and fulfilling. Most of the cast have a Tension meter that constantly builds up when pressing aggressively towards your opponent. Such a meter is spent by firing off a more powerful version of a fighter’s moveset using the Dust button – a button that also independently works as an overhead attack on a crouching opponent and a launcher to send the enemy skyborne for further combo goodness. The Tension meter can also be used as a Roman Cancel that disrupts the recovery animation of an attack for further combo potential. There is also the option to spend a chunk of it to finish off a string of flurries with a formidable overdrive attack.
Another table-turning mechanic lies within the combo-breaking Burst move. Usually only available once per round, this handy tool helps break the distance from further damage, or used to instantly fill your Tension meter when activated within range of an open enemy. Mix that with a plethora of navigational properties, Tension-burning defense options and the risky possibility of gaining an instant kill, and you have a recipe packed full of risks and rewards.
Unfortunately though, unlike BlazBlue CentralFiction Special Edition, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R doesn’t really provide any help to get a new player acquainted with its mechanics. Besides a command list and a standard practice mode, there isn’t anything to show how the gameplay works outside a couple of screenshots and small blurbs of vague short text. There are no combo trials or tutorials, forcing the player to look towards Google and YouTube for advice. Considering how much effort BlazBlue CentralFiction Special Edition made in teaching you the full kit and kaboodle, it seems odd that Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R never provided a better rundown of what it has to offer.
It’s not not quite as robust in content as BlazBlue CentralFiction Special Edition, either. Although, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R does still have its fair share of modes to dig into. The branching story mode gets to the point without feeling too long-winded, while the mission mode has enough objectives to keep those interested entertained for a while. The enemy AI can certainly provide a challenge at higher difficulty settings in the arcade mode, or you can always grind your way to personal heights with the aquired taste of the Medals of Millionaires mode. There’s a decent amount of stuff to keep the solo player occupied, but, as with any other fighting game, nothing beats a bit of human rivalry.
With that said, the basic online modes in Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R cater for both ranked and player match lobbies, as well as an optional password protected room that’s easily created to allow for both friends and strangers to throw down in. Despite seemingly having a fairly solid netcode in my experience after playing both on a wired connection and over Wi-Fi, it’s more a shame that the servers seem quite barren when searching for an opponent. Having friends that share a similar enthusiasm may be the best way to go, or joining a forum or Facebook group could be a better option if you really want to taste the blood of the competition to get the most out of network play. Considering that there doesn’t seem to be background searching available when playing across other modes, finding a random pool of players online could be a concerning and unfortunate barrier. As for local play, there’s a team battle mode outside the standard one-vs-one if you want to stir things up a bit like The King of Fighters ’98. In any case, if you do manage to have a sparring partner or a lifelong rival, then Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is an excellent way to settle scores.
The Guilty Gear 20th Anniversary Pack is a solid bundle. However, I just couldn’t help but feel it would have been much more of a celebration to see a full-on compendium of the 2D saga packaged together in its entirety like the trend with other recent collections. Having the ability to separately purchase both games can keep the budget low by trimming the meat. Separately, the original game comes in at the same price to the fully-fledged Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R on the Nintendo eShop. That seems significantly less value for money considering that its features rely solely on a basic arcade mode, VS and training mode with no network play available. It is its own beast of a game though – if a little simpler and slower-paced to its successor. But, if you can find a decent deal on a physical bundle, the Day One Edition does come with a 20 years in the making artbook and a message from series creator, Daisuke Ishiwatari.
All in all, this double package of a fantastic cult franchise arrives as another welcome entry among fighting games on the Nintendo Switch. In many crowds, Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is the absolute staple point of the franchise. This release may also be the gateway to the Revelator series making an appearance on the portable home console – especially as anime brawler Dragon Ball FighterZ was more than sufficient enough to feel at home on the system. One thing’s for sure, the almost traditional drought of fighting games on Nintendo platforms since the golden age of the SNES is over. Finally having a portable arcade that can almost fit in your pocket never felt so good for life-long fans of both Nintendo, and of the fighting game community as a whole.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by PQube