Despite not having had a new game since 2007, the Guilty Gear series still has a dedicated fanbase and strong tournament support across the globe - so it’s no surprise that Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus (hereon referred to as Accent Core) is the latest in a recent trend of updated ports of older fighting games for current consoles.
This release is a godsend for casual and competitive fans alike, who no longer have to blow the dust off their PS2 or Wii to have a bout; but while everything that made Accent Core great in the first place is still intact, this port lacks much of the polish that the likes of Street Fighter III: Third Strike Online Edition have led us to expect.
If you’ve played any ‘anime fighters’ like BlazBlue or Arcana Heart, you’ll have a good idea what you'll get from Accent Core: a highly technical, frantic, fast-paced 2D fighting game. It follows the basic Street Fighter formula, but a range of unique systems create a deep, ‘controlled chaos’ style of gameplay.
The combo system is very open ended, allowing even the beginner player to get flashy, but safety nets like damage scaling keep the game balanced and a decent range of defensive options make sure the other player can always fight back. For the really brave or really desperate, each character also has an Instant Kill move. As the name suggests, this grants instant victory (often in hilarious fashion), but at the risk of losing your entire super bar for the rest of the match should the attack miss.
Accent Core is by no means an easy game, lacking some of the features that Arc System Works put into their more recent efforts to lower the entry barrier. You can get away with button mashing or relying on cool looking but simple dial-a-combos to get through each character’s story, but the other modes will require at least a little bit of time in training mode, even on the easiest setting. Don’t let that put you off though - as fun as the game is off the bat, exploring more advanced strategies and techniques is when the game really opens up.
The usual array of game modes - Arcade, Story, Training, Survival, and Versus - are present, as well as a handful of more unusual ones. Medal of Millionaire (M.O.M) is essentially a shorter survival mode that pits you against each member of the cast until you beat them all; Mission mode tasks with winning fights under a variety of restrictions like no jumping; and Team Versus lets you play King of Fighters style three-on-three matches. There’s also a wealth of unlockable content, with extra colour palettes, three overpowered versions of each character, boss characters, and artwork all found by various means.
Accent Core features decent sized cast of 25 playable characters, each with their own playstyles and movesets, and very interesting character designs. Consider Zappa, on oddly clad man possessed by five ghosts that he can summon at random during fights, or Millia, a shy but determined assassin who can manipulate her hair at will, and uses it as a weapon.
These character designs, strange though they may be, fit well into the game’s plot. The Cliff’s Notes version: It’s somewhere around 2180, the world is still recovering from a war between humanity and the powerful Gears, a result of super soldier experiments gone wrong. One Gear remains, with a $6 billion bounty on her head despite not having the same vendetta against humankind as the rest, and each member of the cast has their own reason for chasing the bounty or just getting into scuffles with certain others. It’s definitely one of the more interesting backstories to a fighting game, and is worth looking into in more detail.
As great as it is to have Accent Core on 360, this version is essentially a direct port of the PS2 release, with online play the only addition - modern novelties like combo trials and display filters are nowhere to be found. That’s not necessarily a huge issue, because the PS2 version already had so much content, but it does add to an overall feeling of a bare-bones release.
Online play should be a welcome feature, but sadly it feels very much like a tacked on afterthought. The netcode is shockingly bad, with large input delays essentially rendering the game unplayable unless your opponent lives next door. Technical limitations mean that we’re a long way from perfect online play in a game requiring fraction-of-a-second reactions, but other recent releases have shown that reasonable, if not amazing, results are possible. This is particularly a problem for New Zealand players, with our small population geographic isolation making good quality online matches even more of a rarity.
Netcode aside, the online play still lacks important features that have become standard. Matchmaking is slow and inefficient, though New Zealand’s relative lack of players might have something to do with that, and there is no option to see the connection quality in a match found through Quick Search. There’s also a no decent lobby system, with two-player rooms the only option. Want to get a bunch of friends together for a winner-stays-on session? Tough.
Arc System Works have an update planned for Autumn which they claim will fix some of these issues, but they really should have been addressed before release.
Nothing has changed visually since the PS2 and Wii releases, which is mildly disappointing, if not a major concern. The sprites and backgrounds still look as good as they always have, but the lack of any sort of smoothing filters (other than anti aliasing, which the PS2/Wii versions already had) means that they can look pixelated on larger screens.
There’s no widescreen support, with frames at the edges of the screen to maintain the 4:3 ratio. This is understandable in game, considering the amount of work it takes to make a game like this widescreen, but there’s no excuse for not expanding the backgrounds on the menu and character select screens. Sound effects haven’t changed either, though they didn’t need to, and Daisuke Ishiwatari’s Iron Maiden inspired soundtrack is still there in all its glory.
Overall, despite a lack of polish, this release does what many Guilty Gear fans have been hoping for for some time: it brings one of the genre’s best to the current generation of consoles, and reminds us that Arc System Works hasn’t forgotten about the series. Poor online play doesn’t stop you from getting a few mates around for an old fashioned side-by-side slugfest, and this is where Accent Core (and the franchise in general) delivers in spades. Sadly, it’s not readily available on our shores - but don’t let that stop you, as it’s not too hard to pick up via the US Marketplace, and well worth the 1200 MS Point (about $15 USD) price tag.