Mastering the intricacies of a complex combo system is one of the definitive ambitions of any fighting game aficionado. But for developers, balance is the Holy Grail, with studios often chasing after a meticulously tweaked title that’s tailored for tournament play. When Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R was first unveiled in Japanese arcades in late 2012, these two aspirations gloriously dovetailed. By taking one of the genre’s most technical series and reworking the skillset of each character Plus R became Arc System Work’s penultimate pugilistic entry, endowing the franchise with equality.
After exhibiting its sprite-based spectacles across PS Vita and console screens, the game is now making its way onto PC monitors via Steam. While players shouldn’t expect any kind of retina-searing high-definition remastering, Plus R offers a competent competitive fighter at a cost that won’t uppercut your discretionary budget. Most important, balancing efforts aren’t undermined by the netcode- allowing those with a stable connection to enjoy the game’s competitive bouts.
Delving into the game’s roster of twenty-five odd-balls, players will inevitably find a character that matches their preferred style of play. There’s stalwarts like Axl Low, the time-traveling Brit that’s a dead-ringer for the Guns N’ Roses lead singer. Armed with a kusarigama and fire magic, Axl retains the ability to keep opponents from getting in too close. As another of Guilty Gear’s inaugural members, Sol Badguy uses his Fireseal weapon and an arsenal of streetfighting moves like headbutts and slams to take down any foes who are foolish enough to invade his personal space.
Once barred from tournament play, Justice and Kliff join the fray, which each character significantly tempered in an effort to pursue equity. The former loses the majority of her mobility, with a mitigated walk speed and the loss of triple jumps as well as airdashes, making her feel like a sauntering hitbox. Fortunately, she’s still a threat thanks to her arsenal of Nitro Bomb Blasts and punishing Overdrives than can decimate a careless rival. As Guilty Gear’s resident senior citizen and burdened by an enormous sword, Kliff also lacks mobility- making up for it with the ability to stun opponents and issue devastating strikes. Given the push toward legitimating both fighters, Plus R’s lobby no longer has the option to ban the characters.
Although Axl, Sol, Justice, Kliff, and the rest of the roster allow newcomers to tap out basic maneuvers via the four-button input system, soon Accent Core Plus R will demand advanced play. Like its quartet of predecessors in the XX sub-series, Plus R’s skill moves, Roman Cancels, and Force Breaks require a mastery of multiple quarter-circle based commands, which can be intimidating for recruits. As such, expect to hit a figurative wall in Mission mode until you pull off one the game’s notorious insta-kills. Although there’s a training mode where players can practice moves from the command list, there’s little hands-on help in the game.
Of course, the high level of difficulty and technical sophistication also gives Plus R long-term appeal. Stick with it and you’ll gradually learn not just how to execute each move, but increasingly deadly combos which can demoralize opponents. Persevere longer and mechanics start to meld together as your perception begins to reveal weaknesses in your opponent’s defense. It’s at this point that Guilty Gear’s simulation of fighting starts to gel, as combat becomes a test of feints, nerve, and the willingness to take risks. Once this level is reached, you’ll probably delve back into character mastery, looking at how most fighter can circumvent the ruleset in some unique way. From Jam’s ability to create her own strings of combos to Bridget’s enhanced canceling ability, exceptionalism is one of the last pieces of Accent Core Plus R’s wonderfully intricate puzzle. Certainly, few can fault the game’s collection of combatants, which offer both both a diversity of personalities and playstyles. Mastering each represents a graduate-student course in fighting game
Pleasingly, all the modes from the console release are intact, with Medal of Millionaire, Survival Move, three-on-three battles, to a branching Story campaign with 350 different scenarios. While local play is always an option, many gamers might want to test their skills against an online opponent. Largely, Plus R’s netcode is up to the task with four-bar connectivity providing relatively lag-free matches.
Mirroring the precision of Plus R’s core gameplay, Daisuke Ishiwatari’s searing guitar riffs provide a perfect complement to the on-screen skirmishes. As Guilty Gear’s character designer, Ishiwatari’s musical selections help to define each character- with some of the game’s more outlandish fighters receiving slightly unconventional but consistently melodic songs. Visually, Plus R’s 4:3 output has little trouble maintaining a sixty frame-per-second delivery on a low-end AMD laptop with an integrated GPU. For more advanced hardware, the game’s presents few visual options beyond a customizable resolution, anti-alias toggling, and a handful of different border graphics. While the game’s menus make navigation fairly effortless, the title could make quitting to the desktop a bit easier.
With a price that’s comparable to the console versions, the PC version of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R is an easy recommendation. PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 owners might have been reluctant to purchase another iteration of the game that only offers a nominal improvement over its predecessors. But on PC, the title is the definitive version of XX, offering polish and character balancing that are a fitting send-off for the sub-series. The sole caveat is that Plus R might be a bit too dense for newcomers; those looking for an easygoing fighting experience will want to look elsewhere.
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R was played on the PC with review code provided by the publisher.
Platform: PC, previously released on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and PS Vita
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Arc System Works
Release date: May 26th, 2015
Price: $13.49 via Steam, $14.99 regular price