Over twenty years have gone by since the original Guilty Gear landed on the PlayStation, and now fans of this global 2D fighting franchise await the launch of Guilty Gear -Strive-. Last year, a 20th-anniversary collection was released to commemorate the legacy and continued success of the series. It understandably included Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R, which was the final and most complete update of Guilty Gear XX: The Midnight Carnival, and to this day remains among the very best the 2D fighting genre has to offer. The collection also had a port of the original PlayStation Guilty Gear, which at this point, is a historical curiosity at best.
Guilty Gear XX may have been the most popular entry, and the original PlayStation debut was where it all started. Still, it was Guilty Gear X: By Your Side, that really put the series and its developer, Arc System Works, on the proverbial map.
Not porting or remastering Guilty Gear X for the 20th anniversary was a glaring oversight, as even in the presence of more significant and more complicated sequels, this was indeed the game that laid the permanent groundwork for subsequent entries. Guilty Gear X established the detailed sprites, the hard-hitting soundtrack, and the richly complicated lore, all of it. It was also among the premier 2D fighting releases on Dreamcast in Japan. However, it wasn’t until PlayStation 2 that gamers all over were able to get their hands on it and experience a game that uniquely defined Arc System Works as a fighting game developer.
One thing fighting fans can appreciate is how less is more, and the timeless appeal of games like the original Street Fighter II (not the Supers and Turbos, which came after) prove the importance of a fine-tuned and balanced fighting roster to complement the thoughtful game design. While subsequent games added more fighters, mechanics, and gauges, Guilty Gear X had a focused and deliberate design about it. While most of the characters, songs, and visuals became an iconic staple of the franchise, by the time Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R was released, the fighting roster had hit saturation.
To appreciate just how overcrowded the character roster had become, later on, the “final” boss of Guilty Gear X was Testament (an homage to the band of the same name) who has now become an afterthought to the broader fanbase. He was then followed by the “true” final boss in Dizzy. Both would be replaced by popular series mainstay I-No in Guilty Gear XX.
Guilty Gear X is still highly playable and enjoyable. Even now, it certainly has the same level of balance and polish, which fans recently got to experience in Guilty Gear Xrd. The soundtrack contains unique mixes of the iconic tunes which have not been prominently featured anywhere else. For example, the X version of Blue Water Blue Sky doesn’t use as much synth as the XX version; in fact, some might even prefer the more raw mix. Even now, the game is deserving of an HD port treatment with online multiplayer, as it could easily prove to be a more systematic alternative to all the clutter of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R.
Guilty Gear X remains a seminal and oft-forgotten foundation of everything we know and love about Arc System Works, whether it is Guilty Gear, BlazBlue, or any of their rock-infused anime fighting efforts.
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