Guilty Gear is an awesome series of fighting games that I am a huge fan of. They’re great, frenetic fighting games that reward you for paying attention and sometimes operating outside of the box. I love playing them. I love their mechanics, I love the character designs, I love the music, love it all. Even if the series’ plot is a jumbled up disaster that I cannot figure out, even after watching the four hour movie that’s included in Strive, I still love it.
There have been a few spin-offs of and mechanical off-shoots to the Guilty Gear series. One game in particular is Guilty Gear Isuka. Isuka attempted to take the one-on-one fighting game formula and turn it into a combination four-player fighter/side-scrolling brawler. The result was an absolute nightmare to play, and your time would be better spent immediately turning the game off and going back to Accent Core+R. But hey, at least it gave us A.B.A.
Arc System Works would try to make another Guilty Gear brawler, resulting in Guilty Gear Judgement on the PSP. Unlike Isuka, which was an exercise in futility to play, Judgement is really good. I don’t even mean that in a backhanded way; this is legitimately a really fun PSP game.
The thing about Judgement is that the developers didn’t attempt to jury-rig the preexisting mechanics of Guilty Gear into a different genre this time. Rather, they reconfigured how GG’s intricacies work in a different context. Gatlings (GG’s fancy word for basic combos) now work similar to the classic “punch-punch-big punch” combos in something like Final Fight. Special move inputs have been simplified to a degree; charge motions and half-circles have been replaced with quarter-circles and dragon punch motions, also getting rid of Isuka’s Turn Around button and letting you change direction with the D-Pad like a normal person. Roman Canceling is in this game, letting you chain special moves into other special moves and even Overdrives, assuming you have the meter for it (and there is rarely an occasion where you don’t), and all you have to do is input the command for a special move while doing another special. You spend less time fighting with the controls and more time fighting the hordes of enemies.
If you were wondering if Judgement would help to explain any of Guilty Gear’s meandering story, don’t worry: it doesn’t. A guy named Raymond is doing human experiments on an island that all of the Guilty Gear coincidentally land on at the same time, and brawler hijinks ensue. Dialogue tends to be your character saying something like “there are enemies over there and I am going to fight them!” Sometimes, you might run into a different character, and the two of you talk as if they were a guest character on The Simpsons. “Wow! It’s Venom from Guilty Gear X2 #Reload! What are you doing here?” That sort of thing. Which I’m glad for; we don’t play GG for its plot, we play it because it kicks ass and has sick music. Don’t need lots of bull shit text getting in the way of me doing Stun Dippers and EXE Beasts on giant bugmen.
Fighting game spin-offs tend to be absolute dogshit more often than not, so it’s cool that Judgement is as good as it is. If anything, I would say that this is the most worthy successor to Guardian Heroes. A lot of games have tried to replicate it (Code of Princess, Streets of Rage 4, even GH’s terrible Game Boy Advance sequel), but Judgement nails it moreso than any other game. The only thing it’s missing is having co-op be more than two players. Like, I was legitimately shocked at how good this game was. A true “Hidden Gem” if there ever was one. My only real complaints here would be that the music is inconsistent. There’s a couple of good tracks, some generic guitar riffs, and really abrasive garbage. This is the one Guilty Gear not composed by series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari, and it shows. I’ll chalk this down to time, as the composer for this game, Kennosuke Suemura, has done other soundtracks. He’s done the SNES port of Fatal Fury 2, Rumble Roses XX, the Playstation horror game …Iru! and Battle Fantasia. He also did Samurai Shodown V…which means that he also…made…this. The worst song I’ve ever heard in a fighting game. Okay, I take back any compliments, fuck this guy, he’s history’s greatest monster.
My other complaint is that game can be overly tough at points. PROTIP: Luckily, there’s a code you can do that gives you infinite lives. Pause the game, then press Select to make the pause menu disappear, then press Up, Up, Down, Left and Start to give yourself one extra life. You can repeat that up to 999 times.
Other than those two things, Judgement is well done, doesn’t go on for too long, and has all of your favorites from GG X2. Unless your favorites include Killf Undersn, Robo-Ky, or Justice, in which case it doesn’t. Once you get tired of beating up insects, there is a survival mode that kicked my ass the one time I tried it. And hey, it also includes GG X2 #Reload, so there is a mainline fighting game you can play as well. I will complain about this though, as Japan got X2 Slash, an upgraded revision, and we didn’t. Also, the screen is really zoomed in. Extremely zoomed in to the point of pixellation, which hurts the visuals a lot.
But hey, it’s still Guilty Gear, and the zoom is its only issue, though in this day and age, you probably won’t even be messing with this particular port, and sticking with AC+R on PC. Might still be worth checking out at least once, as you can unlock slight variations (in terms of move list) of each characters (except for the ones I mentioned above) once you finish the second level in Judgement with them.
Anyways, Guilty Gear kicks ass, and this is a damn good game for the PSP.