With many fighting games, there’s always that suspicion that the next release will merely be a balance update. After all, no series are more guilty of this trend than the likes of Street Fighter or The King of Fighters back in the 90s. It’s certainly refreshing when companies insist that there won’t be annual revisions launched for full price, but there are occasions where the new title clearly usurps the old one, and Guilty Gear XRD Revelator is one such case.
If there’s going to be a common criticism, it’s that Guilty Gear XRD Revelator looks and plays a lot like Guilty Gear XRD Sign, the previous instalment. Essentially what we have here is a tried and tested feature set, but there are small things, such as Burst variations of super moves for when normal variations might not seal the deal. Defensive options are also plentiful, with some things adjusted to make the game more playable.
Where things really get good are with the teaching material. The tutorials included here are supremely extensive, covering movement, combos, special moves, strategies for countering matchups, and everything in between – there’s even an FAQ in the pause menu for terminology. These tutorials are not only useful for learning Guilty Gear XRD Revelator, but are also transferable skills to take into other fighting games such as Street Fighter V.
For some players, even button combinations are too much. Much like Arc Systemwork’s other main fighting game franchises like BlazBlue, the new Stylish mode allows newer players to focus on spacing rather than move combinations. Since spacing is a key part of playing fighting games, the Stylish mode provides an elegant method of empowering them while at the same time allowing for the temptation to learn the game as it’s intended later down the line.
Much like Guilty Gear XRD Sign, Revelator includes a multi-chapter story mode that is an in-engine OVA (Original Video Animation). Generally, it’s of fantastic quality, but unlike Sign, Revelator has no option for an English dub. This may sound like I’m nit-picking, crying out that there’s a lack of an English dub when a perfectly serviceable Japanese one is there; however Guilty Gear XRD Sign had a decent English dub, so the absence of one here feels like needless corner cutting.
Speaking of corner cutting, there is one acceptable bit of this in the game. Reused assets from Guilty Gear XRD, such as the various animations, are liberally splashed around with reckless abandon. As one of the strongest features of the previous game though, I’m more than willing to forgive this, as it is leagues above many 2D fighting games’ visual direction and still looks as fresh as it did upon Sign’s announcement.
Of course, a new instalment of a fighting game usually comes with a few new characters. Here we see the return of Johnny, the Stetson wearing pirate, as well as Jam, the Chinese chef that fights with Ki. Yet only three of the six new characters are available from the get go, with one character locked behind in-game currency (or a nominal real currency fee), one behind a full-on paywall, and one that isn’t even available yet. It’s a bit of a bum deal.
That said, they’re all wonderfully animated, in keeping with Sign’s excellent high-resolution models that give the illusion of 2D when the game is actually being rendered in 3D. If anything, Revelator does more to make this marvel more apparent, as each fight starts with a camera swoop showing off more of the 3D model. The visuals are leagues above other anime inspired fighters in its design and its hugely diverse roster is outstanding. Coupled with a rocking soundtrack, it’s certainly got appeal.
As for the modes on offer besides the extensive tutorials, Episode mode acts like an 8-fight arcade mode, and there’s the usual versus options and the series’ M.O.M. mode – a survival mode with additional perks and abilities to buy and equip. Currency is accumulated at a steady pace, allowing you to buy various skins, music, artwork, system voices, and movies for in-game currency. While nowhere near the standard that Netherrealm Studios set with their games, there’s enough here to warrant some time investment.
I mentioned earlier that annual revisions tend not to be consumer friendly. While this is definitely the case with Revelator, there are advantages to making the upgrade, namely with the online net code. Sign had problems with its reporting of frame delays and significant issues with matchmaking, and while Revelator is by no means perfect – ranked matchmaking is still not up to snuff – it does feel more stable. With various lobbies to create/join, it’s certainly one of the better online experiences.
Guilty Gear XRD Revelator feels more like an expansion than a legitimate sequel, but this isn’t a bad thing, as the fighting is still highly engaging and the numerous teaching materials allow newer players to get up to speed nicely. No English dub after Sign’s decent dub is a bit of a black mark, but if you’re not bothered by fighters in an anime style, Guilty Gear XRD Revelator is the best of the bunch.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4