Guilty Gear Isuka
After the explosion of Street Fighter II mania, there was a glut of "me too" 2D fighters, though most were shameless clones of SF2 or ripoffs of the King of Fighters series. Arc Systems Works instead set out to make Guilty Gear stand apart from their fighting game rivals, especially in the high resolution GGX. Besides adding new characters, GGX2 refined the gameplay and style of the series to what seemed like perfection to me, placing it at the top of my personal heap of 2D fighters. Arc Systems wasn't satisfied with greatness, however, and so GGX2 #Reload was born, focused on tweaking and refining GGX2 until their fingers bled, like a rock n' roll musicians after their second encore.
The sound of a hard guitar riff announces Guilty Gear Isuka, a dream match or side story of the series. Up to four fighters, whether human or CPU-based opponents, can take to the field in arcade and versus modes, switching between the background and foreground to line up their attacks on their chosen foes. The characters are tweaked versions of their #Reload selves to fit this new environment, now armed with back attacks to smack an enemy sneaking up on them and line attacks to knock their opponent into the background.
The Guilty Gear series is tired of turning you around to face your opponent for you. Now that attacks can come from both sides at once, you're going to have to do it yourself, with the aid of the new turn button. It's easier to adjust to than it sounds, though in the heat of a three or four way battle, it's sometimes difficult to know which direction you're facing, even with the arrow indicator at the top of the screen. This might be easier to accept if there were some way to slow down the rapid fire pace of this melee, but that's an option that's been denied you, and some of your attacks will only strike air until you learn to adjust.
Speaking of wasted attacks, the boss of GGI is Leopaldon, who is best described as a monster that is as big as he is cheap... and he's plenty big. I've never gotten any enjoyment our of these nearly impossible bosses that almost every 2D fighter sticks in to remove any possibility of a fair fight. That's never been more true than facing this big, ugly mutt, who can only be damaged in the head, and launches a flurry of attacks designed to make you snap your controller in half. I can make this bow-wow bow down after far too many tries, but it's not something I have any pride in.
One of the biggest disappointments with GGI in the arcade was the lack of new playable characters. The bloody bandaged and giant key carrying girl A.B.A. was added to satisfy that craving, and she just might be my favorite character in the game. Not only is she visually fun to watch, as she giggles to herself after defeating an opponent while the eyes of the key look down at her in vague annoyance, but she's also a unique, difficult to master, yet rewarding character to play, with two fighting styles that make her feel like two characters in one.
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