When I was in high school, I had a subscription to PlayStation Magazine (aka PSM). So in between waiting for the yearly swimsuit issues, I would often find a few diamonds in the rough on the PS2 large in part to this magazine.
The biggest one of all was Guilty Gear X2, a 2D fighting game that features some of the wackiest characters and arguably the best fighting game soundtrack ever.
When I saw the 8.5/10 review of the game, I was certainly intrigued by the game. While not a mega-fighting game fan, I dabbled here and there and enjoyed most of my experiences playing them, Super Street Fighter 2 and Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 were the two big ones for me at the time. So when I saw the badass art design of the game in the magazine, I had to see what it was all about. PSM also rarely gave out scores that high to games that weren’t AAA mega-titles so something was up.
And oh wow was something up!
I knew right away that this was going to be a memorable game. I popped in the disc and that first five seconds of acoustic guitar in the intro song “Feedback” set me up for what would be an epic heavy metal journey into this fighting game. Followed by the “D.O.A.” menu music, it only confirmed that this was going to be an awesome experience. So I loaded up the versus mode and fawned over the diverse cast of characters. A white-haired guy fighting with a pool cue? A big-breasted witch with a guitar? A TINY PIRATE GIRL WITH AN ANCHOR?! And May it was for my first battle.
This game was so different from any fighting game I had played up until that point. The anime-like art style just stuck with me almost immediately and the animations were just so fluent. Given the absurdity that was going on during any fight, it had no business being that fluent, you would anticipate some lag or slowdown during such a crazy set of animations littering the screen, but no she ran like a dream the whole time.
The cast of characters were so visually unique, as well as their weapons and fighting styles. The only two characters that feel similar are Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske, who pretty much serve as the Ryu/Ken equivalents of the series. You have your slow power hitters, you have your quick combo fighters, you have your ranged bullshit characters and then you have Faust and Zappa if you want to play such a confusing character that even you don’t know what’s going on and you’re the one controlling it!
Of course, like I mentioned earlier, the game shines with its heavy metal soundtrack, doing away with the usual fighting game fodder and going in a much more badass direction. No more salsa music, electronica, none of that stereotypical garbage with characters in attempt to match it up to them, all the music was just built to be badass and even then a lot of the heavy metal music written for the game matches the characters they’re attached to, songs like “Simple Life” for Bridget, “Blue Water, Blue Sky” for May and “Holy Orders (Be Just or Be Dead)” for Ky Kiske, they all fit them superbly. It’s so good they actually put out a couple albums of either live performances or re-recordings from A.S.H., the name of the group that plays this music.
The one weak point of the game, which isn’t that much of a weak point is its Story Mode, which is part visual novel and only in Japanese voicing, which is disappointing given how good Guilty Gear Xrd’s version was in English and it had zero fighting in it! But regardless, the multiple branching paths and endings made each character’s separate story interesting enough to replay and try to get every ending, though some of the clearing conditions were a little ridiculous.
Guilty Gear X2 is definitely still to this day my favourite fighting game of all-time. The closest anyone’s come is Persona 4 Arena, which coincidentally is an Arc System Works game, the same company who does the Guilty Gear games. But if you’re looking for an absurd heavy metal fighting game with an anime art style and fantastic animations and mechanics, Guilty Gear is definitely right up your alley and this PS2 addition to the franchise is their best effort in the entire series.