Before you get into the thick of this review there's some things I want you to understand. First off there will be no significant story spoilers. I've made a promise to ArcSysWorks not to include such details, and honestly I think you'll enjoy the game more if I don't giveaway too much of what goes on therein. Secondly I found both flaws, and impressive features during my extensive, and thorough playthrough of the game. I will disclose both findings in a decent, and respectable manner. There's no pressure from the developer to sway me to do so either, for those of you who are wondering. I simply feel it is important that you know about the game's flaws, and the game's more noteworthy features as it will better help you to decide if this fighter is the one for you. As usual I'll also be detailing the new mechanics as well as all other significant features, and modes of play. Here at the Inferno I believe in being thorough even if that means typing up a short story length review. For ease of access sake though I will be dividing each game oriented subject up by titled section for easy reference, and return reading should you need to go back later to finish reading the entire review, or have the need to return to parts you may want to recheck. I think that about wraps up the intro, so sit back, relax, and prepare for my in-depth review of "Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN"! Heaven or Hell!!! Let's ROCK!!! ...
When it comes to the Guilty Gear series there have been many iterations, or games (if you will) released across a variety of different gaming consoles, and devices. From console, to handhelds, and even mobile gadgets Guilty Gear has definitely raised a few eyebrows amongst the fighting game community. From it's more humble beginnings forward it poured forth badassery through an uncommon anime style character design, and a heavy metal soundtrack that was unlike anything the fighting game community had ever seen. The gameplay was fast, and frantic. It gave the gamer tons to do outside the normal arcade mode setting including modes of play exclusive to the Guilty Gear franchise. While the story wasn't ever really fleshed out in a grand fashion in earlier games characters from the series, whether returning or not always had an underlying common standing in a futuristic world that was wrought by destruction, and change. This "standing" was briefly shared through arcade mode endings, and other story elements that came into light throughout the years. Like the follow-up BlazBlue series the world which the Guilty Gear characters thrived in put them at odds against one another, and against secret governing leaders. There were kings, kingdoms, and even secretive societies with their own intentions driving forth intended actions.
The characters such as the Ryu, and Ken-like Sol Badguy, and Ky Kiske in particular found themselves at odds with one another at one point due to the opposing nature of their visions of right, and wrong. Sol Badguy, which continues to be the series frontrunner is still the rebel type with a withdrawn "devil may care" attitude that deals in the mercenary business though. Ky Kiske, on the other hand is still the high king of a reigning kingdom, and continues to try to make life as peaceful as possible for his citizens, and those who would side with his cause. Of course as the series continued to evolve from platform to platform Sol, Ky, and everyone else in between began to clash with their own sworn enemies, because of their differences. One thing you have to understand is that people's differences in the world of Guilty Gear are not as superficial as they might have seemed early on. Gears, or cellularly modified beings like Sol Badguy were initially ostracized by many due to their disclosed inclusion in a scientific experiment that almost spelled doom for the entire human race. This led to the ultimate changing of the scientific approach, and the introduction to magic, and sorcery as a means of cultural advancement, and overall well being.
Aside from the "Gears" other creatures, and organizations of varying sorts were also at odds with the human race in their own respective Guilty Gear timelines. In the end, amidst all the chaos, and applied enforcement a behind-the-scenes group known as the "Conclave" also did some puppeteering from afar to push their own hidden agenda. This hidden agenda is where the story of "Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN" picks up, and moves the story so much more further than it has ever been. In fact in this recent plot EVERYTHING is explained. Things such as never before revealed character origins, Guilty Gear lore, and even Guilty Gear history are shown off through Arcade mode endings, and a fully fledged anime style story mode that leaves no details behind. The only catch is that not all Guilty Gear characters made the cut, and due to the serious nature of the story it made sense that this was so as only specific characters were fit to make their return debut on this truly new generation sequel.
As I previously mentioned not all Guilty Gear characters made the cut this time around. The ones that did however had changes ranging from subtle superficial visual upgrades to complete costume revamps, and even move set overhauls. Returning to the fray for this latest fight in all their former, and newly found glory are Faust, Millia Rage, Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, May, Chipp Zanuff, Potemkin, Slayer, I-NO, Axl Low, Venom, Ramlethal (BOSS), Bedman, and Sin Kiske. While I could explain each character individually I feel it's best you see, and experience them each for yourself, so I'll move on. In the way of character designs though you'll find that most characters including Faust, Sol, Ky, May, Chipp, Slayer, I-NO, Venom, and Axl stayed pretty much the same with slightly significant visual improvements solely added due to the newly applied 3D anime animation style. Millia, and Potemkin however have had complete visual overhauls in the way of costume design, and each look significantly different from previous forms due to their physical changes.
Functionally all returning characters pretty much stayed the same with only slight alterations to specials (both visual & functional), and required button/DPad inputs for executing said moves. The only really new additions to the series, character-wise happen to be Ramlethal, and Bedman which are both key boss-like roleplayers in the game's elaborate story mode, and arcade mode endings. Since us journalists have gotten our hands on the early copies of the game there has actually been a patch issued making Ramlethal a playable character in the roster alongside the main cast of characters. The good news, for those of you who have fought against her in the demo's arcade mode, and are worrying about the ensuing online onslaught fret not as the playable version of Ramlethal is a hard one to master, and is nowhere near as OP as the boss version of her was. It should also be noted that upon release of the game this Tuesday Elphelt Valentine, the sister of Ramlethal Valentine will be free for those who bought the game, but on a timed limited release basis. There's also been a leak about King Leo making the roster through future DLC, and that Johnny, and Dizzy might make a return as well. The latter news is just hearsay though.
For those of you diehard Guilty Gear fans out there you are not alone in your disappointment that Jam, Angi Mito, Bridget, Baiken, Testament, Johnny, Dizzy, Justice, Kliff, Zappa, Robo-Ky, and A.B.A. amongst a few other Guilty Gear game exclusives did not make the cut. Keep in mind though that the story included this time didn't really leave any proper entry point for them. It had a more serious tone, and only some of the past roster characters really fit in with the vision ArcSysWorks was trying to relay. Hopefully if this game does well we will see our favorites return in either DLC form, or future Guilty Gear sequel rosters.
Modes of Play
Like the roster some modes from previous Guilty Gear installments made the cut while others were excluded, or revamped in some form or fashion. These modes can each be accessed via the available multi-tier menu system that includes a main menu as well as a variety of different sub-menus under each category. The menu setup, for those of you who are familiar with past Guilty Gear games is a lot like past Guilty Gear menu systems. It features main menus scattered across a Guilty Gear themed layout with separately included sub-menus that will take you to each individual mode of play, or area of interest. As far as the main menu listings go you'll find in place 'Battle', 'Network', 'Practice', 'Story', 'Database', and 'Options'. The 'Battle' menu, which is dedicated to solo, and local play options houses three particular modes of interest including 'Arcade', 'Versus', and 'M.O.M.'. When it comes the 'Arcade' playthrough this time you will start off by choosing your character along with a color from six different color palette choices. There are no shadow versions, or EX colors that I'm aware of at this time. Once this is done you will play through eight stages of one-on-one fights that are setup as you wish via the options menu (difficulty, rounds, HUD display ...). Once you make it to the eighth match you will face off against your chosen characters' boss. This could be Ramlethal, or another standard character depending on whom you choose to play as. If you are successful in your playthrough (continuing is an option), and defeat the boss at the end you will be gifted with a short anime style cutscene that briefly, but incompletely ties in with the chosen character's involvement in the main story.
One thing different about the 'Arcade' playthrough in GGXS this time around is that point scoring in it is weighed by the various types of badges that you earn for performing various feats. These badges, which are tallied up at the end of a complete Arcade mode playthrough take in account things like the finisher you used in the final round, whether or not you won each round in the match, and other things related to how you performed. Of course the use of Instant Kills does greatly limit the amount of badges you earn, and the amount of leaderboard points you end up with at the end of it all though.
The 'Versus' mode which is also contained within the 'Battle' menu is exactly as you'd think it would be. It's your standard local versus mode for up to two local players looking to bypass the hassles of playing the game online. It's perfect for friendly fights amongst people you know personally, or for tournament play, and tournament practice should you be into that scene. The last of the 'Battle' menu options, which is also included at no extra cost is something that will be familiar to most every returning Guilty Gear player. It is known as 'M.O.M.', or 'Medal of Millionaire' to those of you who pay close attention to past details. This time around though M.O.M. is an entirely different experience from it's previous versions. It is no longer the hardcore survival mode that has you earning points through larger, and larger medals that are dropped as a result of properly landed combos, and attacks. This time it is an RPG-like strategy hybrid in which you'll be choosing a character, and fighting against enhanced CPU opponents of choice via a honeycomb tiled map while upgrading your character's stats, skills, and equipment through said fights. While the mode still drops medals, and still has health items it's definitely not the same M.O.M. you'll likely remember.
In GGXS's newly revamped 'M.O.M' you, and your character skills will ultimately be put through the ringer as you try to survive four round fights against characters of different difficulty levels. As I have just mentioned earlier the M.O.M. mode takes place via an expanding tile map that expands with each won battle. On this map are hexagon tiles with the residing characters' faces placed upon them. Upon moving the cursor onto the tile of choice, and clicking "X" on the controller you will be taken to a fight/match much like that of 'Arcade' except this time you have a single multi-layered health bar keeping you from losing against an opponent which has four round markers, and various health/armor levels which must each be depleted in order for you to secure a win. In order to deplete the first three round markers of the opponent you must simply withstand the character's onslaught of attacks, and deplete their current HP to nothing with successfully landed attacks. Once it reaches round four though the opponent, or CPU character will glow red in color signaling that they now have a super armor along with a new armor meter which must also be depleted through repeated attacks before you can deal that final death blow. Once the final hit is landed, supposing you're the victor a treasure chest will appear onscreen with random rewards hidden within.
Once the treasure chest appears you'll have a couple of seconds to open it via the required method. One thing to keep in mind when it comes to the treasure chests in M.O.M. is that opening them requires that you attack it accordingly. By this I mean there are different chests ranging from the simple ones that require simple attacks to open to ones that require specific elemental attacks, or applied actions. There's also the element of the master key which can be earned through certain fights as a reward. Using the key via the dust attack (R1) once the treasure chest appears will often times reward you with a rare ability, or skill that can be applied to your current character via the tile map menu system. As you might have guessed the medals that drop in the chest, and otherwise also play a role in 'M.O.M.'. The medals which fall from the CPU opponent after each round's full HP depletion can be collected, and used as in-game currency for upgrading character stats which will in turn allow them to carry better/stronger skills, and abilities. The same goes for the larger medals which often times come as an extra reward from a successfully opened chest. The upgradeable stats for each character which range from 'Physical' to 'Magic', and the likes can be upgraded multiple times throughout your 'M.O.M.' playthrough assuming you have the medals required for purchase. Purchasing, as it were is simply done through yet another in-game sub-menu titled "Briefing". This menu shop of sorts will basically allow you to buy stat upgrades for equipping better skills, and items as well as better skills, and items themselves. In the end it's up to you how you invest in your M.O.M. characters as they can be used in an online/versus player match supposing the host of the lobby allows for such a setting.
When it comes to CPU character tiles in M.O.M. you'll find that enemies, and the tile spaces they occupy are not always equal. Character tiles with stars, for example offer you a chance to upgrade your level (which is displayed as a crown symbol on your character stats bio) if you can land the required amount of hits during the four round CPU opponent encounter. Other tiles such as the ones with a medal symbol will reward you with a better chance for better prizes. The standard tiles, which are common however will still feature opponents of varying strengths like all tile types, and will also carry with them specific skills, and weakness like all character tiles. Yep, that's right! Each opponent you choose to go up against will have a separately listed set of skills, and weaknesses/strengths. Opponent, and player/character skills, for those of you who are wondering range from characters specific special moves not related to your chosen character to health refill items, and even distractions/defenses like a projectile absorbing scarecrow. Skills, in general are assigned to the taunt/respect (R2) button along with respective directional inputs, and can be used in place of a taunt/respect. In total you can equip four different skills at a time. For reference purposes you'll find that the weaknesses, or enemy strengths are listed in a separately available menu window, and include things like resistance, or weakness to certain physical, or elemental attacks. As you level up your own character/s stats via currency spent in the 'Briefing" sub-menu (Press "TRIANGLE") your character will also gain strengths, and weaknesses accordingly. Like the CPU opponents your chosen character/s can even equip equipment that will boost defense, and offense in a variety of different ways. The equipment items range from assignable bracelets to body armor, and other wearable items with additional effects (defense, health, ...) attached. Investing wisely in M.O.M. is definitely the key to making a worthwhile enhanced character. Think of it like the functionality of Nintendo's newly introduced Amiibos.
Moving on ... Network mode in GGXS is unfortunately a mess when it comes down to menu navigation, and functionality. At heart the 'Network' mode, which is housed in the "Network" main menu is a lot like that of the one in 'BlazBlue: Chronphantasma'. At the start you'll find that you have a lobby area that is initially divided, and setup through menus according to region via a simple red colored map of the world. By selecting your region through the provided map you will be taken in deeper to a magnified region sub-map in which you can then choose a lobby area that fits your online needs. Upon my playthrough, and navigation of GGXS's lobby system setup via the map, and the actual lobby room areas I did find that pretty much all country regions had lobby listings. This includes the UK, and Europe for those of you wondering. Each lobby listing shows the current number of occupants as it should as well the type of lobby (beginning, serious).
As far as setting up, and hosting 'Player Match' rooms goes you will find that the tried, and true ArcSysWorks fighting game menu options have made their return. Among these options are a plethora of settings, and room based interactions that will help you manage who is allowed in as well as what is, and is not allowed in regards to the types of matches you are seeking. Unique to this game feature is the fact that rooms are divided into four separate one-on-one playing booths/areas as well as a separate waiting area where you can get in on the action once another player has left, or stepped aside to let someone else have a turn. This helps cut down on the waiting time between player matches. It should also be noted that after you join a booth within the room you can spectate the match as you wait for your turn.
Of course it goes without saying that setting up such a room is not as straightforward as I might have just made it seem. After you've navigated the main region map, and sub-map, and have selected your choice of lobby you will be taken to an interactive area in which your character icon/avatar (which is setup prior to being allowed into the network mode) can be moved, and placed via a menu that pops up when you place your cursor on it, and click the required button. Once you are in this area, and have moved your avatar to a visible space via the menu you will be able to open up a room by the same method. While creating, and hosting rooms is an option there are some management issues that might turn one away from doing so though. With no real option to kick players (that I know of), and only selectable hint-like quotes available via a subject divided quote menu system you'll often times find out of place visitors happening in on your intended lobby experience without hesitation or respect.
Like the latest BlazBlue lobbies, and rooms settings that the host can choose from in GGXS include, but are not limited to ping, or connection stats, experience levels, gameplay types (casual, serious ...), chat restrictions/allowances/requirements, and whether, or not replay sharing is allowed. Speaking of "replay sharing" ArcSysWorks went out of their way this time to make it known that some things in the game aren't intended to be shared. In theses instances a message will pop-up on a blackened screen saying that the PS4 sharing option has been disabled. Contrary to most fighting games that offer up sharing options this game does not allow match sharing/uploads during, or immediately after network matches. This in itself might prove to be a disappointment to some, but just know that 'Versus' matches, and stored replays can be uploaded once out of the 'Network' mode.
Other interaction options available in 'Network' matchmaking include a variety of different quotes that can show your feelings, or emotions about the match you just experienced. Basically congratulating a player on a good game, and apologizing for your lack of skills, or spamming is an option amongst other things. Outside of the 'Network' mode, and menu system setup you can also find the usual profile setup in which you can choose a nameplate, a title, a weekly gaming schedule (when you're available to play), and a space for a custom quote. It's not exactly like that of Chronophantasma in design, but it is very similar in it's own way. The fact that all titles are shown, and immediately available for purchase with the in-game currency you get from playing the various modes is a good thing in itself. Even the accompanying character avatars, and nameplates are available supposing you have enough in-game currency to spend on such items. I was personally able to secure, and use the title "Mr. Awesome" which goes along with my personality, and Twitter namesake.
Aside from "Player Matches" via lobby hosting joining "Ranked Matches", and "Player Matches" outside of the lobby system is also a choice. Should you choose this method you'll find comfort in knowing that the other players connection stats, and info (profiles) are available for your viewing in a separate menu window. This helps you to figure out if the match is perfect according to your standards, or not. One thing I forgot to mention about the lobby based matchmaking is that you can join hosted rooms supposing they are not filled. If the are filled the door icon will be shut, and your access will be denied. I had actually expected hosted rooms to be limited to players meeting host requirements, but after having setup a lobby room of my own it did not seem to be the case. I had pro players, and low connection players joining my casual, and high connection demanding room.
For those of you looking to hone your skills as a Guilty Gear player outside of the 'Network', and 'Arcade' mode settings there are four modes of play within the "Practice" main menu just for you. These sub-menu modes include 'Tutorial', 'Challenge', 'Mission', and 'Training'. Tutorial, which is all about the character mechanics will put you through 50 different trials ranging from basics like movement, attacks, and defenses to more advanced mechanics like specials, instant kills, Roman cancels, psych bursts, blitz shield, clash, and other interesting exclusive features. As Sol Badguy under the testing of Sin Kiske you will be tasked with completing each tutorial trial in order to fully understand all what the game entails. Thankfully, should you find one lesson to be too hard to grasp though you can move on to something else via the 'Tutorial' menu options.
In the 'Challenge' mode, which differs from the 'Tutorial' experience you'll find things are all about learning character specific moves/specials, and combos. Everything from the basics to the advanced are explained for each character, and made so that you can learn by example. Like 'Challenge' mode, the third listed 'Mission' mode also provides the player a learning experience outside of the mechanics of the 'Tutorial'. In it you'll learn everything from basic to advanced tactics (zoning, ground vs aerial attacks, etc., ...) to character specific tactics meant to help you overcome fights against characters you might be having trouble facing. Even Ramlethal is included in the 'Mission' listings. Lastly, for those of you looking for that oldschool 'Training' mode it is included along with all necessary CPU training options. In 'Training' mode you can definitely take your character perfection to a new level without being restricted by "Game Overs', or the need to 'Continue' in order to keep on fighting. It's like any other 'Training' mode from ArcSysWorks, or Aksysgames, and definitely helps those seeking to perfect their Guilty Gear game.
The last available mode in the main menu system happens to be one called "Database". I know that that title could be a bit confusing, but it basically houses all GGXS, and series info along with the usual ArcSysWorks style unlockables. The main menu itself is divided up into four separate sub-menus titled 'Profile', 'Replay', 'Gallery', and finally 'Library'. The 'Profile' sub-menu allows you to setup your Network gaming profile which includes a selected three section title, an avatar, and a nameplate as well as a schedule, and customizable quote. Any serious GGXS player will definitely want to utilize this in-game feature. When it comes to 'Replays' they will save to this sub-menu automatically after you've engaged in a match in either the 'Versus', or 'Network' modes. Replays take in account optional input displays as well as the option to turn on/off HUDs. The game's 'Gallery' mode will be highly familiar to any 'ArcSysWorks, or Aksysgames fighting game player. It features costly unlockables that tie-in the game's characters, and features. Amongst the 'Gallery' offerings are 'Artwork', 'Movies', 'Sound', and 'Character'. The first three offerings are pretty much self-explanatory, and include everything from character illustrations to cutscenes, and even songs from the in-game soundtrack. The 'Character' offering, however is a bit different from usual game offerings of this type. In it lies the highest cost unlockable which will grant you another playable character not readily available in the roster (Secret Characters FTW!!!). Lastly, 'Library' is the all encompassing information source for all things Guilty Gear. It contains all facts about the entire series including detailed character profiles, facts about places of interest, keyword explanations, and any info that ties-in with the Guilty Gear multi-verse. It's honestly even more detailed than Koei Tecmo's Dynasty Warriors character history info.
The Mechanics ...
I'm not going to go over every single mechanic used in this game's 'Tutorial' mode as a lot of them are redundancies (That's for you Ramlethal <3) that any casual, or advanced fighting game player will be accustom to. There's absolutely no sense in rehashing basic movements, basic blocking mechanics, or even going over character specific move sets, there's just not ...
In the way of new match features, and new in-game mechanics ArcSysWorks has added a significant amount of things to the fray that were not there before. In a way this latest Guilty Gear experience is not unlike what was done to BlazBlue recently. First off let us start with the taunts. As you likely noticed earlier on in this review (A thousand, or more words above O_o) I mentioned the fact that there were "Taunts", and "Respects". Interestingly enough you can now taunt your opponent via a (R2) press, or pay your respects forward as you are about to take that one last strike up the arse using (FORWARD + R2). I find this included mechanic to be both humorous, and honorable at the same time. I think it's actually a first for fighting games. Don't quote me on that though.
Next up we have three different types of 'Roman Cancels' divided according to color, effect, and cost. For those of you who don't know what a "Roman Cancel" is it's basically an advanced move cancel that allows you bypass and executed move, or special, and go into a combo or something else entirely. Some Roman Cancels, like the ones in this fighter also carry with them added bonus effects, and requirements for execution. In the case of GGXS's Roman Cancels each one, according to color costs a specific amount of tension gauge, and will benefit the player in a variety of different ways if played right. Roman Cancel (Red), for example will cause the opponent's actions to slow down significantly, but will cost an expensive amount of tension (50%). In order to execute the Red Roman Cancel the player must first have in motion a special, and must, upon impact press (SQUARE + X + TRAINGLE).
The yellow version of the Roman Cancel is executed by the same button presses, but must be performed when an attack doesn't connect, and when the player has 25% of a tension gauge to spare. The Yellow Roman Cancel is good for a feint, or starting up a combo should you so desire. Lastly the Purple Roman Cancel is a saving grace measure. It's for when you've screwed up in your attended attack, and you need to reset immediately. This Roman Cancel is costly at the 50% mark, but does offer the second best opponent slowdown effect. The catch though is that it's slow on start-up.
For those of you wondering if there's a "Just Defense" in the game, yes there is. In GGXS it is not called that though. You will come to know it as an "Instant Block" even though the word "Just" will appear on screen when you've executed it. For those of you who have no clue in hell as to what a "Just Defense" mechanic is it's basically blocking at the moment an opponent's attack hit's your character. Another new mechanic which ties-in with the new R.I.S.C. (guard crush) gauge is something known as a "Faultless Defense". This is basically a low tension using barrier/shield that surrounds your character, and prevents damage as well as R.I.S.C. gauge build-up. In order to execute a "Faultless Defense" you simply have to hold the backwards direction while pressing two attack buttons at the same time (not including the "R1" Dust Attack). For as long as you have Tension gauge to spend you can keep the "Faultless Defense" up. It will definitely help when trying to defend against Ramlethal's OP special attacks.
For those of you looking for defense options beyond that of the 'Instant Block', and 'Faultless Defense' you'll be glad to know that there are other such options available in the form of the 'Blitz Shield', and 'Blitz Shield Return'. In a way the Blitz Shield's execution is not that different from that of the 'Instant Block'. Upon an opposing character landing a an attack on your character you'll have to immediately press (TRIANGLE + CIRCLE). In doing so it will use up a mandatory 25% of your Tension gauge, but will temporarily open the opposing character up for an attack, or combo. The "Return" version of the "Blitz Shield" is basically a form of returning the favor to someone who just used the Blitz Shield on you. After they Blitz in response to your attack, and try to attack you in retaliation you can Blitz them back in response, and follow up with your intended attack or combo. It should also be noted that the Blitz Shield can be performed while standing, crouching (DOWN + TRANGLE + CIRCLE), and in the air. Past the Blitz Shiled mechanic you'll find yet another defensive/offensive mechanic that acts a lot like a parry, but isn't free. This parry-like mechanic is known as a "Dead Angle Attack". It will cost you 50% tension, and will require that you follow up blocking with a (FORWARD) motion plus two attack button presses (not including R1). This will enable a counter that will take the opposing player by surprise.
Another very interesting addition to the Guilty Gear mechanics is something known as a "Clash". Sometimes when players' attacks hit at the same time it will cause a "Clash". This "Clash" can then turn into what is known as "Danger Time", and furthermore into something known as a "Mortal Counter". In "Danger Time" the damage output for players is increased significantly potentially shortening the length of the match supposing an advantageous player can get in enough attacks to finish their opponent. In order to get out of the 'Danger Time' scenario you can dash forward, air-dash forward, or connect an attack to the opposing player's character. If the instigating player is able to land an attack on the opposing player in 'Danger Time' this will cause that opposing character to go into a 'Mortal Counter' state. This means that unless the player air-dashes, dashes, or lands an attack in retaliation their movement speed will be greatly decreased leaving them open to a barrage of more powerful follow-up attacks. It's a good mechanic for ending a match early, but in saying that the 'Clash' mechanic in general is a chance mechanic, and one that is not easily duplicated on purpose.
Next up, in the way of special throws you'll find in place a mechanic known as a "Simultaneous Throw/Attack". This special throw is sort of like a throw cancel as you don't really throw your opponent as you would if you were pressing the proper (FORWARD + CIRCLE). Instead the dual throw/attack will basically attack the opponent in a special way. It can be done up close like a normal throw, or at a slight distance with the required pressing of (FORWARD + X + CIRCLE). In all honesty I don't see players using this mechanic often as the benefits aren't as beneficial as actually throwing unless you are looking to distance yourself a little ways from your opponent.
Those of you worried about your precious "Instant Kills" worry no more. They are back, and without regulation. So long as you have enough tension gauge you can initiate the "Instant Kill Startup", and follow up with an "Instant Kill' in any round. It's not like in BlazBlue where there are binding regulations outside of meter requirement. Anyone is fair game to an 'Instant Kill' attack. In order to execute the infamous "Instant Kill' though one must first press all four face buttons (SQUARE + TRIANGLE + X + CIRCLE) at the same time. This will lead into a character animation state that has what looks like blood, or flower petals surrounding your character. The Tension gauge will also turn a golden color, and will begin to rapidly deplete, and eventually turn red before completely disappearing. In the time that the tension gauge is in the golfen state you must quickly follow up with a (QCF, QCF + CIRCLE) when the opposing player's character is with in range of the intended "Instant Kill". Keep in mind that a lot of the Instant Kills require that you get up close, and personal with your opponent, but that some characters require different in distances/motion inputs as well.
The last of the mentionable mechanics which you might have experienced first hand if you played the PS+ demo is a mechanic known as the "Dust Attack". By pressing (R1) next to an opponent you will launch them into the air, and can follow-up by pressing the (UP) direction on your controller, or the (FORWARD) direction. This will cause your character to pursue the opposing character in a cinematic 3D fashion, and will allow you to do some aerial, or ground based combos depending upon how you chose to follow up after the pressing of (R1).
I think that about wraps it up for the newer mechanics, although I should probably go over the four governing gauges. In GGXS you'll find that you have the standard HP gauge, a Burst gauge, a Tension gauge, and the newly added R.I.S.C. gauge. The HP gauge represents the characters' health, or lack thereof, and is prominently displayed at the top of the screen beside the character's profile picture. Underneath the character's profile picture is also the displayed word "Burst" which doubles as the in-game Burst gauge indicator. One mechanic I forgot to mention earliers is something called a 'Psych Burst'. This mechanic is a way to gain a full tension gauge, or escape, and distance yourself from your opponent when they are hammering away at you with attacks, and combos. The 'Psych Burst', like the previously mentioned 'Roman Cancels' differ by color, effect, and execution requirements. The Golden Psych Burst will afford you a full tension gauge, but can only be performed when you are not being attacked, and have a glowing Burst gauge. The Blue Psych Burst, on the other hand must be done in the midst of an attack, and in executing the player will only be afforded the reward of distancing themselves from their opponent. Like the Golden Psych Burst, the Blue version requires a full/glowing 'Burst Gauge'. Both version require a combined pressing of the appropriate buttons (R1 + One Attack).
Lastly The R.I.S.C. lies underneath the character image as well, and is in the form of a hollowed gear. In GGXS the R.I.S.C. gauge basically acts like a warning, sort of like a guard crush warning. Once it fills up with a hot pink color from continued blocking you will begin to take on additional damage. This can be negated through the use of the 'Faultless Defense' mechanism as well as through a proper balance of offensive, and defensive gameplay.
The Verdict ...
As I mentioned in the intro paragraph I found both flaws, and impressive features during my playthrough of "Guilty Gear Xrd SIGN'. In the way of good things the game looked absolutely stunning. The newly applied graphics really did the series justice (no pun intended). There were no graphical hiccups, and everything gameplay-wise ran smoothly. As far as offered modes, and extras go the game was rich with content. The story mode alone made me want to recommend the game due to it's highly detailed, and emotional delivery. The characters within the plot were oddly enough more lovable than they ever have been in the history of the Guilty Gear series. After having sat through the several hours of story mode content I actually found myself falling in love with nearly every character included. I even fell in love with a supposedly evil character that turned out later to have a kind heart.
In the way of bad things I found the lack of certain favorite characters to be a disappointment. After having viewed the visual story though I can honestly understand why the developer chose not to include some of them. Aside from that letdown the boss fight with Ramlethal had me raging like a demon (Street Fighter Reference xD). I've often times preached at fighting game developers for including boss characters that are OP, and seem like they belong in a SHMUP like "Raiden" instead of a fighting game. There's no reason that I can think of as to why Ramlethal should be so OP. Her ability to spam screen filling, and highly damaging projectiles repeatedly due to a rapidly refilling tension gauge is uncalled for. I'm just glad they toned down the playable version of her otherwise I would have been really pissed.
Another issue I had with GGXS was the lack of a "Survival" mode. That was my favorite Guilty Gear mode ArcSysWorks!!! Please bring it back!!! On the counter though the newly changed "M.O.M." mode was Awesome!!! Brilliant work on devising that mode! Lastly the Practice modes had some rather serious issues that definitely need attention. One bug/glitch in the "Tutorial" caused the game to not recognize the fact that I was inputting the proper motions, and button presses. I had to back out of the mode completely, and re-enter the Tutorial trial in order to finish it. It did seem to be an isolated incident though. When it came to other Practice mode issues I found the 'Mission' trials to be absolutely abusive. You are given less than a second to do what needs to be done after clicking away the trial dialogue. The fact that CPU opponent doesn't pause, or let up at all during your required series of executions really makes things unpleasant. There needs to be a significant delay between the time you click away the dialogue, and the time the CPU executes it's action/s.
Other than those things the game was Awesome!!! I highly recommend that you add it to your collection if you are a fighting game enthusiast. It has new-gen written all over it, and was definitely a game headed in the right direction when it comes to fighting game innovation. You'll definitely not want to miss out if you are a long time "Guilty Gear" fan' The story mode catches you up on everything, and everyone in the game, and moves you forward at the same time with the new plot. As for me I have already pre-ordered the Limited Edition, and will be awaiting it's arrival later this month (December 23rd, 2014). For those of you wanting it sooner than that you'll be glad to know that the digital, and standard retail release will be out this Tuesday for $59.99 on the PS3, and PS4. Also don't for get that this is the first cross-play fighter on the Playstation consoles. That means PS3 players can play against PS4 players, and vice versa! It's definitely an Awesome feature that I'd love to see in more games.