Member Guilty Gear 2: Overture?

Member the games you used to play? We member. The basement at the Hardcore Gamer office has a section known as the Crust Room, with an old grey couch and a big old CRT TV. All the classic systems are down there collecting dust, so in an effort to improve the cleanliness of our work space, we dust off these old consoles every so often and put an old game through its paces, just to make sure everything stays in working order. We even have a beige computer with a floppy disk drive.

Guilty Gear might not be the most famous of the fighting franchises, but it’s one that I’ve possessed a fondness for. I like heavy metal and fighting games, so the blend of the two is a natural fit. But with so many games and such a finite amount of hours in the day, there are many games that were of interest that just didn’t get played back in the day. Usually this feature allows me to revisit a game from my past, but sometimes it’s an excuse to try out something I missed when it was new. Having played most of the Guilty Gear games I somehow missed out on Guilty Gear 2: Overture. Maybe it’s because it didn’t get the best review scores, but it’s a Guilty Gear game, how bad can it be? Arc Systems Works has a solid track record with fighting games.

Before delving too far into Guilty Gear 2, let’s provide some background. Guilty Gear is a series of fighting games that proudly flaunts its heavy metal influence. Magic has replaced most modern technology which led to the creation of living weapons called Gears. The Gears ended up going to war against humanity which led to the terrible war called the Crusades, leaving the world in a post-apocalyptic state. Many of the characters are references to metal and rock bands, either the band name itself or a play on a member’s name. Many of their character designs reflect this influence. Most of the story focuses on bounty hunter, Sol Badguy.

Guilty Gear 2: Overture takes place in the year 2185, five years after the original Guilty Gear. Sol Badguy is roaming the countryside with a warrior named Sin. During their travels the two come across a wanted poster for Sol, demanding he be brought to Illyria dead or alive. Sol figures out that is is a distress signal from Ky Kiske calling out to Sol for help. Ky has become king of Illyria who is having problems at the moment. The first of which is the Gears that have been sealed away are beginning to vanish, but the more pressing matter is that his kingdom is under attack.

Getting into the game the first thing to do is to check out the tutorial. This is a masochistic undertaking. Not because the tutorial is exceptionally difficult, but because it’s annoying. Sin instructs Sol to complete a number of simple tasks which is a great introduction to the controls for someone who has never played a video game before, but it’s mostly their bickering back and forth before the ten second segment of gameplay begins. It could be amusing if the pacing wasn’t at a glacial pace. But the first thing that seemed different about this is everything was happening in a 3D plane with polygon models instead of the 2D animation Guilty Gear is known for.

So getting into the campaign there’s dialogue between Sol and Sin before we get to the first fight. Finally expecting there to be a duel, it’s instead it’s against a swarm of robot capture units and wait just a darn minute this isn’t a fighting game at all! This is taking a 2D fighter into a 3D action game. Suddenly the unusually low review scores and the fact I hadn’t really pursued this game prior to now is starting to make sense. Wanting a fighting game and playing this is nothing but a disappointment, but trying to keep an open mind, I decided to keep playing to see if maybe it’s a decent game and just got panned because it took such a left turn from what people expect from Guilty Gear.

And after playing through a few more campaign missions, it can be confidently said that no, this is not a good game. It’s not because it took the series in a radically different direction. In theory taking an existing game universe and turning into something completely different can work well. Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars successfully turned a platformer into a turn-based RPG, and Dragon Quest Heroes successfully turned a turn-based RPG into Dynasty Warriors. As much I’d like to give them credit for trying something new here, this doesn’t work and should only be played by the the most die hard Guilty Gear fans for story purposes.

On paper the gameplay for Guilty Gear 2: Overture has potential. It’s an action game where the player controls Sol Badguy who is accompanied by Sin. Each level is a battlefield with a time limit, and the objectives typically involve managing robotic troops called Servants that are summoned from the player’s Masterghost. Beat the enemy’s Masterghost and the level is won, lose your Masterghost and the level is failed. The execution of everything unfortunately falls flat on its face faster than Sol trying to take a corner at top running speed. The earlier levels are broken into sequences of dialogue with Sin and other characters that allow twenty second breaks for some gameplay. Later levels don’t have this problem, but being able to devote a greater amount of time to gameplay only reveals how dull it really is. Sol runs around the battlefield, fighting the mostly robotic enemies while trying to capture the enemy’s Ghosts to deplete their Servant supply to make capturing their Masterghost easier. With more refinement this could have been a worthwhile spinoff, but the result is a painfully-mediocre title that will spend the rest of time near the bottom of the Guilty Gear rankings.

Guilty Gear 2: Overture is an interesting idea that doesn’t come together in an enjoyable way. The story had potential to be add interesting elements to the Guilty Gear lore, but the lackluster gameplay will drive away all but the most hardcore Guilty Gear fans from seeing it through. This is an example of when branching into a new direction didn’t work, but thankfully there were several great Guilty Gear fighting games released afterwards. For those that are curious about experiencing this title, it’s available on Xbox 360 and PC. The copy played for this article was acquired for about two bucks during a Steam sale when all the Guilty Gear titles were pretty cheap, which is the route that would be recommended if someone was curious enough about this where they had to try it out.

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