Arc System Works (Aksys) is in the business of making anime-style fighting games that favor high-speed, beautifully drawn sprites duking it out in a variety of crazy environments. Though known most recently for its BlazBlue series and Persona 4 Arena, Aksys’ first fighting game franchise was Guilty Gear, a similarly batshit insane fighter that favored both style and substance and pioneered many mechanics that are commonplace in today’s more complicated fighting games.
That’s why the announcement of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- is so exciting. One look at the launch trailer reveals two things: first, that this is a “sprite based” (scare quotes intentional) fighting game that also uses the Unreal Engine, most notable for its ability to generate 3D visuals. Second, that the game has full rotation camera capabilities during key moments in a fight, as well as cinematic switches to aerial combat that have never been seen in a fighting game before.
What does this all mean? It points to Xrd being a 2D fighter, utilizing 3D graphics that mimic (or are textured with) sprite-based visuals to combine two different styles of animation and design into one unique aesthetic. That in itself is exciting because of what it means for fighting games as a whole. In this marketplace, even if your fighter has solid mechanics and an engrossing, well-executed combat system, it’s the flashy visuals and tricks that get new players interested in your game. You still need the former in the long run, but to make those hard impulse sales, you need the latter. Xrd seems poised to deliver on this sentiment in a unique way.
Oh, and the title? Not so weird, when you consider that the series contains a game called Guilty Gear X2 #Reloaded: The Midnight Carnival. Compared to that, Xrd -SIGN- is downright sensible.