Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Aksys Games
Platform: PS4 and PS3
Release Date: June 7, 2016
ESRB: T for Teen
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game
For almost an entire console generation the classic 2D fighting game series, Guilty Gear, was nowhere to be seen. Basically, after a merge between Sega and Sammy Corporation, the developer Arc System Works lost the rights to Guilty Gear entirely. To fill in the generational gap, Arc System Works even went so far as to create a spiritual successor to the series called Blazblue, which saw many iterations and spin-offs.
Then, out of basically nowhere, Arc System Works managed to reclaim the rights to Guilty Gear and revitalized the series in a spectacular fashion with Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- in 2014. With a master craft approach to gorgeous 3D cel-shading, and many familiar gameplay systems, it was basically the perfect storm of feeling fresh and familiar at the same time. Of course, even with a rocking debut, the reinvigorated series continues with fighting game tradition and finds itself with an enhanced release by the name of Guilty Gear Xrd- Revelator-.
As impressive as Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- was at reviving the series, and even as a fighter, it was also noticeably bare bones in most ways. Xrd basically debuted with only fifteen characters, used a rather standard fare approach to most modes, and had a mess of an online interface. Though I enjoyed my time with the original release, it was almost in spite of itself in some regards.
The first significant improvement is boosting the -SIGN-'s default character roster of 15 to a current total of 22 in Revelator. Like -SIGN- before it, the entirely new playable characters are all welcome additions. New character Raven is one such example, who is an incredibly agile fighter that gets a masochistic burst of strength with the less health he has. Then there is the martial-artist Kum Haehyun where, as bizarre as a mechanical old man controlled by a young girl is, she has a more straightforward fighting style that relies on more traditional fighting game "link" inputs rather than "gatlings" like the rest of the cast. Most unique of all, however, and without a doubt my current favorite to play, is the tricky Jack-O. Jack-O“s core concept is built around Real Time Strategy gameplay mechanics in which she puts down miniature fortresses, which get stronger and also spawn mnay minions over time to overwhelm foes.
The other added characters are certainly very enjoyable as well but not quite entirely new for different reasons. For instance, former DLC only members in -SIGN- (like the literal walking Guns N' Roses reference that was Elphelt Valentine to the overly-confident 2nd king Leo Whitefang) are still entertaining and no longer have the overpriced DLC stigma attached to them. However, the cooler additions are the returning, and formally 2D, fan-favorites Guilty Gear characters like the sky-pirate Johnny and Ki master/ greedy waitress Jam. The two not only look fantastic in Revelator's captivating aesthetic, but even retain their signature mechanics from their 2D days like Johnny's technical "glitter is gold" system (yes, a Led Zeplin reference) to Jam's charge based Ki-style.
Shockingly enough, Revelator is also a direct narrative sequel to -SIGN-. Now, I won't dance around how I found -SIGN-'s storytelling to be a rather dull tease of things to come. And frankly, I would've said the exact same for Revelator, which "ended" on an even more insulting cliffhanger... until the day 1 patch. Yes, it is hard to believe, but they literally added the 2nd half of the storytelling via a free day one patch, and it's far and away the best half. It is jarring how much better the 2nd part of the storytelling is in comparison (even the production values) actually, as it is thoroughly entertaining, bombastic, and surprisingly fulfilling throughout. Frankly, if the first half of the story mode was as consistent as the second half of Revelator's narrative, it could've easily become my go-to example for a fighting game story mode done right.
Other than that, Revelator feels like an appreciated checklist of refinements and, weird fishing minigame aside, without so much as any real new modes. Character re-balancing is there as one would expect as well as a few mechanical and presentation tweaks. Such mechanical changes include being able to break from throws, the new Blitz attack, an added homing dash to dust moves, and the ability to power up special moves at the cost of a Burst. Better yet, If none of that previous sentence made any sense to you, well, don't worry, as the tutorials are quite helpful in Revelator and may very well be the most entertaining in a fighting game outright.
First off, the standard tutorial is, dare I say it, actually kind of fun. The tutorial for Revelator is basically an obstacle course created by none other than Jack-O. To intentionally spice things up from normally regimented instructions in most fighters, Jack-O has the player do things like pop balloons to practice movement and also navigate around the terrain, as well as her minions, while hopefully teaching the player many fundamentals like attack links and blocking. There are even many helpful FAQs at the pause menu to also clarify many basics. Granted, while Guilty Gear Xrd-Revelator- is still a rather technical and hyper aggressive fighter at the end of the day, it's still great to see that it is willing to teach its' basic concepts in a fun fashion without being too daunting.
Last, but certainly not least, for players who intend to play the title more actively (myself), will be happy to hear of the vast improvements added to the online multiplayer. Xrd arguably had some of the most poorly presented menus for online multiplayer, where basically setting up matches or picking your character was more cumbersome than not. Revelator, however, basically steals Persona 4 Arena Ultimax's arcade-like lobby system and feels far more inviting because of it. Players can seamlessly use any of the game's modes while being in the many regional lobbies to. And, just like in -SIGN-, the netcode is excellent and seems to be even better with Revelator.
Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence that Guilty Gear Xrd- REVELATOR- has going against is that it feels like what Guilty Gear Gear Xrd Sign- should have been right out of the gate.
On one hand, Revelator truly makes a lot of smart improvements and is still a great fighter. The new characters are a blast to play, the online multiplayer and accessibility options are fantastic, various mechanical changes are appreciated, and even the story mode (...2nd half) ends up being actually worthwhile. On the other hand, it is a harder sell at the full retail price because of the strong sense of familiarity without any real added modes and most other enhanced aspects being harder to appreciate through less trained fighting game fans eyes outside of the fun tutorial.
At the end of the day, Guilty Gear Xrd -Revelator- makes much headway for both serious and completely new players, but those straddling the line will may find it to be too little and too soon.
+ New characters are a lot of fun to play, Jack-0 in particular being incredibly unique
+ Great, and surprisingly approachable; tutorials with many useful tips
+ Excellent online netcode and lobby interface
+ Story mode becomes surprisingly entertaining
- Very little that is new in terms of modes
-First half of the story mode is a real slog
- Does not quite shake off the feeling of it basically being what Guilty Gear Xrd-SIGN- should have been
Overall Score: 8 (out of 10)
Guilty Gear Xrd: Revelator much improves the nitty gritty details of its predecessor, from quite welcome additions to the playable cast, great online multiplayer and tutorials, and even storytelling. But, for those who were not already looking forward to its release, it will be harder to appreciate its existence with a less apparent sum total of enhancements that likely should have been part of its first debut
Disclosure: This game was reviewed using downloadable PS4 code provided by the publisher.