The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is much more informative.
To get the cheap joke out of the way at the outset, one can only assume that they went with Xrd as the logical option in their naming convention for the series would invoke memories of BMX XXX. There’s a game I’d almost forgotten about.
Guilty Gear Xrd is the first entry in the series to dive into 3D one-on-one fighting. Gameplay remains in two dimensions, and through a variety of clever techniques Arc System Works have created a visual style than can be described as nothing less than gobsmackingly gorgeous.The level of detail that has gone into the animations is meticulous and whilst the action strictly stays in one plane that does not stop the camera from flying about at key moments, all done in such a way that there is zero detriment to gameplay.
The rock music that comprises the soundtrack does a good job of getting the adrenaline pumping and in the fighting spirit, although if you’re not a fan of the genre this could be annoying. All the pre and post match dialogue is voiced with different lines depending on who you’re hitting in the face.
The fighting is fast and geared towards sensible aggressive play and while still deceptively technical, Arc System Works have stripped back some systems from previous Guilty Gear titles and made the game much more accessible. Despite this, there are still numerous universal systems in place. Faultless defense, instant blocking, overdrives, blitz shielding, dust attacks, instant kills, and three types of roman cancels – to name but a few, and that’s ignoring the wealth of movement options available. The learning curve for a newcomer is steep, but very rewarding to overcome.
Helpfully the game has a variety of training modes to ease you into the game, suitable even for someone completely new to the genre. First point of call is the tutorial mode which introduces the basics of fighting games all the way through to systems unique to Guilty Gear. There is then a separate mode for more in depth tactics, including more complex systems like the jump install, and this mode also features advice on how to deal with some of the tactics for each character. A standard training mode, which allows you to set up scenarios just as you want them, is included and a challenge mode for each character rounds things off, starting from how to do each special move, basic bread and butter combos, and finishing with combos that if anyone landed one on me in a match I would probably just cry. Spending time experimenting in the lab and then using the new knowledge in a match is a great feeling. Whilst there are combos that require very specific timing, Guilty Gear Xrd limits this to the much harder end of the spectrum, and many spectacular looking, and lengthy, combos can be mastered with a little practice.
With 17 characters in total (which includes 2 DLC characters) the roster is less populated than previous titles, however this means that each character feels especially unique. A pool playing assassin, an immortal haiku spouting vampire, and a dolphin summoning pirate all fit in with the less outlandish characters. The five new characters to the series join the game’s roster with ease, including Elphelt as one of the most crazy, having no less than 3 guns, fruit grenades, and an overdrive that involves a wedding cake. However, that’s ignoring Bedman, literally a sleeping man strapped to a fighting, spiked, hospital bed. However with the characters being so different, and the game being an over-the-top fighter, it can be a little hard to get your head round some characters’ abilities until you’re more familiar with what they can do.
For the single player there is an arcade mode, versus the computer mode, the aforementioned training modes, and M.O.M. – a bizarre cross between survival mode, a fighting game, and a light RPG. Special mention has to go to the 5 plus hour story mode where gameplay consists of sitting and watching, and pressing a button to advance to the next line of dialogue, with the occasional “would you like to save?” message. If this is too tricky you can set it to auto mode and remove 99% of the button pressing – you’ll still have to save. This is a continuation of the story started in arcade mode however if you are into the lore of Guilty Gear it is worth persevering with as it is this mode that unlocks entries in the encyclopedia, which contains pretty much everything there is worth knowing about the series.
Outside of local multiplayer Guilty Gear Xrd has a unique take on the online side of things, where players join a lobby of up to 64 people, with players then creating a room holding up to 8 people. Within each room are 4 arcade machines, meaning that 4 fights can be happening at the same time which can cut down on a lot of waiting around, and everyone can chat to everyone else in the room regardless of which machine they’re at. Each machine also has 6 spectator slots meaning a regular winner stays on can be set up with everyone watching. Private matches are a little harder to arrange, involving hidden rooms that need to be searched for and passwords to be shared. A direct invite system would have been nice (like almost every other online game ever) but this may be a limitation of the game featuring cross platform play between PS3 and PS4 players. My experience of online play has been good, with very few laggy matches. A nice touch is that while fighting you can see the current delay in frames shown at the top of the screen, although this alters my game plan and execution timing by precisely nothing.
Guilty Gear Xrd is an easy game to recommend to any fighting game enthusiast and a brilliant entry point to the series, and those with a passing interest in the genre will learn a lot from the excellent tutorials.