The latest chapter in the ever-expanding Guilty Gear fighting series, Guilty Gear Judgment is a stark reminder that the PSP needs more 2D games. Not because old-school fanboys need the love, necessarily, but because Judgment's fluid pixels look better than most of the handheld's 3D efforts.
It's no surprise how good the game looks, given that beautiful graphics are a longtime hallmark of the series. So is balls-out-crazy fighting action, and Judgment delivers that as well as Guilty Gear ever has. Driven by a wailing metal soundtrack, it's actually two games squeezed onto one UMD: Guilty Gear Judgment and Guilty Gear X2 #Reload.
Of those, X2 #Reload is the one that'll probably draw more fans of the series, as it's the same deep, one-on-one 2D action that built the franchise. Packing in 23 characters (all of which are unlocked right off the bat, including their SP and EX variations), ridiculously huge super attacks and few surprises, it's maddeningly addictive whether you're a button-masher or a more technical player who actually knows the difference between a Gatling Combo and a Roman Cancel. In short, it delivers everything you'd want from a Guilty Gear.
Well, everything except mission and story modes, which have apparently been cut in favor of Judgment (which we'll get to in a second).
The remaining arcade, versus, survival and Medal of Millionaire modes are little more no-nonsense, but any shortcomings are made up for by a flawless head-to-head ad-hoc mode. Be warned, though: two PSPs means four speakers, which makes squeaky characters like Jam twice as irritating.
The other game on the UMD, Judgment, is a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Final Fight. It's pure button-mashing mayhem, with players wading through hordes of huge, beautifully drawn monsters and slashing them to pieces.
Judgment is the sort of thing that might normally be a throwaway extra, and while its story certainly is, the developers put a huge amount of care into everything else. Everything from the backgrounds to the gigantic, crazy-looking boss monsters is as meticulously drawn and animated as the main characters, and there's plenty of variety in the level design. The two-player co-op makes things even more chaotic and fun, and if that's not enough, consider that you'll also get to ride a robotic, laser-breathing dinosaur through a few of the later stages.
Only five characters are selectable at first - Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, Amy, Millia Rage and I-No - but you can unlock up to 20 (Kliff, Justice and Robo Ky are missing) by playing through the story mode. In addition to said slew of characters, Judgment packs in a good chunk of their special moves, making this a lot deeper than your average brawler.
The PSP's been getting a lot of stellar fighters lately, and Guilty Gear Judgment is a kickass addition to the list, sitting right up there with Tekken: Dark Resurrection and Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX. If you're any sort of fan of 2D games and crazy-ass violence, you owe yourself a crack at this one.