Guilty Gear fans may be disappointed with the latest installment in the series. Unlike past titles, Guilty Gear 2: Overture breaks ties with the 2D fighting genre the franchise is known for in exchange for some 3D hack %26lsquo;n%26rsquo; slashing and real-time strategy. We were hoping that by switching to a new genre, Overture might give the niche series a shot in the arm. But the big change delivers a mixed bag of goods.
To its credit, Overture%26rsquo;s combat system is brilliant. The game melds complex RTS elements with simple beat %26lsquo;em up gameplay, and it works like a charm. Each map is littered with control points called Ghosts. Capture a Ghost and it%26rsquo;ll generate mana, which can be spent to reinforce your forces with servant units. With more mana, you%26rsquo;ll be able to afford stronger units and upgrades to power up your main character. Control more Ghosts and you%26rsquo;ll quickly gain the edge needed to destroy your enemy%26rsquo;s main base and win the match.
Above: Dashing across the map to lead assaults on enemy Ghosts feels great
Although you can summon large swarms of servants to overwhelm your opponent, they are mere pawns when compared to your main character. Because of this, the action in Overture is very fast-paced. You%26rsquo;ll find yourself dashing about the field to squash a group of invading enemy servants in one corner of the map, before flying off to the opposite end to lead the final charge against your opponent%26rsquo;s main base.
But it%26rsquo;s Overture%26rsquo;s requirement for strategy %26ndash; not the simple action %26ndash; that makes the combat so much fun. From the map screen, you can quickly reinforce your army with additional servants, designate spawn points, and queue up movement orders. Analyzing the situation, formulating a plan of attack, and responding quickly to your enemies%26rsquo; tactics are necessary if you want to emerge victorious %26ndash; and it all needs to be done in real time. Should you send a large group of servants straight towards your enemy base? Should you be sneaky and send a few units down side paths to flank your foes? Or, should you fall back to focus on defense? In Overture, you%26rsquo;ll need to switch between doing all three to win.
Above: You%26rsquo;ll need to adjust your tactics on the fly to maintain control over the Ghosts
Unfortunately, instead of taking advantage of its great combat system, Overture shoots itself in the foot by failing to please in almost every other aspect. The single player campaign is too short with boring cutscenes, frustrating boss battles, a short list of playable characters, and a small set of maps. Gone are the beautifully animated 2D characters seen in Guilty Gear X2. They%26rsquo;ve been replaced by 3D models that look average for a next-gen title at best. The over-the-top special moves from the fighting games - that set the screen on fire - have also been traded in for a set of plain-looking traditional attacks.
Above: The original Japanese voices are appreciated, but the cut scenes are boring and painful to watch
Because of the great combat system, there%26rsquo;s a lot of fun to be had with Overture when playing skirmish matches against AI opponents. But Overture really shines when you%26rsquo;re playing against other players online or via split-screen. The strategy elements will keep your brain buzzing with tactics and counter maneuvers, while the action keeps your thumbs busy with satisfying button mashing. But Overture still lacks the visual flair, polish, and pizzazz that Guilty Gear fans have come to expect. If you want to see an action/RTS hybrid that actually gets the strategy part right, then Guilty Gear 2: Overture will deliver the goods. Unfortunately, even though this one element is great, it%26rsquo;s the only gem that stands in this title.
Oct 3, 2008