A Guilty Pleasure

If you are a regular visitor to the Junkyard you might have noticed that I rather like the genre of versus fighter. I love its immediacy, its shock factor, its brutal disregard to conform and evolve with the rest of the gaming industry. It reminds me of a time now passed, when gaming culture was crafted in the furnace of the local arcade, when "winner stayed on", names were taken and friendships were forged through endless competition beneath flickering marquees.

Its interesting really that right now, after over a decade’s neglect, the versus fighting genre is appearing to be undergoing a small revival. Kick-started by the release of Street Fighter IV, a series of old, battle-weary names have been donning the gloves once more, with Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, Tekken and Dead or Alive all returning to the ring. I've played most of them too and, on the whole, they manage admirably to recapture what cemented the genre as a classic in the 1990s.

I would never perform Mortal Kombat fatalities in front of non-gamers.
These new-wave fighters have also reminded me, in a Proustian memory sort of way, of just how guilty they made me and still make me feel to play. The blood, the violence, the cracking bones, the fatalities, the heavy metal, the gratuitous amounts of exposed female flesh, the razor sharp weapons, the impalement, the freaks of nature, the drugs, the dead-eyed killers, the rock-hard abs, the demonic bosses, the bouncing breasts, the insults, catcalls and taunts - each component in this genre prods at the prehistoric, animalistic parts of my brain and I like it, I like it a lot.

The problem is, years of scornful looks by my mother, damning articles in red-top newspapers and, worst of all, shaming by companions who didn't "get gaming" in my youth have sort of programmed me to feel ashamed of playing them. How could I play BloodStorm with my girlfriend among the assembled party? How could I perform the pit fatality in Mortal Kombat with my mother in the same room? More importantly, as an avid gamer who believed totally in the industry’s power to entertain and educate, how could I welcome non-gamers to the fold by performing that combo with Ayane in Dead or Alive 2?

I know I shouldn't feel guilty for playing them and, don’t get me wrong, I sleep soundly at night despite how many times I've split Kitana’s head open with my razor-sharp buzz-saw hat, but there is always that little splinter in the back of my mind. That voice that says I should be playing something narratively rich and beautiful like The Witcher 3, or an art-piece like Shadow of the Colossus, rather than watch Hotaru Futaba orgasmically mount Rock Howard for the 10,000th time.
Hotaru is so sexed-up in Mark of the Wolves that one of her specials actually sees her mount her opponent.               

Talking of feeling guilty, Guilty Gear X on the Dreamcast is just superb isn't it. My attention was drawn back to this excellent, albeit totally overblown, title this week thanks to the announcement that Guilty Gear Xrd Revelator was coming down the pipe and, having spent the last week away from my Dreamcast, chose to boot it up once more.
Ky Kiske takes on the ridonkulous character Faust in Guilty Gear X.
Delivering a typically absurd plot - all you need to know is that, once more, a simple fighting tournament is all that’s needed to solve cataclysmic world problems - an excellent cast of ridiculous but well-designed characters and a basic four-button combat system, Guilty Gear X is yet another amazing edition to the Dreamcast’s stacked versus fighter library.
The graphics are impressive, however the art style is totally overblown.
I mean, almost everything about this game is crafted in that guilty, old-fashioned versus fighter mold. Female characters like Millia Rage and Jam Kuradoberi bare plenty of flesh and wear skin-tight outfits. Muscles, weapons and freaks are in bountiful supply - Faust is one of the most stupid fighting game characters ever created - and each of the game’s crazily over-designed stages is accompanied by an awesome rock soundtrack. The so-bland-it-hurts lead character Ky Kiske even has a belt on that just reads “HOPE”, while his rival’s last name is “Badguy”.

Yeah, it’s that level of dumb.
Yep, you are seeing right, May does fight with that giant anchor.
But that’s the charm right? The reason why versus fighters continue to appeal. Regardless of Guilty Gear X’s genre’s limitations, it doesn't make it any less of an absolute blast to play. You don’t get deep characterisation or narrative, open-ended world states or complex inventory systems, but you do get a rush of blood, breasts and bone-cracking super moves that calls to your most primitive, tribalist, animalistic self.


Tom Charnock said...

Great article Rob. I recently got Guilty Gear X myself and I love how over the top the action is. Really cool opening paragraph too - it really transported me back to the arcades.

doceggfan said...

Loved it too, fully understand and sympathise with the guilt experienced.

Probably already knew this, but Sol "Badguy" is a homage to Freddie Mercury aka "Mr. Bad Guy" Most (or all?) of the characters have some reference to rock and or roll and or metal bands.

Guilty Gear was the game that introduced me to Metal as the superior genre of music, via the character Testament's reference to the 5th best bay area metal band from the 90s of the same name.

Also, did you know that 4 more guilty gear games would be released on NAOMI hardware (XX, XX#Reload, XX/ and XX^Core)? If NAOMI conversions had continued for a few more years, we could have seen one or more of these on Dreamcast.

Robert Jones said...

I didn't know that information. Pretty cool. Yeh, the metal soundtrack rocks!

Robert Jones said...

Cheers Tom!