We love SNK and Capcom for their contributions to the 2-d fighting genre, but right now, it’s Sammy’s Guilty Gear series that is the reigning champion. While SNK continues to make use of its aging Neo-Geo hardware and Capcom continues to remake versions of Street Fighter II, Sammy’s Guilty Gear sets itself apart from the pack with its cast of zany characters, beautiful graphics and animation, unique fighting system, complex backstory, and 80s Rock ‘n’ Roll inspired atmosphere. Guilty Gear XX, which is the third game in the series, is no different. However, Guilty Gear’s developers share one unfortunate aspect with Capcom and SNK; namely the tendency to re-release versions of their games which add just a few small tweaks. In fact, there are currently 5 iterations of Guilty Gear XX, and #Reload is only the second. #Reload adds several tweaks and alterations to character’s move lists in order to balance the gameplay. This entry is also notable for the fact that it’s the first appearance of the series on Xbox, and this version of the game is the first entry in the series to feature online play. Online play is also available on the PC version thanks to fan-created modifications.

GGXX’s story takes place a short time after Guilty Gear X. Each character has his or her own storyline, and most of them center around the Post-War Administration Bureau’s activities, or new character I-No’s mission to destroy any potential threats to her master. The mysterious “That Man”, the creator of the gears, is also thrown into the mix. 5 new characters join the cast. Along with the aforementioned I-No, the game’s cast is joined by the androgynous Bridget, the possessed fighter Zappa, the vampire Slayer, and Robo-Ky. Cast alumni such as Sol Badguy, Axl Low, and Ky Kiske return, while Testament and Dizzy join the cast as non-boss characters for the first time. The basic fighting system has been altered, new features have been added such as air throws. The one-hit-kill Overdrive attacks are back as well.

Along with a story mode (featuring multiple paths for each character), players can test their skills in versus, survival, and mission modes. There is also the prerequisite movie and art galleries, so there is a good amount of replay value on the disc. The latest version of GGXX, Accent Core Plus was recently released in Japan for the PS2, so it will be a while until we see if it will be released over here. In the mean time, #Reload is available for a very low price. The game is even part of the Xbox 360’s Xbox originals lineup, but the Xbox version (which is backwards compatible on the 360) is available used at most gaming stores for under $10. The PSP version is available as part of the Guilty Gear Judgment disc, which also includes a beat-em-up minigame. Whichever system you decided to get this game on, you can’t go wrong. Sammy’s Guilty Gear stands alongside Street Fighter, King of the Fighters, and Fatal Fury as one of the great franchises of the 2-d fighting game.

Although strangely enough, the next game in the series, Guilty Gear 2 looks to be more of an action/RTS hybrid.