Guilty Gear Xrd REV 2 remains a main stage game, pulling 629 entrants — according to Mr. Wizard’s tweet. It’s obvious that the interest in the game is high (notably, it’s higher than ever before, during the XX series). Last year, REV 2 pulled an even more impressive 825 fighters, so there is a notable drop.
There could be a couple of reasons for that. For one, the interest in REV 2 was much higher last year, as the game was fresh. Released on May 26th, it had incubated in the community long enough to have some training period and yet remain fresh and relatively undiscovered. Having a demo period earlier also helped a lot. Two new characters, Baiken and Answer, breathed some life into the game (even though they turned out rather underwhelming from a strictly competitive standpoint) alongside some balance changes — Raven, for instance, changed significantly, and his excitement meter started to make more sense. Omito’s Johnny emerged as the top player, showcasing dominance with the rest of the Japanese players, who filled out the top 8 at Evo 2017.
How much changed about the game since then? There has been a pretty significant balance patch 2.1, which altered some characters fairly drastically (like Baiken and Millia), gave some new tools to Johnny, and made other changes across the board. It was a pretty big tune-up patch, but it doesn’t feel like the game “changed,” but it was certainly refined. Yet characters like Answer, Baiken, and Ramlethal remain relatively weak, while Millia and Johnny stay dominant.
Omito returns, and it’s not really a risky prediction to say that he’ll make top 8. Machabo’s performance last year was a little underwhelming (17th), but maybe his very solid Ky will take him to the top? Ky also seems like a strong character — and speaking of the thunder-wielder, it would be great to see rising American star Hamad take it up with the Japanese. He was very close to getting to the Grand Finals at Combo Breaker this year.
We have many non-Japanese hopefuls entering the tournament, just like last year. The mainstays are KidViper (Johnny), PG|MarlinPie (Zato=1), Hotashi (Elphelt), LostSoul (Elphelt), ElvenShadow (Faust). There are many more exemplary players we could list, who have been winning several tournaments, but we’ll really have to see who will emerge in the top 8, 16, and 32. Breaking through the infamous Japanese players is always a huge achievement. Though they are infamous for their skill, nowadays, I feel that gap has been decreasing; but there’s a difference in habits and customs. Western and Eastern players practice in divergent conditions; anything from cabinet vs. console latency, arcade and locale settings, to different timings on patches and releases account to smaller or bigger influences on the community.
Arc System Works have expressed that they would like to see more American players in top Evo 2018 spots; Toshimichi Mori has said that “…all the ASW games really favored Japanese players, in the sense that an arcade release had a huge impact on them understanding the game, breaking it down sooner than everyone else around the world.” The company has expressed awareness of this gap; both REV 2 and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle have made long strides toward this. The arcade scene is still a dear spot for Arc System Works, as well as a big money maker. At least we can be assured that the next chapter in the Xrd saga won’t leave Westerns behind for a significant period.
Which moves us to the big question: what is next for the series? As fans continuously ask for their favorite Accent Core +R characters to return, we have to realize, that’s not so simple. Specifically for REV 2, Ishiwatari was given a budget for two characters, designated for one new (Answer) and one returning character (Baiken). However, this isn’t necessarily a pattern that’s supposed to continue, as Ishiwatari stated in a more recent interview with Shoryuken. It’s not about what Ishiwatari wants to do; it’s about budgeting. As much as some less-sane people want to see Holy Order-Sol come back, they might have to take a seat for an indefinite period of time.
Story-wise, the saga is reaching a culminating point. With the actual identity of That Man has been revealed — the mysterious arch-villain and Sol’s true rival (sorry, Ky) — we should very well see him as an original character. Everything in Xrd has teased an upcoming major battle, a final confrontation of sorts. In addition, some longtime favorites have also been teased, less or more overtly. The obvious picks are Zappa (I dread this one) and Robo-Ky, the humorous droid-version of the stout king. Anji Mito has shown up in Baiken’s arcade mode. In terms of popularity, Bridget remains the most-favored character in Japan.
While fans clamor for the return of their favorites, the system mechanics might also significantly change up. In that same interview, Ishiwatari says that he wants to circle back to the core of Guilty Gear and maybe shave off some things. “Simplify” is a dreaded word in a game known for its layers of complexity, but more accessibility would invite an even bigger audience to this game. Though it would require more balancing, I wouldn’t mind if ArcSys removed Blitz Shield. Also, not everyone is a fan of Danger Time. It’s hard to tell what Ishiwatari is thinking about exactly, as he isn’t a balance specialist; however, he would like to see the series figure on the Nintendo Switch.
I do think it’s time for the next chapter, as the “REV” era has dragged on for a bit (with REV 2 being an addendum to -REVELATOR-). With the recent focus on the BlazBlue series, it’s Guilty Gear that needs some hype overdrive. For REV 2, this will almost certainly be the final test of strength among the world’s best players to see who emerges as the best player — that is, until the next version comes around.