Guilty Gear: Judgment

Springtime. Ahhhh...the smell of fresh flowers, the sight of beautiful trees, the feeling of getting your virtual butt whipped at anywhere and at anytime! Yes, this spring, the Guilty Gear universe is preparing to storm your favorite handheld platforms. On Tuesday we previewed the upcoming Guilty Gear Dust Strikers for the Nintendo DS, so we couldn't let the week wind down without touching on Arc System Works' PSP venture as well. Whereas a lot of questions have been raised about the series' ability to maintain its integrity on an underpowered DS console, a PSP version of Guilty Gear has always seemed inevitable. Just what can fans of the series expect from a handheld release that's fully capable of imitating its big brother, the Playstation 2?

Although its name doesn't readily imply it, Guilty Gear Judgment is actually two games jam packed onto one UMD. The two games consist of the title's namesake - Guilty Gear Judgment, along with a full port of Guilty Gear X2 # Reload. If there's one thing we've learned about Arc System Works, it's that they're not afraid to experiment with their flagship franchise. Guilty Gear Judgment is no exception to that rule, so it came as no surprise to us when we found out that the game is actually a side scrolling beat-em-up, not your typical one-on-one fight to the finish. Yes folks, Guilty Gear Judgment is a game that's to be played in the vein of classics like the Final Fight and Streets of Rage series. While some fighting games have dared to tread this path before (Tekken, we're looking at you), most have failed to produce anything more than a time wasting offshoot of the main product.

Guilty Gear Judgment is set in the fictional realm of Villtania, during a period in which an experimenting sorcerer by the name of Raimond is conducting "projects" on the native folk. A call goes out for various mercenaries to stop Raimond's experimenting ways, and of course, various members of the Guilty Gear universe step up to the challenge. Each of the five characters available to travel through the story mode face their own unique situations and story lines, so it's entirely possible that campaigns will overlap, and some could turn out significantly longer than others.

Ultimately, once everything has been completed, up to 15 additional characters spanning 20 different stages will have been unlocked. Every character retains a good portion of his or her move sets -- Dust Attacks, Roman Cancels, etc. -- from their arcade outings, albeit slightly dumbed down to complement the side scrolling action. If that's not enough to keep you busy, don't worry, in addition to Judgment's story mode, there's also a survival mode and a co-op mode that takes advantage of the PSP's wireless capabilities.

For longtime fans of Guilty Gear who are feeling a little alienated, don't worry, Arc System Works hasn't forgotten about you. Included in the package is the full version of Guilty Gear X2 # Reload, featuring 23 characters, fighting it out across the usual arcade mode, versus mode, and more. But the most awesome thing about this port is the fact that it more than takes advantage of the PSP's high-resolution capabilities. It's safe to say that the sharp sprites, and the beautiful animation have never looked better. If you're a fan of Guilty Gear, but you're skeptical about the various directions the series has taken lately, Guilty Gear Judgment seems like more than a safe bet. Even if Judgment mode doesn't live up to its promising billing, thanks to the inclusion of #Reload, there's more than enough solid game play to fall back on.