Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR- is a masterful fighting game, and if you've been hankering for more of Arc System Works' gorgeous brawler, then you probably won't want to miss Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2. An expansion to REVELATOR - which can either be purchased as downloadable content or as its own standalone release - Rev 2 adds a couple of new characters to the playable roster, bumping the total to 25, alongside a few new stages. It also features various balance changes, fresh story content, and brings new moves to the table, giving returning players some extra tools to play with. It's not the most comprehensive expansion we've ever seen, but it serves as a poignant reminder of just how good the series is.

For those who don't know, Guilty Gear is a long-running 'anime' fighting game series. It serves up over-the-top one-on-one duels that are punctuated by brutal combos and special moves. It's fast paced, offers a ton of depth, and has a crazy amount of style. For newcomers, Guilty Gear has always seemed a daunting beast, stuffed with technical terms and a very varied selection of characters. In other words, it takes a long, long time to become a truly competent Guilty Gear player.

The bar for entry has never been lower, however. Upon booting up Rev 2 for the first time, it'll ask whether you want to go over the basics in its well structured and very educational tutorial. Movement, different standard attacks, and simple combos are all effectively explained here, giving even the most green of players a basis to work from. On top of that, individual tutorials for each combatant's special moves and more advanced combos are available in a separate training mode. The game does a great job of building your knowledge bit by bit.

There are plenty of ways to test your skills without having to jump online, too. Episode mode is essentially your standard arcade ladder sandwiched between cutscenes unique to each character, and versus lets you face off against a friend or the computer under a variety of different settings. Then there's M.O.M. mode, which is basically a survival mode with modifiers, although the barrage of on-screen information is bound to fry the brain of anyone not already familiar with it. Still, you can enjoy some intense battles here once you know what you're actually supposed to be doing.

Rev 2's single player offering is pretty standard, then, but its story mode is anything but. Rather than have you partake in a handful of battles threaded together by a loose plot, the mode's one big movie consisting of dialogue scenes and cinematics. It all looks fantastic, but unless you're up to speed on your Guilty Gear lore, you won't have a clue what's happening. Conveniently, there is a hefty information archive that you can consume at any point, if you so desire.

When it comes to taking the fight online, you can expect to find a suitably solid experience. You've got your ranked matches for players looking to test their skills, lobbies so you can get groups together, hang out, and potentially stumble across other users, and player match, which lets you set up rooms with friends. The one caveat here, though, is the online community itself. REVELATOR's lobbies were notoriously barren, and to be totally honest, we don't see Rev 2 doing much to increase the numbers. As such, we'd recommend making sure that you have friends who are willing to hop online if you're thinking of throwing down, otherwise there's every chance that you'll be spending minutes at a time searching for an opponent. Hopefully we're wrong, but history doesn't paint a particularly pretty picture.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, Rev 2 is an expansion, and all of the stuff we've covered so far was already present and correct in the previous release. With that in mind, the question of whether Rev 2 is actually worth the cost of admission hangs heavy over this latest instalment. After all, REVELATOR itself is an enhanced version of Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN-, so we're kind of at a point of diminishing returns for veteran players.

Fortunately, new characters Baiken and Answer are both great additions to the roster. The former returns from previous titles after missing out on the action in recent times, and she's as entertaining as ever. A lone samurai with only her skill with a blade to rely on, she's a relatively grounded character when compared to the supernatural entities found throughout the rest of the cast. She's undeniably fun to use, and her classic, parody-level Japanese aesthetic really shines.

Meanwhile, the concept behind Answer is brilliant and ridiculous. He's basically a ninja office worker; one minute he's taking calls from important government officials via a magical earpiece, the next he's flinging business cards around as if they're throwing stars. Like Baiken - and the rest of the playable character roster, for that matter - Answer is great fun to learn and master. The overall genius of Rev 2's cast, from both a design and gameplay perspective, simply can't be overlooked.

Lastly, we have to give special mention to the title's visuals, which are still outstanding. Characters look incredible in motion, and the sprite-like animation of 3D models works shockingly well. The fully animated intro, victory, and finishing move scenes are insanely pretty, to the point where they could easily be mistaken for big budget anime productions. Long story short, the Xrd games really are the best looking fighters on the market.

Conclusion

Guilty Gear Xrd: Rev 2 builds upon an already fantastic fighter, and those previously invested will no doubt appreciate the various additions and alterations. Guilty Gear's knack for combining incredible style with deep, almost open-ended combo-based gameplay is as impressive as ever, even if this isn't the most robust of expansions.