Guilty Gear Strive – Knocking Out The Competitors
Hot off the heels of its very popular anime fighter, Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc System Works has just launched the seventh game in the Guilty Gear saga, Guilty Gear Strive, on the PS5/4 and PC. When people generally think about fighting games, Street Fighter, Tekken or Mortal Kombat are likely the franchises that immediately come to mind. Fair enough too, no one could really blame you, they’re basically the most popular series of all time after all. Many may be surprised to hear though, that the Guilty Gear (GG) games have been around for over 23 years now, ever since its first release in 1998, the GG games have delivered hit after hit and maintained a large and devoted community that continues to keep the scene alive to this very day.
For those not in the know, GG Strive is mostly classified as an anime fighter. Like most classifications, there are numerous debates about what this actually means and it is generally just a title giving to specific fighting games that have a very anime feel or look and comprises of double jumps and air dashes. This helps separate them from the Street Fighters or Mortal Kombat’s of the world, but at the end of the day, they’re all 2D fighters.
Now, for a game that’s been around longer than the old shirt you bought at that music concert all those years ago and still wear, you’d expect a lot of story and character lore to go with it, and GG Strive delivers. The story itself is actually just a series of chapters delivered in the form of a long anime movie. It’s bat shit crazy, the plot is completely over the top and the characters are very extra … and we loved it. Being unfamiliar with the previous lore of the GG universe, there are clear indicators that the game’s story expects you to have prior understanding or knowledge of the characters past. This can, at times, leave newcomers a tad alienated, but the overall experience is fun and entertaining, so it gets a big pass (and likely further viewing of older Guilty Gear stories).
Strive launches with 15 characters in total. Whilst this isn’t a small number, it’s also not exactly a large one. Hold those pessimistic thoughts though, because this game has a big surprise hidden up its sleeve. Every character has its own unique system and abilities that drastically change how they play a match or how you verse them. For example, Potemkin is a massive man hulk grappling character. He’s got a large hurt box and he’s very imposing, but he’s incredibly slow and can’t dash either in the air or on the ground. This instantly makes him quite challenging to get close to his opponents who would rather play keep away and hold him at a distance. A fan favourite, Faust, returns as well and his entire arsenal is that his special abilities are all RNG in nature, where even the operator isn’t entirely sure just what’s going to come out.
This makes playing every new character, feel like an entirely new experience. To further extend on this, every single character simply oozes personality. The design, the feel, everything feels unique. There is only one character who you may consider being a bit vanilla in nature (Ky … it’s Ky everyone), but being that only character that seems to fit this description It’s fair to say that he stands out as result. It’s the equivalent of winning a tournament because everyone else didn’t show up.
Where GG Strive truly shines are the dynamic systems in play that have clearly gone through a lot of QA and show Arc System Works true genius and understanding of what makes their games fun and how they should work. A lot of the game’s deeper systems rely heavily on managing your setups and super meter management. Like a lot of anime fighters, offensive is the better way of playing, as the old saying goes, if you’re blocking, you’re losing. But moving forward, throwing attacks and generally being offensive, will build your meter. On the other hand, jumping back and playing turtle will actually decrease this. You’ll need your meter for a number of things, power blocking that reduces chip damage and creates more push back, super moves and a mechanic that has been in the series for a while now, Roman Cancels. That last one is quite important as it cancels your current move dead in its tracks and allows you to extend combos or back out of fudged attacks. Players are going to need to make the call to utilise these in a variety of ways on their path to victory and what this essentially does is give the players themselves, their own choice on how to play the play and their character. If this is sounding daunting to you, don’t worry, the Tutorial and Missions are wonderful, leave no stone unturned and guide the player into how everything works.
Visually the game is stunning. There’s no better way to explain it. The animation, colour, character designs and stages are simply glorious and are really setting the bar high for what the current generation of fighters need to live up to in order to compete. The only thing that’s on par with how marvellous this game is to look at, is how wonderful it is to listen to. Daisuke Ishiwatari returns as the composer and he once again delivers a series of bangers that really encapsulate the feel and vibe of the game. It’s the kind of music you could throw up on a playlist, sit back and simply enjoy the beats.
If you haven’t already guessed by now, Guilty Gear Strive is probably of the best fighting games made in recent time. This is the highest of accolades because there have been some amazing fighting games lately and this one is really setting the bar high for what gamers should expect on the next generation of consoles. Strive is utilising a rollback net code that’s rock solid and having a good net code is a really good way to keep a games community alive and well (especially during COVID times), meaning we’ll hopefully be seeing a big player base for a long time to come. Literally, the only critique that comes to mind is that there is no cross-play between PC and PlayStation players, the developers haven’t ruled out this being added in the future, but at the time of release, it’s not there, so don’t expect it to be added any time soon. In all, Guilty Gear Strive is an incredible game, one that I strongly recommend fighter fans get as soon as possible, there really is no reason at all not to.
Guilty Gear Strive was reviewed on PS5 with code kindly supplied by the publisher.
When he’s not crunching hours in the IT world, Adam is gaming on anything that takes his interest. With a keen eye for quality, Adam keeps his finger on the pulse on the eSports scene, mainly focussing MOBA, RTS and Fighters. Even though he loves the competitive scene’s of games, the best memories are always those gaming moments he shared with his friends as they always remind him that gaming can (and always should be) fun!