Guilty Gear Strive Review
The Guilty Gear series really needs no introduction, but for the uninitiated, it’s a fighting game series by Arc System Works known for its outrageous character designs, fast-paced and technical 2D fighting action, and a rocking heavy metal soundtrack.
It’s no surprise how Guilty Gear was able to endure this long since its release way back in 1998. The series has gathered a strong following of fighting game fans who eagerly anticipate each new mainline entry. After a couple of delays, the latest game in the memorable fighting game series, Guilty Gear Strive, is finally here to rock Heaven or Hell.
Hope you like flowcharts
Since its full release, and to get the more obvious things out of the way, modes that were not accessible during the Guilty Gear Strive Beta like Arcade and the Story mode are now available for everyone to enjoy.
Unique to Guilty Gear Strive is an Arcade Mode where, depending on your performance, you may fight your last opponent alongside an AI controlled partner, basically becoming a 2 vs. 1 match. Long time fans may find it similar to Guilty Gear Isuka because of that game’s 4-player battle gameplay, but thankfully doing away with button dedicated to switching. It would be interesting then to see if this is some sort of testing towards that direction either as a dlc or a future installment.
Like in Guilty Gear Xrd, the Story Mode is a nearly 5 hour long cutscene narrating the story of Guilty Gear Strive. It’s completely devoid of any gameplay and the only interactivity is saving your “progress” should you want some breaks in between. It’s not your typical fighting game story mode, but the fantastic animation coupled with a storyline that I was invested in was more than enough reason for me to power through the “movie”.
Throughout its history, Guilty Gear has managed to craft an interesting story centered on its world and the Gears. Guilty Gear Strive is somehow the culmination of all games, as it seemingly concludes the story of the titular Guilty Gear, Sol Badguy in his long time quest to settle the score with the series’ recurring villain, “That Man.”
There’s a section dedicated to get you all caught up – all the terms, relationships, and chronology of events since the very first mainline Guilty Gear game. This would make it easier for newcomers picking up Strive and the same time a nostalgia trip for those who followed Guilty Gear since its first release.
Simple enough for newcomers
Guilty Gear Strive has a diverse cast of characters to play around with, all of which cater to different fighting styles, even if there’s a noticeable lack of certain mainstays like Baiken and Johnny.
You have your standard fighters in Sol Badguy and Ky Kiske, a rushdown fighter in Giovanna, a grappler of sorts in Potemkin, and even a fighter that has a ship anchor and a dolphin as a weapon. There’s a character for everybody in the game, and while they are quite easy to pick up, each has its own quirks that make them very hard to master.
In general, things feel simpler in Guilty Gear Strive on account of characters having a rather short move list and nearly universal commands for Super Moves. This makes it more approachable for newcomers, as they won’t feel the need to memorize too many things at once. At the same time, veterans and serious tournament fighters won’t feel dumbed down as the feeling of playing mind games with your opponents with the moves you have is still there.
The wall crash introduced in the Guilty Gear Strive Beta is still around, and adds another aspect of strategy and fun. There’s nothing like the feeling of being able to pummel your opponent with well-timed combos to get them stuck on the wall and finally breaking it to send them flying into the next section of the stage. It actually never gets tired seeing the stage transition as it fits just right into frantic nature of Guilty Gear’s fighting experience.
Roman Cancels, and all of its variations, are still present and have undergone some tweaks from the previous Xrd installment. There’s one for almost every situation, reinforcing the concept of “simple to understand” but knowing when to use them in a fight is still going to be a matter of skill and strategy among players.
Back into the fight
One of our complaints during the Guilty Gear Strive Beta was the obvious lack of a Rematch Option when going through the retro looking online lobbies. Simply put, it didn’t provide the best user experience, especially for a game that’s a mainstay in big tournaments.
Arc System Works listened and now, the much sought after Rematch option is there, with a few well thought of features. You’re able to get a rematch with your opponent a number of times before the session automatically ends, giving others a chance to fight.
Guilty Gear Strive, or any fighting game for that matter, shines in its ability to get other players in the fight as quickly as possible, all while providing a good experience that’s as lag-free as possible. With the rollback netcode implemented here, unless your connection is really problematic, chances are that you’ll be able to enjoy a rather smooth online experience.
Of course, a lot of factor goes into play when engaging in online battles, and the further you are from your actual region, you can expect the connection to waver a bit. This is quite normal, but the game does its best to minimize the lag, which maintains a decent experience overall. My experience was quite a mixed bag, since my net connection isn’t in the best shape, but I felt that it would have been much worse in other titles that did not employ the rollback netcode. A colleague of mine had no problems whatsoever, all while playing Guilty Gear Strive on a PS5.
Guilty Gear Strive does what it can to avoid higher leveled players from picking on newbies, as it implements a system which assigns a player to a certain floor of the same skill level. You’re free to visit higher leveled rooms, but won’t be able to go lower that your actual level. It’s a great way of trying to keep things in check, letting newcomers battle it out with fellow newbies.
Slick and Stylish
Guilty Gear has always been a technically sound fighting game, but some may overlook the fact that the presentation of the game is in equal parts as important as its fighting aspect, and Strive has the workings of a game that not only feels good to play, but also looks fantastic at the same time.
Arc System Works have proven time and time again that they are a top notch fighting game developer. Their attention to detail not just to the characters, but even to the individual levels is amazing. In the Lars Canyon stage for example, fighting in the bottom cavern you will see lighting changes when characters walk under the cliffs. As a matter of fact if you stop and listen when characters talk there’s a noticeable echo which is expected when talking in places like these.
A point of contention would be the added visual effects in the game, some of which may be too much for players. Personally, the flashy effects, even down to the huge “COUNTER” sign that takes up half the screen, sometimes proved to be a bit distracting especially in tension-filled moments, but I can also understand that Guilty Gear has always been one to do things in a flamboyant manner. In the grand scheme of things, pro players can simply shrug this off, but will make for a great watch from a spectator point of view.
Guilty Gear Strive again delivers on an awesome soundtrack of rock and metal music, which offer a different kind of experience with the addition of vocals. Some personal favorites are May and Ky’s theme, which really elevate the already flashy experience into a complete package.
The game is simply stunning on a PlayStation 5, featuring solid frame rates and almost no loading times in between matches. While obviously the experience would be slower overall on a PS4, it doesn’t detract too much from the experience, and Guilty Gear Strive still proves to be a game that will surely be enjoyed by enthusiasts whichever platform they choose to play on.
Guilty Gear Strive is full of amazing artwork and music that you’ll somehow want to view them through a gallery of sorts. The process, however, involves a luck based gacha mechanic.
Winning online matches or completing Arcade mode nets you World Dollars, Guilty Gear’s fictional currency. And it’s this money that you can use to go fishing… yes, fishing. You’re free to go for either 1 or 10 fishes in one attempt and the result will be random – Aartwork, music, or even new accessories for your online avatar.
While thankfully the whole process does NOT involve spending real money to get those unlockables, it’s feels like a disappointment. There’s no longer that freedom to choose what you want to unlock first as it’s tied to how lucky you are at fishing, which is a drastic change to past Arc fighting games where you simply earn money and buy what you want.
One thing that’s also noticeably missing in Guilty Gear Strive would be the character specific dialogue, which gave some fighters personalized intro sequences and quotes depending on who they were facing. This was a nice touch that I was disappointed in not seeing, especially for a fighting game that has a pretty deep lore built up between characters. It’s especially a shame since both the English and Japanese voice acting are top notch in Guilty Gear Strive.
What We Liked:
- For a fighting game, Guilty Gear Strive features an engaging story
- Memorable characters and amazing soundtrack
- Simpified but very hard to master
- Diverse roster of initial playable characters
- Super stylish graphics
What We Disliked:
- Gacha mechanic for unlockables
- Connecting at game’s startup is frustrating with a slow connection
- Some players may not take a liking to the overly flamboyant visual effects
At the end of the day, Guilty Gear Strive is a masterful effort from Arc System Works, proving time and time again that they’re one of the best at what they do. The slightly simplified game mechanics should make it easier for casuals to dive in and hopefully get better the longer they play, but is still an insanely deep and technical fighter that will take veterans hundreds of hours to fully master.
Gacha mechanic aside, our other nitpicks aren’t enough to detract from the overall experience, and Guilty Gear Strive is very much a polished game from beginning to end. Arc have shown that they listen to feedback, evidenced by addressing issues from the beta like adding a rematch option, among other things.
With the possibility of future DLC aside, Guilty Gear Strive is worth the wait and daredevils of all skill levels are welcome to enter the midnight carnival.
*Guilty Gear Strive was reviewed on a PS4 and PS5 via a review code provided by the publishers.