Some fighting games are technical tour de force showcases of deft footwork and precision counters. Others are bombastic explosions of spectacle over precision. But only Guilty Gear is all of that and more, an anime-styled tour de force of face-melting combos that require thumb acrobatics that make your hands look like they trying to execute every single position detailed in the Kama Sutra.
When you hear the sickest of guitar licks, spot vibrant colours and take control of a character who dive-kicks the laws of physics in the face, you know that right there at that very moment, it’s time for a little of the ol’ heaven and hell. Guilty Gear has had an interesting couple of years, with the game that put Arc System Works on the map evolving with the times to always stay relevant.
The Xrd era of Guilty Gear was a make or break shift from the usual two-dimensional art style of the series towards an extra dimension of visuals that most purists would scoff at. But instead of going full 3D, Arc decided to use the Unreal Engine 3 to enhance their 2D roots and offer more amazing anime anarchy. Six years later, and Guilty Gear is back to kickstart a new age within its franchise.
Welcome, to Guilty Gear Strive.
The recent closed beta test for Strive highlighted that this Guilty Gear is once again sticking to the basics if you take it at face value. The anime style are thicker than ever, the characters are all powerhouses who operate within their own archetypal spheres of fighting game influence and the soundtrack is on point. But, there are some changes on a fundamental level that set this Guilty Gear apart from the Xrd games.
There’s a shift towards creating something more accessible in Strive, of constructing an environment that is more welcoming to newcomers by creating a more distinct path for them to learn the ropes. Gatlings, the bread and butter combos of Guilty Gear, now have a more defined series of inputs with which to execute a punishing series of blows.
The problem I had, was that the damage output was obscenely high, resulting in matches being over far too quickly and barely allowing any time for Guilty Gear’s trademark last-second comeback mechanics to shine. Make no mistake, it’s fun to lock a Gatling in and strike back with counters in a quid pro quo fisticuffs onslaught (loving those Roman Cancels!). It’s amazing to pull off attacks that shake the screen and burn a combo into your retinas, something a chunkier health bar would do well to take advantage of.
Having all that action delicately presented to you with a wealth of learning options makes for a more accessible game overall and I’m keen to sink my teeth into the new core mechanics. Why yes, I do have a Chipp on my shoulder. Here’s my complaint, and it’s possibly the weirdest one I ever made: This game is all substance and no style.
I may be enamoured with the character models and how they’re animated, but Strive’s overall presentation just feels so bland. The lobby system alone has been getting a LOT of complaints from the fighting game community for being a massive pain in the arse to use, while the overal user interface just lacks any of the pizzazz that previous games had to offer.
It’s strange to whinge about this, but considering how Guilty Gear’s legacy is one of high-level action intrinsically tied into a rock ‘n roll attitude of gung-ho melee mayhem, and Strive’s visual offerings ultimately feel lacking in comparison. The user interface just feels incomplete, a paint by numbers presentation outsourced to a vanilla graphic design company. It’s the Pacific Rim Uprising of design to the gorgeously detailed and unique aesthetics of its superior predecessor.
Guilty Gear without any style is the equivalent of Batman without dead parents, it just doesn’t sound right. I’m hoping that this beta is based on a far earlier build and that the end result has more zing to it, because the last thing I want to see is an Arc System Works fighting game that I’m not interested in playing. That would be a world-first.
Last Updated: April 22, 2020