Ryu and his homies may stand tall among the FGC roost, but Arc System Works’ Guilty Gear series has carved out a nice little niche for itself with its hard-hitting action and harder-hitting soundtrack. Following up -Revelator- and REV 2, Guilty Gear -Strive- serves as a complete reconstruction of the franchise – does it manage to make a splash in a now-crowded space?
Guilty Gear -Strive- Review
Those new to the Guilty Gear series will be positively dumbfounded at the sheer amount of depth on tap. It might look similar to other fighters at first – quarter-circle and half-circle movements can be used with a control scheme that features a punch, kick, slash, heavy slash, and dust move. There’s even a Tension gauge that allows for flashy Overdrive moves, not unlike the Super moves commonly seen in fighters today.
However, the devil is most certainly in the details. Speed and multi-hit combos are the name of the game, with air-dashes, recovery moves, and counters required from the offset. Throw in more advanced mechanics like the combo-cancelling “Roman Cancel” mechanic (in blue, purple, red, and yellow varieties) and the “Faultless Defense” mechanic that prevents chip damage, and you’ve got a lot to keep track of. There are even new mechanics in play in this entry, including the “Wall Break” mechanic that sends opponents flying to a completely different part of the stage.
No need to fear though – Guilty Gear -Strive- does an incredible job at getting newcomers up to speed. After a basic Tutorial mode, a Mission mode that includes multiple lessons that cover everything you can think of is yours to explore. From there, players can jump into its Arcade Mode, which adjusts its difficulty based on skill level. In this mode, one is also judged based on defense, offense, “heart” (based off of “guts” and “judgment”), and technique. There’s also an offline Survival mode, which puts players’ tenacity to the test. The game grows with you, letting you hone your skills at your own pace.
The same goes with the roster of the game. Veterans of previous entries know of the variety each fighter brings to the table, and the same rings true here. Its 15 character roster features no two characters that play alike, and figuring out how to handle certain matchups keeps things fresh. One could choose to go with the speedy ninja Chipp Zanuff and wall run to their hearts’ content, but those up against the towering Potemkin best take heed of his Heat Knuckle and Potemkin Buster that both lock enemies squarely in his grasp.
For those who feel confident enough in their abilities, a robust Online Mode has been included. After setting up an R-Code that keeps track of player data and going through a much-needed Tutorial that goes over the basics, players can hit the floor of their choosing and battle players worldwide.
Accommodations have been made to make sure the online experience is as smooth as possible. Assigning one’s region and one’s “Celestial Floor” ability ranking is just the start; the rollback netcode works miracles by eliminating any and all lag. Despite the sheer amount of chaos on the screen, the many matches we dived into went off without a hitch. There’s even a way to see the millisecond delay and number of rollback frames.
New to this game is the noble vampire samurai Nagoriyuki. Packing a blood-sucking blade, players must keep an eye on his Blood Gauge – when it passes a certain point, he is able to enter into Blood Rage mode. This changes up his playstyle by increasing the length of his slashes and giving him the power to use his powerful Zansetsu Overdrive. He lacks an air dash, but his sheer power more than makes up for it.
Also making her appearance is the secret service agent Giovanna. She provides a nice foil to Nagoriyuki, packing a number of lunge and flip attacks that place her in the heat of it all. Her mid-air Overdrive encourages offensive play, and those who favor a speedy playstyle that still hits hard will enjoy learning her moveset.
For those that wish to learn more about the Guilty Gear lore, a Story Mode with nine chapters has been included. Broken into 20 minute anime episode-style chunks, these hands-off segments tell the story of That Man/The Gear Maker/Asuka/The Devil, a threat called Chaos, and bounty hunter Sol Badguy. Anime tropes are laid on thick, with a bunch of jargon, talking heads, and nonsensical action scenes thrown in for good measure. Some may enjoy the absurdity of it all, but most others will be itching to jump right back into the action.
To keep players immersed in the world of Guilty Gear -Strive-, one can cash in their hard-earned W$ by going fishing for cosmetics with its gacha-like system, read up on lore and character bios with GG World, and can dress their avatar up to their liking. Nothing major, but still welcome additions nonetheless.
Rounding things out is a fantastic audiovisual presentation that is at the top of its class. Everything has been polished to an incredible degree, with characters and worlds full of life and detail. The creative spirit of Daisuke Ishiwatari is on full display, and the heavy vocals and riffs really drive the action home.
Guilty Gear -Strive- sets a new gold standard for fighting games. Everything from the netcode to the presentation has been polished to a shiny sheen, and its incredibly high skill ceiling will keep players coming back for years to come.
This review of Guilty Gear -Strive- was done using the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A digital code was provided by the publisher.
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