Carry On My Wayward Son: Guilty Gear Strive Beta Review

Let’s ROCK! 🔥


The world of fighting games is magical. That feeling when you pick up your controller or fight stick and you find that one character that just *clicks* with you. The countless hours of training with friends as you level up your skills while building a community together. The KOs. The PERFECT KOs. The DOUBLE KOs?! And the growth that comes from the losses to make you stronger… Ah yes, the fighting game world is truly magical. ✨


While I try to play the latest fighting games whenever they release, there are a few series that are very dear to me. Guilty Gear is one of them, and what a series it is! My first encounter with the series was through a friend back in my high school days. “If you like King of Fighters, you’re gonna got CRAZY for this game!”, they said as they handed me their copy of Guilty Gear X to try out at home. “This is as good as King of Fighters? No waaaay!” I grew up with King of Fighters, so this better be good! Famous last words, because then the game decided to completely destroy me with its style, characters, setting and its rockin’ music. And Instant Kills being a thing? Now that’s what I call POGGERS. So when Arc System Works offered me a chance to play in the Guilty Gear Strive beta early, I knew I had to take the chance and dive back into the franchise I grew to love so much. 


Mankind knew that they cannot change society…


Guilty Gear Strive picks up after the last games in the franchise, upping the graphical touches and style of the game while revamping the fighting engine in small, but significant, ways. I should note here that I haven’t played the Guilty Gear series since Xrd; I skipped Revelator and Rev 2, so I’m unfamiliar with any changes made from Xrd to Rev and Rev 2. That being said, one of the things I noticed at first with Strive is that the game felt both familiar and foreign to me at the same time. My partner felt the same way, with both of us realizing that our old “mains” felt so alien to us now that they weren’t as easy to play as unfamiliar characters were for us to pick up and play. For myself, I kept trying to use old combos and inputs for Sol that resulted in whiffs and punished attacks as the things I expected to happen didn’t, and for my partner, Faust felt much the same: similar, but different. 


The same basic system that’s in all Guilty Gear games is present here, with the four face buttons being mapped to specific attack types, as well as a fifth button that, by default, is both the Dust and Throw button. A new addition (at least to me, because remember, I skipped a couple of games!) was the dash button, which would cause your character to automatically dash forward. I found this really awkward personally, but on a PS4 controller it’s mapped to L3 by default, so maybe that’s why. Even still, manually inputting the command to dash just felt, well, normal, so I’m not sure how useful the Dash command is, but perhaps I don’t see the utility in it yet. Other than that, there really aren’t many apparent changes to the Guilty Gear experience; you can still Burst and Roman Cancel, with similar blocking and negative penalty mechanics as well. One new feature is the wall break, which will send characters flying to a new area of the map, and is generally a reward for the aggressor based on a particularly strong corner combo. 


Make way for the newcomers


The Strive beta roster had Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, Axl Low, Zato-1, Millia Rage, Faust, May, Potemkin, Ramlethal Valentine, Chipp Zanuff, Leo Whitefang, along with newcomers Giovanna and Nagoriyuki. I was pretty happy with the variety on display in the beta, as each character felt unique with their own playstyles. This, in my opinion, was always one of the strengths of the Guilty Gear and BlazBlue series, as each character fits into specific archetypes, but plays totally differently from each other. Perhaps more than other fighting games, I always found this appealing about Guilty Gear, in the sense that I could find a character that I liked, and focus on them intently, knowing that they were wholly unique compared to the other characters on the roster. While their style might not be totally original compared to fighting game archetypes, the twists on each style (zoner, grappler, rushdown, etc.) that Guilty Gear applies still helps make them feel really fun and unique. 


While returning players will likely go directly to their old mains, new players to the franchise are in for a treat with the wild and eclectic collection of characters that Strive will offer, and returning players are still in for some surprises; personally, I’m really digging Faust’s creepier new look! Giovanna and Nagoriyuki were fairly interesting additions to the roster. In some ways Nagoriyuki reminded me of BlazBlue’s Hakumen, although I can’t say that I fully grasped how to best utilize his blood meter and playstyle. Giovanna, on the other hand, felt almost overly familiar to me, as her quick striking kick attacks almost felt like a combination of various SNK characters. I wasn’t surprised at all to see a lot of her in the beta lobbies, and players seemed to pick up on what she had available really quickly, meaning that I expect a lot of newer players may find her an inviting and easy to use character to get started with.


I’m ascending… literally!


In the Strive beta, players had the option to play through a short tutorial, use the basic training mode against a dummy (you heard me, Ky), and do local versus or online via lobbies. The offline options were fairly slim, but I appreciated the ability to play the beta locally, which gave us the most time to spend with each character and see what Strive had to offer. In what’s becoming an ArcSys staple, the online lobby system features a new, weird little menu overlay that lets you create a pixelated avatar to move around 2D lobbies with. This was really cute, although I did find occasionally knowing who was looking for a match hard to discern at first. The ‘tower’ that you enter ranks players by skill determined by your performance, which can have a somewhat deflating feeling when you lose a few matches and get demoted. That said, the game doesn’t stop you from moving higher in the tower if you want to, meaning that getting ‘demoted’ for experimenting with new characters won’t lock you out of the lobbies you had available to you before. I’m curious to see how this ranking system plays out in real time, as the beta featured a fairly small sample of players and meant that many of the ‘lower’ ranks of the Tower were totally empty, while higher ones were basically overpopulated! The lobby mini-game also promises some extra modes that weren’t currently playable, with the one I’m most curious about, fishing, sadly not being available during the beta test.


Once the lobby system started to make sense to me, I found that matches were fairly easy to get into. The game doesn’t let you pick characters before the match starts, so you have to select them in a menu first, and then look for opponents. This is pretty similar to other ArcSys games, like Granblue Fantasy: Versus and BlazBlue, but it’s bringing up just in case you like to switch between characters often. During the beta, I found that my success in getting a match going was about 50/50. I don’t think this was so much a Strive problem as it is a “playing a game online during a beta” problem, so I’m pretty okay with a 50/50 ratio to failed/successful connections, especially since once in a match, I only experienced 1 disconnect, and maybe 2 or 3 instances of major rollback and lag. Considering the pandemic addled world we still live in, fighting games are going to live and die based on their network capabilities, and what I saw in Strive’s beta made me cautiously optimistic that this quality of netplay would continue once the final game released. The sad reality is that this may not be true, as the larger player base is very likely not the same as the dedicated players in the beta this week, but hopefully things work out and Strive has a vibrant netplay community at launch, fingers crossed!


Get ready for a world of hurt


While it’s hard to comment on balance in something like a beta, especially one without a full roster, it does feel like most characters are fairly balanced against one another, with perhaps one exception: Potemkin. I was somewhat glad to see other chatter around people in the beta discussing this, but Strive’s version of Potemkin feels almost more oppressive than he usually can be, and my partner was shocked at how well they were able to resume playing Potemkin and get wins after having not played Guilty Gear in years. Although I doubt we’d go so far as to say he’s “busted” or anything of that nature, it did leave an impression that in the current build, it might be Potemkin’s world, and we’re all just living in it. Of course all of that can change by the next beta of physical release, so while it was an interesting observation, I personally am not worried about it being an issue in the final release; Potemkin was always a strong character, and I don’t see that changing much, except that his dominance in the beta is probably due to overperforming than anything else.


If anything, the beta certainly proved to me that Guilty Gear Strive has a lot to offer in a new, but familiar, way. Strive doesn’t shake up the formula in the way that Street Fighter V did, but instead provides a new take on the Guilty Gear formula. The same visual stylings are present, and characters speak and act in the way you’d expect, with big, overacted dialogue and familiar lines in battle. The infamous “Heaven or Hell” pre-match overlay is even more ridiculous now, with perhaps the most overwrought and weird phrase I’ve seen yet from an ArcSys game, but it grew on me in a very campy, silly way that still made me get hype for the gameplay!



One very interesting feature that the beta provided was the replay system. Strive saves a copy of every online match you play, and allows you to even follow players you’ve faced before to see their replays as well. In the offline mode, it gives you the option to save copies of the replays manually, and I have to say that I really dig this system. When your opponents are only online, labbing and keeping up with what they’re doing can be fairly difficult; with this replay system, you can create your own study tapes, hype reels, and other things, which was a feature I’d never really thought I’d see implemented into a game before. 


Since I was playing on PS4, this also meant that I could easily edit and upload the videos myself to various social media, meaning that it would be pretty easy for people to create gameplay compilations and combo guides too. I think this sort of innovation speaks to some keen insight on ArcSys’s part; while the gameplay is fairly core and familiar, the replay functionality seems to show that ArcSys is aware of the huge, fan-made support and materials that keep their games going, and being able to instantly save your replays for these purposes really feels like a step in an interesting direction there.


Strike a pose!


Of course, as the Strive beta was winding down, ArcSys teased us with the reveal of I-No, who I really REALLY wished was playable in the beta! I’m excited to see what comes next from Strive, and playing the beta convinced me to get myself a copy when it comes out and dive into the Guilty Gear world all over again. Only time will tell what the full game will hold, but I think the beta showed me a lot of what was under the hood and gave me a pretty good indication of what would come from the full package, which left me craving for more.



Keep an eye out for more Guilty Gear Strive coverage; if I get the opportunity, I’d love to take another look at the game and keep you all updated! And if you want to keep in touch with what Arc System Works is up to, don’t forget to follow them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitch! Oh, and if you played the beta at all, make sure to complete ArcSys’ player survey to give them feedback on how they’re doing.


Until next time! 




Claire Redfield??


When I finished my avatar so I can go into battle with style, I noticed… that it kinda looks like Claire Redfield? How did that happen?! Totally unintended, but I’m more than okay with that.


Did any of you get a chance to play the Guilty Gear Strive beta? Who’s your fave character in the Guilty Gear universe? Let me know in the comments!

The Joker Strikes Again: Persona 5 Strikers is an Action-RPG Romp


Back when Persona 5 Strikers was first announced, and it seemed to be like a “Musou style” game in the Persona series universe, I must admit, I had some mixed thoughts. The various Persona spin-off sequels have been fairly high quality, with Persona 4 Arena, Persona Q and Dancing All Night bringing fun, different twists to the Persona franchise, but I frankly couldn’t figure out how a Musou game would quite work out for the series. After spending time with the game, I’m not sure what I was expecting, but Persona 5 Strikers certainly went for something much different than a Musou battler with a flavored topping. Instead, Omega Force (Koei Tecmo’s studio), delivered a solid sequel to Persona 5 that merges action game and RPG elements into something that doesn’t always work 100%, but still provides an interesting and fun romp with fan-favorite characters once more.



Here’s a synopsis of what you can expect in Persona 5 Strikers:


Looking for some rest and relaxation, the Phantom Thieves set out to begin their road trip, until a ruthless Kyoto detective enlists their help investigating a series of strange cases occurring across Japan… otherwise, he’ll arrest Joker. As they dig deeper into the mystery, they discover another realm where innocent people are being jailed and forced to forfeit their hearts’ desires by the whims of its ruler. In typical Phantom Thieves style, they’re going to use everything they’ve got to liberate the imprisoned, return their hearts, and strike back against the corruption in their most explosive fight yet!


Persona 5 Strikers is a direct sequel to Persona 5, picking up around 6 months after the ending of the original game. A quick note to this: this game assumes that you have played Persona 5, and does not spend any time introducing, developing, or otherwise helping you understand the cast of the game. Instead, the cast exist here in their somewhat fully realized states from the end of Persona 5, meaning that their characters don’t progress much over the course of the game, and much of your enjoyment from playing this game, from a character standpoint, is going to depend on whether you know who these characters are beforehand. That isn’t to say that there’s no character development here, as Strikers adds 2 new characters to the cast: Sophia, an AI, and Hasegawa, a detective. Some other Persona 5 NPCs make appearances throughout the game, although fans expecting various characters to re-appear might be a little disappointed, as Strikers excludes or replaces some of the NPCs from the social links of the main game, mostly in terms of streamlining the overall game experience.


Strikers manages to make this work, putting most of the effort into the new dungeons, or Jails, while still giving players time to explore town areas, talk to NPCs and party members, and build on the Bond system (a sort of generalized version of the social links of the mainline games). What surprised me is that, despite some flaws in the gameplay itself, this hybrid not only works, but was an engaging and fun way to play in the Persona world, and would be a fairly interesting way to see how, or if, ATLUS and Omega Force use this system again in the future. Perhaps that’s the sign of a successful experiment: even if sometimes you burn your eyebrows off, if it works, it works!



Before we get into the nitty-gritty of Persona 5 Strikers, I have to bring up a feature I REALLY appreciated from the get-go. As you boot the game up, a system message pops up, noting that you have some data from another game in the series that unlocks some goodies for this game. What are the goodies? Why, it’s a bonus Persona 5/Persona 5 Royal soundtrack DLC! If you’re curious as how to get it when you pick up your copy of the game, worry not, here are the deets:


  • PlayStation 4: If you have existing Persona 5 Royal or Persona 5 save data.
  • Nintendo Switch: If you have Smash Bros. Joker DLC save data.
  • Steam: Completed a playthrough of Persona 5 Strikers on Steam.


I love when something like this is integrated in a series of games I’m playing along. It’s kind of like a “Hey, thanks for playing, here’s a little something on the house.” You see something similar whenever you play any Ryu Ga Gotoku Studio games (I will never shut up about these games), and it’s a real treat to have a boost of starting items to help you early in the games. In this case, the gift is music, which is the gift that keeps on giving, if you ask me!




The first and most confusing thing about Strikers is the assumption that this would play like a Musou game, in the vein of Hyrule Warriors or Dragon Quest Heroes games, but in reality, Strikers doesn’t operate like any of those games. Dungeons are fairly small and maze-like, with platforming and various puzzle segments to solve while traversing them, and enemies patrol set paths that, when engaged, turn into isolated battles against groups of enemies. If you’ve played various Musou games in the past, you might actually find yourself disappointed when you open your copy of Strikers, as you won’t be piloting Joker or other Phantom Thief members across sprawling maps and hordes of enemies. Enemies don’t respawn unless you leave the Jails entirely, which also means that you’ll need to consider how, or if, you want to grind your party and Personas. I think the thing that surprised me the most, gameplay wise, was how much of a dungeon crawler Strikers turned out to be, rather than a combo based action game. While skill in combat mattered, I found myself frankly losing combat earlier more often than I expected by just trying to combo my way out of battles instead of playing more like an RPG: switching party members to various skills, using Persona abilities, watching out for weaknesses, and taking advantage of All Out Attacks are paramount to success in Strikers. Once I got into the mindset of viewing the game as an RPG with real time action combat, things went much smoother and I found myself really enjoying the experiments the game was trying out.


Rather than playing as a single character, you’ll instead take a party along with you into the Jails that you can swap at the beginning of the dungeon, and then any time through the menu system (other than in combat). Each character has a specific playstyle, but none of them were overly complex or unique in a way that felt totally different from other characters. This, perhaps, was one of the more unfortunate parts of the mash-up here to get the axe; where Musou games would sometimes take interesting twists on how a character “might” play in combat, the characters in Strikers all use the same toolkits, with the biggest differences boiling down to their Personas, and some slight combat modifiers or twists. The trade-off here is that you have 4 characters you can instantly swap between with the Baton Pass system, meaning you’re able to quickly go back and forth between your active party for their abilities and techniques, as well as charging the Show Time meter (a mostly one hit instant kill).



I will say that the 4 characters + enemies made battles occasionally chaotic to follow, as your party member’s Personas popping in and out of combat would occasionally obscure enemies you’re fighting, or even make you suddenly afraid that some huge, scary new enemy has appeared in the battle. To say that it can be easy to lose track of what is happening in combat here is an overstatement, as there were times when I just did what I felt would work, and had to live with the outcome later. Difficulty can be quite intense as well, especially if you play on Hard, but even Normal might catch you off guard if you’re unprepared for what the game is going to throw at you (or if you make the mistake of having Personas that are weak against what current enemies are using against you!). Still, the combat is fast and furious, and often makes you feel really powerful as you start chaining together combos, Persona spells, All Out Attacks, and more together to decimate your foes.


You can also take advantage of the platforming action system the game uses for dungeon exploration, allowing you to sneak up on and ambush enemies (or, if you’re careless, getting ambushed yourself). These platforming features sometimes carry over into the actual battles, adding AOE attacks that aren’t normally available to your characters. From the standpoint of level design, I really enjoyed this aspect of the game, as it made various features of the maps feel important and thought out, but then also made the stages interactive beyond simply traversing them to get from point A to B. There are even parts where your characters can leap from action point to action point, giving the game a cool physical flair that matches the stealthy but flashy attitude of the Phantom Thieves.



This style carries into various aspects of the game. The menu system is gorgeous, and I loved just looking at the little features the game built into things like its shop menu, or the mission start screens in your hideout and in dungeons. The Show Time attacks and All Out Attacks look amazing, and it’s very clear the team wanted you to feel the visual aesthetics of the game in every possible place they could work them in. Persona 5 was already fairly flashy, but Strikers really takes things to the next level at times, and helps bring the game to life with the somewhat limited gameplay options compared to the original. The music, too, features much of the Persona flair that fans are likely to expect, and includes various remixes to Persona 5 themes, as well as some original music. 


Perhaps, again, the only downside to this is that Strikers won’t appeal to new fans. This game is strictly for Persona 5 fans who have played the original, and much of the aesthetic bonuses and character interactions feel like they’re based off of knowing the base game inside and out. This, perhaps, is the biggest overall misstep in Strikers, as it makes the game a hard sell to anyone who didn’t like, or didn’t finish, Persona 5. While that might seem obvious, comparing it to Hyrule Warriors or Dragon Quest Heroes helps make the issue a bit more clear. You could still be a Zelda or Dragon Quest fan without having played the very latest iteration of the series and enjoy the Musou options, but Persona 5 Strikers makes it very difficult to get the full level of enjoyment out of the game without already having known Persona 5’s story and who the characters are. Admittedly, this game is not trying to reinvent the wheel in terms of narrative depth, and shares this problem with Persona 4 Dancing All Night, but it is still kind of a big issue in getting new people into the game.



There are some other minor issues with Strikers. I played it on the Switch, so perhaps this isn’t an issue in other versions, but I found the load times were occasionally much longer than I was expecting, particularly into and out of the Velvet Room, or when the game loaded new areas in the Jails. Other issues I had were related to the controls and exploration of the various areas of the game. I often found that Joker’s movement during exploration (both in town and Jails) was a little jerky and not smooth. There were times when prompts for dialogue or combat ambushes would not trigger from one angle, but would from another, and a few times I found that the NPC I needed to talk to in order to progress my investigations would just blend into the background too easily, as the prompt would only appear from a very specific angle at times. None of these issues are game breaking, but they were common enough that the somewhat janky controls did feel a bit frustrating, considering a lot of polish in other areas of the game. 


As far as other common Switch complaints, I’ll admit that I never really saw any particular issues between playing the game docked or handheld, and frankly was surprised that the framerate never fell out of the game when playing in docked mode. I’m not particularly sure how the team avoided it, but the only actual Switch related negative I had was the load times, which aren’t really a big deal in the long run; I’ll gladly wait 5 more seconds for something to load than deal with the framerate turning my game into a slideshow any day!



As I played more of Strikers, I found myself enjoying the game a lot, but also finding it harder to place the game into any particular category. Musou fans looking for the Persona Musou game that was first hinted at will likely not find that experience here, and newer players who have never played Persona 5 will likely bounce off of the character interactions that rely on you already knowing much of the characters themselves to enjoy how and why characters are doing things, and a narrative that overall lacks the character growth and depth that the Persona games rely on. But what I did find was a fun, charming romp through the Persona 5 world with a new spin on things, revisiting characters that I enjoyed the first time around but getting to play them in a new way, from a slightly different perspective. The lack of deep social management is replaced by action dungeon crawls, but it also made Strikers really easy to play on the go, getting a few runs at a dungeon and leveling my characters at any time of the day, in any place I wanted. The game is also fairly long considering how pared down everything is, which really helped sell the game system and get me invested.


So, on to the big question: Should you pick up Persona 5 Strikers? I think that fans of Persona 5 should absolutely consider grabbing it, as this game kinda feels like it’s a direct sequel OVA, or the movie after your favorite anime series ends that lets you visit your beloved characters one more time. The action-oriented gameplay isn’t overly complex, and players of almost any skill level can find plenty to enjoy here. I found the Easy difficulty was a great introduction for people who just wanted to see the story, while still having some challenge, while the Hard difficulty really did make me sweat quite a few times! The few issues with polish that I had are not enough to discourage people from picking up the game either, so if you’re going through Persona withdrawals or just want a new action RPG to play (and you loved Persona 5) then Strikers is definitely the game for you. If none of that appeals to you, while I appreciate you reading all the way here, you may want to look elsewhere. And that isn’t even meant as a swipe at Strikers; trust me: if you didn’t like Persona 5, you won’t like Strikers, and if you haven’t played Persona 5, go do that instead, especially with Persona 5 Royal available!


Makoto has excellent tastes


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Until next time! ✨


Will you be joining the Phantom Thieves on their new adventure? Let me know what your thoughts down in the comments below!