Striving for Perfection in Guilty Gear -Strive-


It’s no secret that Guilty Gear is one of my favorite fighting game series, and watching the series grow and evolve throughout the years I’ve played the games has been a delight. As I mentioned in my review of the beta, I found a lot of my friends through playing fighting games, and Guilty Gear was a HUGE part of that. The landscape of games, both fighting and otherwise, has changed dramatically since the first time I played a Guilty Gear game, and Guilty Gear -Strive-, arriving on the scene in the awkward point of time in which many players are neither entirely on the PS4 or PS5, comes at a time when games in general are facing a new shift. It’s been a year since any major fighting game tournament or event, meaning that fighting games are being played solely locally with people in one’s small social bubbles, or rely on netplay to get any life. In the span of the 2019-2021 timeline, this has led to frankly a lot of good fighting games getting totally forgotten or buried by netcode and low interest; turns out, big events drive a lot of players to a game.


So where does that leave Guilty Gear -Strive-? Well, that question might depend on how you appreciate Guilty Gear’s unique brand of fighting game, and that includes the way it approaches being a “complete” game at launch.


Story Mode_1-sm


Strive picks up, quite literally, from where the last game leaves off narratively. Gameplay wise, though, there are a few changes, the most notable being the somewhat slim character roster at launch, although there are promises of upcoming DLC characters following the game’s release, so it’s possible that the game will develop to a far more robust roster than what is available at launch (which is great, because the story mode hints at numerous characters who look like they’d be an absolute blast to play as!). But one of the more odd parts of reviewing this title was the roadmap to the release of the game; much of this review is being compiled after a few final hours with the game, as much of the game is not actually on ‘disc’, but instead part of updates patched into the game.


This update structure is sort of odd for the release of a game, although most players at launch won’t know the difference, as players who buy the game will have access to the most up to date version of the game so far. Patching games, particularly fighting games, isn’t really anything new either, but it’s somewhat new to me, in the sense of reviewing a game, to find out that 95% of the story mode isn’t actually available without an update, or that fairly large changes to gameplay balance are not what I spent much of my time playing. In this case, Strive is a challenge to review, because, for example, air dashing in what I spent most of my time with is totally different to how it is now in “release” form (for the better, I assure you), but that makes me feel….Bad? Because it sort of implies that the playtesting I did for this review is speculative at best, and useless at worst.


GIO_01 sm


Strive’s launch roster is Sol, Ky, Axel, Zato-1, Milia, Faust, May, Potemkin, Ramlethal, Chipp, Leo Whitefang, Giovanna, Nagoriyuki, Anji, and I-No. In my review of the Beta, I mentioned that I was pretty happy with this roster, as it showed a depth of playstyles and the unique ways in which Guilty Gear characters play, ensuring that the characters you have to pick from are all visually and mechanically distinct. My opinion on that is still pretty much unchanged, but I will say that the roster feels very small and somewhat incomplete compared to other Guilty Gear titles. Perhaps due to the focus on narrative in the newest installments of Guilty Gear, the roster of main characters stays mostly static, but gone are some of the new, more inventive characters that made their mark on Xrd. That being said, this is roughly the same amount of characters as Xrd at launch, and it seems like the DLC roadmap is setting up to follow a similar development pattern to Xrd, where new characters are introduced as the game matures.


Perhaps my one complaint here, though, is that this roster lacks much in the way of “new” playstyles, especially after some of the unique characters from Xrd like Raven, Kum, and Answer; instead, characters play roughly the same as they always have, but without much in the way of experimental new characters. Giovanna and Nagoriyuki stand out as interesting diversions from the returning characters, but otherwise players who are used to Guilty Gear will find that many of the characters play in similar manner to the way they’ve always played, albeit with some simplification in many cases. Strive is the most accessible Guilty Gear game so far, with each character (roughly) sharing a command pool; there are no complex, baroque commands, but instead most characters make use of QCF, DP, or half-circle inputs, sprinkled with a few instances of charge attacks here and there. Strive is easy to pick up and learn, which is great, as many of the other factors that make Guilty Gear unique (Roman Cancels, Dust attacks, etc.) are still here, urging players to focus on general mechanics and strategies rather than relying on playing characters who are “easier” to control than others.


Potemkin sm


That said, balance seems to be something I found odd in Strive, which is made odder by statements by the design team about characters, such as Sol, being “stronger” than other characters simply so new players can have easier times playing the game. In my experience playing the Beta, Potemkin and Sol were far more dominant than other characters, and in the limited time I’ve had in netplay before publishing this, that still seems to be the case. I’m curious to see how that affects the overall health of the game, although I would say that Sol’s “buff” isn’t entirely overpowering, just noticeable in terms of how much damage he can dish out off very little work. Potemkin, of course, is Potemkin, meaning that if you aren’t sure of how to match up against him, you’re probably going to catch a lot of Ls.


Of course, balance discussions on launch day are kinda pointless, but what I will say is that for the most part I found netplay was successful about 70% of the time. The lobby system is the same as the Beta, and this tended to leave me with lots of confusing reasons as to why my matches wouldn’t start; in some instances, I was never able to get matches when I would initiate them, but would get them by joining other lobbies. Then, suddenly, it would reverse to the opposite. In game, I had some fairly great connections, and found that netplay worked really well. This was similar to my experience in the Beta, so I’m not surprised, but I do think the netplay is really solid once you get into a match, meaning that there’s a good chance of getting high quality matches frequently, and playing with friends across the internet should give consistent, high quality gameplay.


Online Lobby Floors


In the wake of COVID-19, netplay is almost more important than other facets of a game, given that many events are still cancelled, and many players are unable to travel or go to even local events. While things are always improving, I do think the slate of recent fighting games that have had really solid netcode are starting to show the ability for fighting games to achieve high quality matches that are far closer to real life matches than ever before, and Strive is certainly up there. Interestingly, I found Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown’s recent updated online to be easier in terms of actually getting matches, but I also had slightly weaker matches (with more delay and occasional disconnects) compared to Strive. That said, my experience with Strive is limited by launch day patch accessibility, meaning that as more and more players get the game, the netcode may or may not hold up under the increased player load. Still, I believe netplay is one of Strive’s strongest qualities, and players looking to get in lots of real-time play against people online will find the game very rewarding in this regard.


When it comes to other modes, things get a little more complicated. Arcade mode has players fighting off against a set of enemies, with losses and wins occasionally diverting your journey along Hard, Normal, and Easy paths. This also results in different endings, meaning that someone wanting to see everything may need to actually lose certain matches on purpose, which was an interesting mechanic. Survival is also back, tasking players to survive as long as possible against increasingly difficult CPU opponents, and Training brings various modes along with it, from standard training dummy style practice to various challenges.


The oddest standout, though, is Story mode.


Story Mode_2 sm


Players familiar with the Xrd Story mode will know what’s coming, but for players who are new to Guilty Gear, or unfamiliar with how Xrd did things, Story mode in Strive is essentially a long animated movie, rather than a mode in which you play or control any part of the outcome. This is both natural and unnatural, as Guilty Gear has always prided itself on a deep and fairly complex lore, but it also feels awkward to again be asked to simply sit around and watch a movie that has no real bearing on the game you’re playing other than providing that back story. In many ways, the story feels even odder in the sense that you aren’t, in your own matches, really playing through what is happening in Story mode in some parallel way. In fact, Story mode features so many characters who are unplayable, but unique, that it almost feels like some sort of separate movie set in the same universe, but without most of the notable cast. If anything, the Story mode feels like a potential hint at upcoming characters, as some of the Story mode stars are really unique and interesting looking; it would be a shame if, in the long run, these characters simply existed only in Story mode and never in any gameplay capacity.


Story-wise, the narrative really drags in spots, and also relies on you knowing excessive amounts of Guilty Gear lore to get even moderate value out of. Overall, I think Strive‘s full story will be interesting for the lore implications, but players who never interact with story modes will likely not find themselves missing out on anything here, which is sad. There is a full glossary of characters, terms, and world building to look at if you get confused, but in all honesty it feels like a LOT of work for something that has no impact on the game itself


Sol vs Ky - sm


So what is my overall impression of Guilty Gear -Strive-? Is it a must buy? If you’ve been following the Guilty Gear series from its first game, the answer is a resounding YES! But for anyone looking to get into the series for the first time… my answer’s a bit mixed. Strive doesn’t do a whole lot to get new players interested in the game’s world. Strive’s Story mode makes little sense to anyone who has never played Guilty Gear before, and there aren’t many other ways to interact with the characters, meaning that a new player’s options are to either dive into the enormous amount of encyclopedic information, or give up and just play Versus mode against friends or CPUs. I think this is perhaps the biggest downside: Strive is only going to attract people based off of friend recommendations and suggestions of playing together, but isn’t going to clearly win over new players against games like Virtua Fighter 5 Ultimate Showdown, Tekken 7, or Street Fighter 5, which either provide easy accessibility or pure, no frills gameplay to get started with.


That said, Guilty Gear -Strive- is an excellent game, one that features some of the cleanest “anime” fighting and a visually gorgeous product in motion. Replays of matches look great and dynamic, and I can only imagine how hype events playing Strive will be when the crowd gets into the matches that finally visually match up with the excitement. I think that players curious to try Guilty Gear (yes, even despite my above warning) should absolutely jump on with Strive, as the roadmap shows a consistent set of updates that should keep new content slowly trickling in and a generous lifespan to the game, meaning new players can start to learn and develop as the game grows, rather than worrying about it immediately dying out or being replaced by something else.


Sol - sm


Personally, I’m excited to dive into the world of Guilty Gear fulltime again, and I do want to see the rest of Story Mode, but I think a lot of what you’re getting with Strive is a promise, more than a finished package: the promise of more updates, of future events, of a growing scene, rather than something complete in box on arrival. The game itself is great, but the rest of the package will need time to develop and see how things grow from here, to truly know what to expect. Still, between patches and updates, a truly special game can spring out of this growing seedling, and hopefully there will be lots of excitement to come from Guilty Gear -Strive-.


You can get get Guilty Gear -Strive- on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Steam

Many thanks to the wonderful crew at Arc System Works for the chance to check out the game early! Keep in touch with what they’re up to by following them on TwitterFacebookInstagramYouTube and Twitch


Until next time! ✨


Who’s going to be your main character on Guilty Gear -Strive-? Any of the new characters’ caught your eye? Let me know in the comments!

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!