By Steve Baltimore / June 16th, 2021
|Title||Guilty Gear -STRIVE-|
|Developer||Arc System Works|
|Publisher||Arc System Works|
|Release Date||June 11th, 2021|
|Platform||Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5|
It’s been a hot minute since I stepped into the ring with an entry from the Guilty Gear franchise. I played a bit of Guilty Gear Xrd -REVELATOR-, but I haven’t been able to give it the proper amount of time it deserves. When I got a chance to review Guilty Gear -STRIVE- I was very excited, since these games are always top quality fighters, and I was interested so see how the new, more approachable fighting system came out. Let’s dig into this one and see if it lives up to the quality of its predecessors.
Guilty Gear -STRIVE- has a wonderful Story Mode that is fully animated and voiced, just like in the previous two games. It picks up the story a couple years after the last story ends and carries on its very unique and somewhat confusing story line. The game does include a robust mode called GG World. This will give you a glossary of terms, a timeline of story events, and a flow chart of how all the characters relate to each other. This is very informative and it was great of them to add this here for folks wanting to get into the lore of Guilty Gear. I would suggest checking out WoolieVersus’ Heaven or Hell series on YouTube. This is a very extensive guide to basically everything that has gone on in-story to date across all of the various media over the years.
One of the keys to having a great fighting game is to have a heavy hitting soundtrack. Guilty Gear -STRIVE- may have one of the best soundtracks of all time in this genre. There is not a single track here that doesn’t fit the character to a tee, and is not a pure joy for your ears. May and Sol’s themes are really the standouts here to me personally, but the others are all amazing as well. I really hope they sell this OST separately down the line. The game has both English and Japanese audio. I used the Japanese audio during my playtime because that’s just what I’m used to, but the English cast does a great job here as well. This really just comes down to whichever voice cast suits you best.
I’m going to be very blunt and to the point with this, Guilty Gear -STRIVE- is the best looking anime fighter made to date. The artwork is simply outstanding with a level of detail I’d not thought possible years ago when I first played one of these games. The special moves and overdrives are just as flashy as ever, but they look even more incredible now. The game runs very smoothly, making it easy to counter moves and pull off combos. I ran the game at 1440p and had plenty of head room if I’d wanted to step it up to 4k with my 2060KO. Arc System Works did a great job with optimization of the PC port this time around.
Now let’s talk about the new gameplay system. Arc System Works set out to make Guilty Gear a much more accessible fighting game with this release, and in some ways I think they accomplished this. The move sets are simple and it’s fairly easy to chain combos together for some big damage. When I say big damage, I mean much more than what was found in previous titles. While this can make some fights one sided, it does always give a disadvantaged player a chance at a comeback. Mastering the Roman Counters in the game will certainly sway the tide as well, since these counters have various effects such as extending combos, slowing down time for a moment, and more. The biggest element to fighting here is the walls. Each stage has some invisible walls that can be shattered when a foe is bashed into them enough. This can help you make bigger combos in a corner like always, but that slight delay when they are mashed onto the wall right before it breaks can throw your timing off greatly, and timing is everything here. There is a very detailed tutorial section in the training mode. This will give you all the tools needed to master all the new ins and outs of the fighting system in no time flat. I was pretty disappointed there wasn’t combo training for each character specifically, but this is something Arc System Works is addressing in an upcoming free update.
A big part of this experience is being able to battle with friends all over the world in online battles. Guilty Gear -STRIVE- delivers in this area. The rollback netcode makes matches lag free and very fun. I didn’t have any issues finding a match or any connection problems during them. Players are grouped in a tower by skill level. If you win several matches, you can go up to the next floor for more challenging opponents, or if you drop some, you can go down to find someone more on your level. Like in previous games, you have an avatar to move around on each floor, and you can customize it with parts you unlock via the fishing game. You can also unlock extra music for Versus Mode, concept art, and trailers.
At the end of the day, Guilty Gear -STRIVE- is a very solid title. The game looks and plays fantastic. The artwork and overall aesthetics here are the best I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if Arc System Works really made this game more accessible to non-fighting game fans, but they did simplify things a bit. I still feel like in order to really enjoy this one, you’d have to get used to all of the advanced mechanics the game has to offer to play with online competitors, since there are very few options for players to enjoy offline. There is a very basic Arcade Mode, Training, Survival and, of course, the anime Story Mode. The Online Versus Mode is where this one really shines, and they have done a great job making it work for players of all skill levels. While I think the lack of some single player modes and the smaller roster holds this back a bit, it’s still one of the best anime fighters I’ve played.
Game was provided by the publisher.
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