Experience/Opinions – Not quite a review. Not quite a preview. When you jump into a beta and experience something else.
A month has passed and the Guilty Gear Strive beta is now a pleasant memory of funky action darkness, so why write about it now? It’s no big secret how much I enjoy Guilty Gear games. From the original classics to Xrd Rev 2, I’ve played them all and few have left me with as many thoughts as Guilty Gear Strive. Rather than writing up some super hyper active words when I was still buzzing from my matches, it made sense to take some time to process what happened. Taking a look at the notes, footage and a few other opinions and write ups. Was it Heaven or Hell, or did it just Rock?
I don’t pretend to be amazing at fighting games, I’d like to think I’m above average. Able to figure out a few combos, get through most trials and complete any story modes. I can grasp zoning and combos but if you ask me to explain False Roman Cancels and Dead Angle attacks, I’ll typically have to google them again first. A lot of the preview footage and industry veteran comments on Guilty Gear Strive lead me to believe that going in, this title would be a slower game with a lot of simpler ‘newb’ friendly features and to their credit Guilty Gear Strive is a slower pace than Guilty Gears of the past and a lot easier to pick up and play. That’s not to say it’s slow or simple to master. We’re not talking Street Fighter 5 short combos here, the system in place is somewhere between that sort of back and forth and the blisteringly fast pace of Dragonball FighterZ. A great middle-ground where fast action can take place that doesn’t result in a largely one sided combo of death. There’s a lot of knock-back in Guilty Gear Strive but it’s not for each hit.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Guilty Gear Strive looks stunning. If you capture any screenshots it’s easy to see how incredible everything looks but when you see it in motion the quality is quickly dialed up to 11. There are flashy effects, camera movements to zoom in on the action and even short bursts of higher framed animations when a super move is performed. The end result is one of the best looking fighters in years. The invisible walls at the side of each stage now have their own health bars and enough damage smashes an opponent flying from one stunning vista to the next. Everything is super slick and the polish on show was second to none. The worries that this was going to pail in comparison to the cell shaded beauty in Granblue Fantasy Verses have definitely been laid to rest. Your eyes are in for a treat, this just rocks.
The beta wasn’t perfect though, once the online versus component connected it quickly became apparent that the lobby system was a complete mess. Arc System Works always try something different with each title for the online components. Typically for online lobbies they’ll be 3D and chibi. You’ll wander around looking for a place to stand with others and have fights. The new lobby for Guilty Gear Strive is now a pseudo 2D looking room where a persona of you (with various customization options) jumps around and has the ability to fight anyone ready that you’re close to. This sounds good on paper but when you’ve multiple people all trying to connect at once it becomes a mess of characters all jumping around and swinging sticks trying to get a connection. You can bypass this by using the menus but then this makes the visual component entirely redundant. The ranking system is a nice touch with wins forcing you to go up to harder rooms but this can mean that at higher rooms there’s a wait and at lower it’s a mosh pit. Hopefully this has been ironed out since as the potential to unlock cosmetics for your avatar is always a blast in previous titles. There has been comments that feedback was being taken on board even during very early builds so we’ll have to wait and see.
It sounds like a lot of the Japanese voice cast are back for Strive from Xrd and the lines and delivery are fantastic. The music is unashamedly cheesy metal ROCK throughout with the amazing title track ‘Smell Of The Game’ playing as well as a few new bonkers metal songs with such catchy lyrics as, “we live in a society, a society, a SOCIETEEEHYYY!” It’s shaping up nicely to be just as ridiculous as previous instances of the series. Plenty of amazing explosions, clashes and smashes to accompany everything. It all clicks together nicely to make a maelstrom of symphony that makes for fantastic watching as well as playing. Even simple touches to the game where loading into a fight follows an eagle that will soar past the stage, playing a short guitar piece before fading out and leaving the camera there for the fight gives Guilty Gear Strive a feeling of intensity from start to finish. Each round became a joy of rock and flashy graphics that clashes together to create another moment of adrenaline fulled action.
I was up at 5am on the day of the closed beta, with headphones on so I could have the sounds at full blast. I played more of this beta than any other I’ve gotten into and it left me spinning for days. Now some of that initial magic has faded and I’m left with the memories, notes and footage recorded. I thought I could be a little more objective about the experience but it’s ridiculous, I still want more. Sure the lobby was a mess and the lack of a tutorial resulted in missing out on how new key features such as the time stop and new bursts work but even in hindsight none of that matters. The netcode held up nicely when connections were made, fighting the AI dummy was incredibly satisfying and the entire wrapper is so visually stunning it really deserves all the fanfare it can get. Guilty Gear has always been pretty niche and only really gets noticed at EVO but I hope Strive gets the success it deserves, it’s the next level of Guilty Gear and it rocks.
Hell I can’t think of any other game I’ve enjoyed the beta of so much as to make a fan trailer for it after, heaven is when Guilty Gear -Strive- launches.