Guilty Gear -Strive-, the next Arc System Works brawler to hit PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC, just blew into beta testing over the weekend, and we jumped in to crack some skulls, or at least that’s the idea.
Over the last few days Bandai Namco gave us all an opportunity to get in on the action and punch out our problems in the Guilty Gear -Strive- beta. While this new opportunity to take to the ring is just the seventh main line instalment in the flashy anime fighting franchise for many fans, its something of a new experience for us here. While you might be familiar with classics like Tekken, the over the top Dragonball FighterZ, or the shenanigans of Ark’s own BlazBlue I rarely get the time to sit down and play bet em ups. Outside of idly button bashing through Injustice, I don’t get a lot of time with beat em ups and as the first sampling of the new Guilty Gear that fans of the franchise were set to get, I really figured there probably wasn’t a worse time to avoid the elite of fighting fans. Despite that lack of preparedness, I somehow managed to spend an evening leisurely having my face kicked in and loving it.
What Is Guilty Gear -Strive-
Guilty Gear -Strive-, for those just slightly less informed than I am, is the latest game to come out of the Arc System Works stable. The developer, widely known for stylized fighters has something of a knack for anime avatars and 2D beat em ups that has served it well, and this is the latest evolution of that line. Guilty Gear Strive takes the long standing Guilty Gear franchise, originally launched back in 1998, and continues to improve upon it, introducing new artistic direction and improved character animations in a heavy metal inspired alternate future full of over-the-top action.
The beta test, which is now closed to all comers, gave us the chance to try out at least some of the characters that manage to look exactly as beautiful and ridiculous as you’d expect. Anybody who dabbles in the odd eastern mobile adventure or has seen an Arc System Works fighter before will know what to expect. Overly enhanced anime avatars carrying huge swords, rippling animated pecs, and hairstyles that aren’t going to stick after a swift gust of wind. Depending on your personal opinion, this aesthetic continues to play to Guilty Gear’s strengths, with the combined art direction of Daisuke Ishiwatari and Hidehiko Sakamura or it’s the same old cliché. Either way you can’t deny it is striking and comes with some of the best individual character animation I’ve seen in some time. Personally I prefer the toned down look of XSEED’s Granblue Fantasy, but that doesn’t mean that Guilty Gear -Strive- is all style over substance.
A total of 13 of characters made up this Guilty Gear beta roster with a definite diversity of combat types on offer. Everything from the monster under your bed to super secret agents join the combatants, and they were all available for our hands on rush through this beta. What makes this roster really work is the range it brings to the table. Characters like Sol and Ky are easy to pick up and play, providing a well balanced mix of powerful moves, power ups bars, counters, and flexibility. These clearly ease casual combatants like myself into the fray and give button bashers the opportunity to pull of something extraordinary without even meaning it, Even within that break down of difficulty, these easy to access fighters can each handle in different ways, giving Ky Kiske plenty of reach, while Giovanna proves more effective once that gap is closed.
Fighters are further split into sub classes, giving them a very definitive mix of speed, balance, power, and tricks to dole out in the arena. Power based characters, such as anchor wielding May, might not feel particularly complex to control, but while more balanced fighters like Giovanna can swoop in for a quick jab, players wielding a giant anchor are going to have to pick their moment to take an elongated wind up. Pick correctly, however, and the result can be seriously devastating.
Whichever character class you break out into the arena, the menu of moves available isn’t particularly overwhelming with May racking up just a few special and ultimate style attacks to add to the basic block punches kicks and counters. This means combat largely comes down to knowing your moves like clockwork and understanding when to step in and counter your enemy. For new players this can be somewhat problematic simply due to the range more experienced players have, but the Dojo can help with that. While training is kind of tedious, Guilty gear -Strive- has a few stand out additions to the normal CPU punching bag, including the option of pre-recording enemy attacks and laying down these tracks to practice specific situations.
While you might have seen previous multiplayer experiences as something of a lobby, Guilty Gear -Strive- tries and seems to succeed in creating a more communal event out of matching making, dropping players into a tower come mansion environment. Sprucing it up with your own customizable avatar, silly backgrounds, and even making players challenge each other directly works out really nicely. There’s no in game voice chat, meaning the mood isn’t ruined by, lets say cultural differences. This charming aesthetic also does a fair job of kicking players up and down levels of this old school RPG tower as you win and lose, but could take better account of individual experience with each of the characters a player might chose to wield in this lobby. Beyond that, our initial thoughts are that actual gameplay in Guilty Gear -Strive- feels straightforward, fluid, and visually stunning. While you might not be any good at this game it certainly does a heck of a lot to keep it easy to pick up and even makes being bad look incredible.
If you’re a fan of Guilty Gear games then get ready for the launch day. If you’re not, head over to the official website and check out some of the detail about this upcoming fighter because it’s still a ton of fun.