The latest entry into the Guilty Gear franchise has been released by Arc System Works onto PC via Steam and on PS4 and PS5 consoles. The game which features a hybrid of 2D and 3D graphics features massively improved visuals as well as a fighting system that’s been changed to be a lot more beginner friendly.
Booting up Guilty Gear Strive via Steam, players will encounter a short “Connecting to Server” message. This can take anything from a minute to much much longer to go away. Patience is a virtue and one that’s required when firing up this game. Why Arc System Works defaulted to automatically trying to log you into their servers instead of letting players into the game’s main menu in offline mode while connecting in the background is anyone’s guess but alas, we hope this waiting period can be addressed with a later patch.
Guilty Gear Strive features a couple of game modes. First and foremost, the “Story mode” is not what one would typically expect from a fighting game. The “Story mode” is in fact a full fledged anime which can be watched in one go or broken up into chapters for easy viewing. There is not a single player controlled battle in the story mode so don’t expect any upon launching this mode.
Before gamers, especially newcomers, go head first into the story mode, there’s another mode available in-game called “GG World” which is recommended to be viewed first instead. In “GG World” players will be able to read up on the incredibly complex and convoluted Guilty Gear story which spans across the franchise’s history. There’s a lot of lore here and going through the collection of information here is paramount to understanding what exactly is going on in the game’s story.
If you jump head first into the Guilty Gear Strive story without knowing a single thing about the franchise or it’s history, chances are you will be very confused as to who certain characters are or why they have specific abilities or why they are so important. Reading the collection and looking at the correlation flowcharts which explain character interactions and key points in the franchise’s history is extremely worthwhile if you want to enjoy Guilty Gear’s character interactions and story.
For those who are only here for the fighting gameplay though rest assured, the game delivers a lot of this in its other modes. Players can launch the “Arcade mode” and fight through a series of 8 battles against a range of opponents. Unfortunately, beating the “Arcade mode” doesn’t deliver a story ending cutscene such as with other Arc System Works game’s like BlazBlue. Instead players will have to enjoy character interactions within the Arcade mode when battles start or end. Characters may even be joined by another character in certain fights for a 2 vs 1 battle. The Arcade mode is great fun and a great way to get to grips with the game’s mechanics before heading online or playing against other human players.
Getting to grips with the game’s mechanics is quite easy. The game features a “Tutorial mode” which players are prompted to go through if they are a beginner. In this mode you are introduced to the extreme basics of Guilty Gear Strive such as how to move, block and perform basic attacks. Once you get through the “Tutorial mode”, “Mission mode” is unlocked and this allows you to take on increasingly difficult challenges which will slowly but surely improve your overall skill in Guilty Gear Strive. Playing this mode will teach you a lot about the game’s more intricate fighting mechanics and if you want to become a professional Guilty Gear Strive player, this will be important to go through before practicing in the Dojo’s “Training mode” or against other players.
The actual fighting in Guilty Gear Strive has been revamped somewhat to allow newcomers to the franchise to dive right in and enjoy this game. The game still features a lot of complexity but there are mechanics here which will be very familiar to other fighting games fans. Mechanics seen in titles such as Dead or Alive and Street Fighter have crept into Guilty Gear Strive and some hardcore fans might be disgruntled at this.
However, if you’re a fan of bashing someone across an environment by “Wall-breaking” them into a new scene on a level, you’ll be pleased to know that this is now a feature in the game. Players can also trigger flashy in-fight cutscenes which swing the camera into a different angle and accentuate the gorgeous graphics and effects even more by showing off the character’s from a different perspective.
The amount of characters on offer in Guilty Gear Strive is rather limited right now (15) with 5 more characters and additional story being planned for release via a Season Pass. While this seems to be the norm in fighting games these days, it’s still something that upsets fans of these types of games. Why purchase a fighting game title on launch when sometime later down the line, you’ll be able to buy a “Complete edition” or pick up a version of the game with numerous improvements and more characters? It’s a polarising topic in the fighting game community and one that raises a lot of concerns amongst both the hardcore and casual player base. Nevertheless, if you’re a Guilty Gear fan, you will most likely still grab this on launch.
With all that said, Guilty Gear Strive features “Rollback netcode” which immediately makes it a winner in the eyes of those who play fighting games online. Trying to play this title online at the time of review however was an absolute nightmare with extremely long server waiting times and disconnects happening. This will hopefully be resolved soon and we’re hoping that the playerbase doesn’t dwindle too fast because of the server issues on launch.
Players will be able to customize an online pixel Avatar with a range of cosmetic items. They’ll also be able to “Fish” for more items by paying credits in-game. Fishing unlocks new items for avatars and for the collection which features Guilty Gear music, artwork and videos.
Graphically, Guilty Gear Strive is absolutely gorgeous. The 2D and 3D graphics are blended together in such a visually appealing manner, especially during battles. Character animations look great and so too do their flashy attack effects. Each character’s attacks have their own visual flair to them and players will spend literal hours getting to grips with each character’s moveset while enjoying the fantastic effects and animations.
Guilty Gear Strive features both English and Japanese voice acting. So if you want to hear May screaming “Totsugeki” repeatedly in online battles when performing a specific attack, you can go ahead and enable Japanese voice acting. The English voice acting is however just as great as the Japanese with both sets of voice actors being seasoned veterans of anime and gaming media. Joji Nakata, Kikuko Inoue, Matthew Mercer, Eden Riegel, Laura Stahl and more have all done a great job voicing the characters in Guilty Gear Strive and fans will be pleased with either voice option.
The soundtrack in Guilty Gear Strive composed by Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari himself is as excellent as ever with plenty of tracks which feature electric guitars, over the top lyrics and adrenaline pumping beats. Players will quickly find a favourite background music track for fights. For some unknown reason though, when picking a music track for a battle in the “Versus mode”, you can’t preview the track you want to select. Some tracks are really quite heavy progressive rock and lean into their vocals quite a lot. Each character’s theme is standout and quite different from each other. May’s theme for example is extremely upbeat while Ramlethal’s is a lot longer and slower.
Guilty Gear Strive on PC isn’t without issues though. There’s a noticeable choppyness to the game and a lot of stuttering that goes on during the story mode even on a high end gaming PC with an RTX3060 graphics card. Lowering the graphics settings seemed to alleviate some of these issues and we’re hoping that this will be patched soon. Thankfully level designs look great and there’s 10 different stages to fight on with multiple areas which players can be wall-broken into.
The lack of actual player battles in the story mode can also be seen as a negative aspect of the game, especially if you go into the game expecting something similar to other Arc System Works titles such as BlazBlue.
Overall, Guilty Gear Strive is an excellent fighting game with a fantastic adrenaline pumping electro-rock soundtrack. The fighting mechanics are not as complex as earlier titles in the franchise but there’s still plenty on offer here for newcomers and the hardcore alike. Players will easily spend hours getting to grips with their favourite characters and while the current roster isn’t exactly super full, 5 more characters are on the way via the season pass and there’s more story coming too. We highly recommend Guilty Gear Strive if you’re looking for a solid fighting game. Now we just have to wait for Arc System Works to iron out the kinks with the server issues and performance on PC.
Guilty Gear Strive is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Arcade game, and PC
This review is based on the PC version of the game which can be purchased here for £54.99
- Developer: Arc System Works
- Publishers: Arc System Works, BANDAI NAMCO Entertainment Europe, Sega
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