With the open beta releasing later this month, Guilty Gear Strive’s release date grows ever closer. Players have been receiving a steady flow of information on the game’s contents for the past year, thanks to Arc System Works’ Developer’s Backyard blogs and character trailers. Som now that the public is about to get its second real taste of the game after a lot of improvements, it’s a good time to take stock of what’s been shown.
Guilty Gear Strive is not meant to be a hard reboot for the series; indeed, it has been advertised as the conclusion to the games’ story arc up to this point. Still, Arc System Works has torn apart what Guilty Gear was and rebuilt it in what is hopefully a sleeker, more modern form that can set existing players back a bit and give newcomers a chance to find their footing.
Guilty Gear Strive represents the latest in Arc System Works’ efforts to merge modern 3D cel-shading with an unbroken anime aesthetic. The game’s models and special effects look better than ever, with some animations cheating a little by being animated at higher framerates than televised anime. In addition, a revamped lighting engine has given a more unique look to each stage. However, the fights aren’t all that looks new. The graphical display and menus have been given a modern, minimalist revamp, with plenty of room outside of combat dedicated to observations on character strengths and advice on how to improve after a match. While some of the old heavy metal visual flair has been lost, the hope is that new players will appreciate and use the information Strive now provides.
Purists need not fear, for the spirit of heavy metal is at Guilty Gear’s core. As always, the soundtrack is almost exclusively comprised of hard rock composed by series director Daisuke Ishiwatari. However, Strive sets itself apart from previous Guilty Gear’s by including lyrics for most of its character themes, something only reserved for special cases in Guilty Gear Xrd and BlazBlue. While it makes them feel less special, it still emulates the feeling of a rock concert playing behind every match.
One change every Guilty Gear veteran is excited for is the switch over to rollback netcode. The fighting game genre has had a history of using delay-based netcode that was simply inferior to what was present in more western game-dominated genres. The recent shift by multiple companies to improved rollback has been celebrated throughout the fighting game community, and with the recent rollback revamp for Guilty Gear XX Accent Core Plus R’s Steam port behind them, Arc System Works is ready to continue the combo.
Also new, and somewhat more contentious, are the pixel lobbies. These 2D lobbies are meant to unify the online system as a gathering place for all players, as they fight and gain stature and accessories for their avatars. While this had significant problems in the previous beta, there is hope that Arc System Works’ proposed skill bracket replacement for normal ranked play will be a success, and that things will be better in the new beta. For anyone opposed to the lobbies outright, there is still the option to just seek matches in a menu or while training. And with the addition of a promising online training mode for Guilty Gear Strive, there will hopefully be plenty to keep hardcore players occupied as the game progresses.
Of course, one cannot discuss a fighting game without the all-important mechanics. New to the franchise is directional Roman Cancels, where players can move while cancelling out of their previous animation, and the ability to briefly slow an opponent by hitting them with different kinds of Roman Cancels. Also new, and a point of much discussion in the community, is wall breaks. Introduced in the reveal trailer for Guilty Gear Strive, these come into play after one player is pinned to a wall and hit several times. They fly into a new area, and the instigator follows with some sort of buff. In prior games, wakeup pressure has been the dominant strategy in Guilty Gear, so old players are hesitant to use this over simply letting their opponent drop to the floor and setting up their next offensive maneuver.
In addition to all of the above, and a couple new fighters in the form of samurai vampire Nagoriyuki and presidential bodyguard Giovanna, new footage has revealed that a couple returning fighters are getting new moves based on developments in the story. Series co-protagonist Ky Kiske has inherited Sol Badguy’s signature Dragon Install transformation super, and time-traveller Axl Low has finally mastered his time powers enough to briefly freeze time during matches. These powerful moves are both heavily limited, but it is nice to see Guilty Gear’s long-running story be directly reflected in its gameplay.
Guilty Gear Strive releases for PC, PS4, and PS5 on April 6th. The open beta will begin on February 18th and end on the 21st.