Title: Guilty Gear – Strive –
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: BANDAI NAMCO ENTERTAINMENT EUROPE
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 11/06/2021
A code was provided for review purposes
Guilty Gear Strive is the latest entry in the long-running Guilty Gear franchise, one that spans more than 20 years. Documented as the 7th mainline instalment, but the 25th Guilty Gear game overall, Strive represents the first foray into next-gen gaming and my goodness does it make its mark.
For those that have been uninitiated into the world of Guilty Gear, it’s a beat-em-up that has always prioritised over-the-top action and stylish visuals. Alongside this, it wears its heart on its sleeve with anime-inspired character models and a lively, upbeat soundtrack to boot. In the case of Guilty Gear Strive, it brings all that signature Guilty Gear and then some!
Whilst it would be sensible to start this review discussing the merits of the fighting, a special mention must be given to the visuals first. They are outstanding. Fighting games often nail the aesthetic – Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter spring to mind, but there is something rather special about the way that Strive showcases the early capabilities of the PS5. Everything is slick and stylish. Character animations are on point, the backdrops are beautiful, and the way all the elements fuse together is exemplary. It’s faultless.
Heaven or Hell
Naturally, a fighting game is nothing without the mechanics that underpin it. In the case of Strive, it’s fair to say that these mechanics have been developed and honed to create a sublime beat-em-up. There’s a depth to each of the characters that require careful attention and lots of practice, but it can also be picked up and played with little prior experience. It isn’t quite on the levels of the other aforementioned fighting counterparts for accessibility, but it’s definitely been a consideration for the development team this time around.
“With previous games in the series, new players would not be able to understand what’s going on in the match when they watched high-level play, so they wouldn’t feel very interested or motivated to improve. Because of that, we are working to make the appearance of moves and general impression of the game easier to comprehend compared to prior entries in the series.” https://www.arcsystemworks.jp/guiltygear/db/en/
As stated in the development diary prior to release, Katano shared that there has been a focus on making the game easier to comprehend. In-game, this is most evident in the Dojo mode. There are tutorials, missions and training which can be undertaken. The missions offer a unique take on tutorials. However, there are so many that it could prove overwhelming to the casual gamer. It may be easier to comprehend, but the time taken to achieve this may not be realised.
Outside of training, you have 1 and 2 player offline modes which include the typical Arcade and Survival game types. They are exactly as you’d expect, albeit with a lack of story within the Arcade mode. This is reserved for the cinematic story of Guilty Gear – included as a separate option from the main menu. Here you can watch the theatrical story in all its glory, with highly polished visuals and Japanese voiceovers. Each chapter is roughly 20 minutes long and is as much of an investment as the rest of the game.
It’s this investment that Guilty Gear Strive’s success hinges upon. Returning players already know what to expect from a game that has been iterating for 20 years. For new players, a lack of familiarity with the characters, and an entirely new fighting mechanic means Strive relies upon a time investment that isn’t necessarily reserved for fighting games.
Players can test their mettle against others in Online play once skills have been mastered. It’s excellent and works very well once the connection to the server has been made. There’s a comprehensive ranked system whereby you play and get placed on a floor of the Rank Tower. These floors mean that you are matched against opponents of the same skill level. Game modes like this are essential to the longevity of a fighting game. Strive will definitely benefit in the long run from this increased emphasis on good quality online play.
In the early stages, I found Strive to be rather slow. Chaining combos isn’t as easy as you’d hope and the heavier hitting fighters lack speed and agility. It would be a shame for players who are jumping in for the first time to feel underwhelmed. Stick with it though – what has been crafted for Guilty Gear Strive comes on leaps and bounds as you progress. For returning fans, there’s all manner of tweaks that make it feel fresh enough.
By the time I had penned this review, Guilty Gear Strive had become a firm favourite. It’s one I’d play over and over again. Whilst I’d still opt to buy Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or even BlazBlue (Guilty Gear’s spiritual successor), Guilty Gear would be on the list too.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4 out of 5
You can buy Guilty Gear Strive online here.
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.