There is something special about the Guilty Gear series when you hold it up alongside other fighting games. For starters, its anime-style means things can get a lot flashier than the rest while also being able to deliver a compelling combat system with some incredible fighters. Combine that all together and you have yourself a crazy, over-the-top fighting game that is able to take its biggest strengths and apply them to what matters the most – the combat. Guilty Gear Strive is also the first fighting game I have been able to play on PS5 and my eyes didn’t know what to do. It is pretty.
For many, the Guilty Gear series has most likely gone under the radar when it comes to fighting games. I grew up playing the games and they have always stood out thanks to the crazy cast of characters. In Guilty Gear Strive, Arc System Works has managed to compile a feel-good fighter with loads of lore and a fantastic fighter roster into one game. Even if 15 is not that many. At launch, Guilty Gear Strive includes 15 fighters to choose from and every one of those fighters offers a unique and distinctive design and feel throughout the experience.
This is not your average fighting game so there’s no “xyz fighter plays a lot like xyz”. Each of them are able to deliver a different visual aesthetic on the screen while being fantastic to handle at this same time. I won’t pretend to know the Guilty Gear series enough to know where these fighters came from and why they look the way they do. I have not watched the anime but thankfully the game does not rely on this as much as I thought it would.
If you are a massive fan then you will love to see this all unfold in front of you. However, if you’re jumping into this because it looks cool, you will enjoy this just as much. This is also thanks to the game’s new approachable combat system and amazing tutorials that aided my rookie hours of the game. These “missions” saw me complete each of the game’s combat mechanics five times in order to master how to perform them. Be it blocking, high jumping, avoiding specific attack patterns and more. Sure, some of these missions were tough to pull off but with perseverance, I managed to get them done.
This mission mode is probably the deepest I have seen in a fighting game when it comes to teaching you how to play. It ramps up in difficulty quite quickly but along the way, I felt pretty badass about learning all the things and mastering the gameplay.
I was then able to take these lessons into the other game modes. Apart from the story mode that acts like a long anime movie, the game is lacking a bit when it comes to single-player offerings. Arcade acts as a great way to spend your time though. A nice feature here saw the first opponent I fought in stage 1 come back in stage 8 as a tough-as-nails version. The mode is also great for tag-team battles as these matches are able to deliver the most intense combat encounters in the game. It also helps that the overall combat in Guilty Gear Strive is extremely flashy and over-the-top. It like watching a top-notch anime play out on screen while controlling these gorgeously-drawn characters.
I can’t emphasise this enough, Guilty Gear Strive is an absolute visual masterpiece and delivers an experience like nothing I have ever seen in a fighting game before. Everything on the screen shines be it the text flashing in front of me indicating combos and counters or the flashy chain attacks. I remember knocking someone into the next arena area for the first time and have a massive smile on my face. The fighters are also fantastic. I have no idea who they are and why they are in the game but I just could not help but sit back and enjoy them moving about. I am sure Guilty Gear fans will love some of these fighters. Even though the roster of 15 is a little low in content compared to most fighting games today.
Each fighter also has their own rating of difficulty as well as skill rating. You have balance fighters that are all-around great to use for all combat. Some fighters are also classed as high-speed and others as power throw. It doesn’t take long to realize why they are ranked this way due to their general play style. Potemkin, for example, is a massive knight that is slow, can’t dash but takes up a lot of space on the screen and also deals with some incredibly powerful combos.
While I was a bit bleak about the general lack of fighters in the game, 15 is not a lot at all, they all provided some sort of wow factor and after spending an hour or two on each of them, I sort of started to master the combos and attacks. Guilty Gear Strive also felt a bit easier than previous games. Combos are easier to pull off and even overdrive attacks didn’t take that long to master. There’s also the Roman Cancel which has been a staple in the series. This allowed me to cancel the startup of a recovery attach by sacrificing my tension meter gauge. It creates this constant gamble in combat as it also slows down time by presenting a giant clock to show how much time I had left. New smaller features include the ability to dash during the pause of a Roman Cancel as well as a shockwave that sends enemies into the air.
With all this in mind, the game does rely on an online component to carry itself. If you’re not into online fighting then the joy will be short-lived here. Thankfully, the online mode in Guilty Gear Strive is fun. You get an avatar that can be customized and tweaked using unlockables earned during the mode. The mode takes the form of a retro-styled game with a side-scrolling mechanic. There is a skill rating system that determines the floor I was on and the floor I could move up to.
If I got my ass beaten too many times, I could then go down a floor meaning I would face easier opponents. I could even stay on the same floor and fight similar-skilled players if I wanted to. It all works and while I hate the fact that the game’s main attraction is multiplayer, I did enjoy it and the matches were flawless thanks to the games great netcode.
Guilty Gear Strive Review
While 15 fighters is a bit low and they are obviously selling a season pass here too, Guilty Gear Strive is a fun and much-needed entry in the series. The combat feels great and small tweaks go a long way to deliver a compelling fighting game. I do wish there were more things to do other than multiplayer. The story mode is a movie and the mission tutorials grow old very quick.
This Guilty Gear Strive review was based on a code sent to us by Bandai Namco
Available On: PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC | Reviewed On: PS5 | Release Date: 11 June | Price: R1.069