Out of all the franchises that I was expecting to hit next-generation systems first, Guilty Gear was low on the list. Hell, I even thought Darkstalkers had a better chance of getting a port for Xbox Series X before Arc System Works got its, ahem, gear in order.
But here we are, being genuinely surprised by the dev as it’s completed Guilty Gear Strive just mere months after initially announcing it. And though it’s a bit light on content (at the moment – it’ll be added as time goes on), it has more than enough fighting goodness to enthrall both fans and newcomers alike. Oh, and did we mention it looks bonkers on PS5? Because it does. Think an anime brought to staggering life in 3D.
The game works on a simple but highly effective control system, including heavy slash, punch, kick, and a “launcher” move, in case you really want to set off your opponent to launch a quick combo. The controls may seem simple, but the way they’re inputted into a ton of flashy moves for each of the game’s awesome characters is something else. Each fight isn’t just fun to partake in, but also incredible to watch. That could mean good news for you EVO fans later this year, when the tournament returns with, most likely, this game in tow.
For those new to the game, there’s a pretty good tutorial that lays down the basics. From there, it’s probably best to get into arcade mode, though prepare for a tough going. That’s because the AI automatically adjusts to your fighting style, even if you’re winning matches with button presses. But no matter, as this actually makes you better for what lies down the road ahead with online play.
And online play is awesome. Arc System Works truly knows its netcode, and even in early release, Guilty Gear Strive handles its battles like a boss. It didn’t take long to connect to others, though some of these pros that are already streaming the game mean business. Like, you’ll want to get trained before you even think of trying to compete against the pros. But once you’re ready, you’ll find the online community more than ready to bring a good fight. The game’s also solid in local play, and you can always train against the AI in quick arcade and survival modes, if you think you’ve got the chops.
I do wish the story had more to offer. It’s not entirely interactive, as it’s more about a bunch of story formed around the fights. That said, it does dive deep enough into the Guilty Gear lore to be worth a look, especially if you’ve forged bonds with the likes of I-No and others over the years. It’s not quite the in-depth tale, but there’s some cool stuff here.
But let’s get into what really makes Guilty Gear stand out over the competition – the presentation. The fighting’s great, of course, but it’s the show that the game puts on visually and audio-wise that really impresses.
Strive’s visuals are a standout, with nice animations, solid counter techniques, and amazing little effects. For instance, the way the action shifts to 3D in certain parts is seamless, without losing focus on the 2D fighting. It’s highly impressive, and could set a standard for future 2D brawlers of this type. Arc System Works strikes again.
For good measure, the tunes continue to be an outstanding mix of rock tunes, plucked straight from the spirit of Guilty Gear games from years’ past. It’s a fun listen, and may even prompt you to do some downloading for listening later on, like when you’re mowing the lawn. Erm, I mean conquering the lawn. TAKE THAT.
In addition, there’s great voiceovers on both the English and Japanese front, so you can hear your character in different ways. The choice is yours, but the characters are nicely voiced, and add some depth to the story mode.
Yeah, it could use more content, especially with the Season One character pass, and the story mode could use a little ironing out (and more fights), but Guilty Gear Strive is a huge leap for the series. It looks incredible and sounds great; the fighting is more content than ever, and a lot of fun to both partake in and watch; and the online code is impressive, albeit a little bare bones. Arc System Works has a lot in mind for this game as it grows, but it’s created a solid base that it can build upon. Fighting game fights won’t want to miss this one, no matter what your skill set.