Guilty Gear has always been there, lurking in the background of the fighting game genre. With its magic-laced, cyber-steampunk saga set in a recovering dystopia with gothic overtones, it wasn’t always talked about, but it was always there. With polished 2-D animation, a dizzying and frenetic pace, and more meters on the HUD than you can shake a twelve-foot katana at. But -Strive-, looks to elevate the game to an even higher standard in the fight game community and to a much larger audience overall.
Awesome Gameplay: Guilty
Guilty Gear -Strive– knows exactly what it came to do. I can honestly say I have never seen more intention to make a fighting game for purists of the genre, ever. Typically, this frightens most players away from engaging, but let me tell you that this is a game for the ages.
It’s fast, it’s furious, and it’s technical AF. That’s all you need to know. There are more styles of fighters in –Strive- than there are in a game with two or three times the characters. You begin –Strive- with fifteen characters (humble, given MK 11 Ultimate holding thirty-seven), each with their own very unique fighting style. Add to that several game-specific technique and you have a game responsive to multiple playing styles. It’s a fighting game for all different types of players and gives them the opportunity to get in where they fit in.
If you’ve had the privilege of playing Guilty Gear from its beginnings in 1998, then know that –Strive- is almost a reconstructed game. The Burst and Tension meters are still in the building, along with the Chase mechanic (like DBZ Fighterz). Added is the Wall Break function (like the stage transitions of the Injustice franchise) that requires a combo to execute. Unfortunately, taken away is the Instant Kill mechanic. But this sits in line with the intention of making this game more appealing to a wider audience but not any easier to play.
This game is tailor-made for tournament events. So much as to have text displayed during your character’s intro that reminds players of their fighter’s strengths and weaknesses. So much that the word “whiffing” is in the command list. If Guilty Gear -Strive– ain’t a top-tier game at all the fighting game tourneys, then they ain’t doing right.
Cohesive Sound Design: Guilty
A classic evolution of the ‘anime metal’ rock opera that serves as the backbone for the series’ identity. Blistering guitar riffs and ominous undertones score Guilty Gear -Strive-. It’s the pageantry and narrative of Queen mixed with the grit of Rammstein. Furthermore, these ain’t just instrumentals. Nah, the music is a full-on soundtrack to the game with lyrics that expand on each character’s point of view. They are actually quite dominating. I had to change the levels for background music (BGM for the initiated), because the lyrics were so engaging. I might schedule a day to workout to the soundtrack just for the drama.
Story & Voice Work
The story continues the epic saga and picks up right from where Guilty Gear: Xrd left off. Sol Badguy (the good guy, FYI) is back in the U.S. looking to gift package these hands to the most cleverly named antagonist ever, That Man. What -Strive- does with its story, in spectacular fashion, is add an in-engine story mode that plays out like watching a big budget OVA. You get a full on RWBY style 3-D second entree to go with your meal of a dope fighting game.
Voice work is great, on the level of a game with its legacy and pedigree. The Japanese voice tracking is so aligned with the design that it almost feels like a crime to listen to it in any other language. Subs over dubs on this side. That said, it was super dope to hear Evan Michael Lee as the voice of melanated vampire samurai, Nagoriyuki.
Dynamic Character Design: Guilty
Guilty Gear -Strive– looks beautiful. The animation is gorgeous, and every character is designed with a purpose. Sol Badguy is beefy and American, Nagoriyuki looks like he walked off the red carpet at the Hellfire Gala, and Zato-1 looks as creepily sleek as a shadow-wielding assassin can be. Older characters are simply improved upon and all the new fighters cannot be replicated. 3-D sprites fighting in 2-D has never looked better. It’s less comic-book-y than DBZ’s cel-shading and more detailed than Samurai Shodown’s current-gen outing. As of this review, I’m running it on a newer PS4, and it does not disappoint on the visuals.
Verdict: Guilty AF
Guilty Gear -Strive– is an unbelievably good-looking fighting game with a sharp but rewarding learning curve. It’s going to be a fun one to watch as tournaments start to reopen with in-person play. Dynamic and well-designed, you can pretty much say goodbye to your thumbs because they belong to Guilty Gear now.