Guilty Gear is arguably the most recognized IP when it comes to anime fighting games. Created by the gods of the anime fighting genre, Arc System Works, this series started back in 1998. While other fighting games are more accessible to new players and you could easily win several matches in a row just by mashing random buttons, Guilty Gear has always been more technical, requiring patience and tactical knowledge from the player.
If you're going to play Guilty Gear -Strive-, we assume you like fighting games, but keep in mind that new players may need some time to adapt to the pace and level of precision of it.
What to Expect
-Strive- continues the story of the previous games, making great use of anime-inspired 2D graphics and offering you really deep combat mechanics to explore. Again, this is not an arcade fighter where you can spam long-range attacks and be victorious; you'll notice that practice is a key element if you're taking the game seriously—or if you go online and don't want to want to feel ashamed.
Maybe the roster is not that impressive, with "only" 15 characters to choose from, but they appeal to very different playstyles. And if you don't care about the fights but still feel intrigued by Guilty Gear's plot, you could just watch the episodic story and learn everything about the epic events taking place in Guilty Gear -Strive-.
Of course, this new game continues to use the art style that made it famous, with amazing 2D models and fantastic use of color. The level of detail you can see is just mindblowing, and we're not only talking about the character design and animations but also the background. Compared to other fighting games, -Strive- feels like something else, and we love the camera transitions when you perform a special attack. The minimalistic menus also look really nice, facilitating the navigation. As this saga has us accustomed to, Guilty Gear -Strive- is a visual spectacle!
Another aspect that we always love about Guilty Gear games is the soundtrack, with -Strive- being no exception. It features rock tracks that pump you up and put you in the right mood to start punching and kicking whatever stands in your way, with catchy guitar riffs and leaks. Voice acting is not far behind, and it shines when in Story Mode (we'll talk about Story Mode in the Gameplay section). That being said, it's nice to see pre-battle exchanges that don't feel awkward and voice lines that reinforce the tension of a fight.
The vanilla version of Guilty Gear -Strive- comes with 15 characters, including several names that are always a given when a new GG game releases, like I-no, Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, Chipp Zanuff, Axl Low, Faust, and May, to name a few. It also introduces a new character that not only looks cool with her ferocious pet but also feels extremely fun to use: Giovanna, a Brazilian officer that serves as a bodyguard to the President of the United States. Once you launch the game, you can play against the CPU in Arcade or Survival or fight against a friend in local 2-Player mode. New players, however, should start by learning the basics—and several useful combos—in the Dojo, a mission-based mode that does a fantastic job at teaching you how to play. Once you're confident in your own abilities, you can check the Online mode and fight players from all around the world.
If you're interested in the story, then Arcade mode will be the one piquing your interest. Sadly, it feels both shallow and short, with a mini-campaign of 8 fights that only give you a glimpse at the events of -Strive- and the characters' motivations and goals. To compensate for that, Guilty Gear -Strive- comes with a Story mode that will answer all your questions. Not only it has an animated movie of sorts, divided into several chapters of around 15-20 minutes (the narrative is not the best, though), but you can also find a guide to all characters and events in the history of Guilty Gear. That means all new players can easily catch up and learn everything about the Guilty Gear universe!
As for the gameplay, we have to say that Arc System Works is—at least for us—the best company when it comes to 2D fighting games, so there's nothing to worry about. All these techniques and moves could look overwhelming at first, especially for not-so-experienced players, but after a few hours with Guilty Gear -Strive- you'll find yourself performing cool combos and making great use of your Tension Gauge. Learning how to charge your Tension faster and when to use it is key if you want to become an above-average player since it allows you to deal more damage with Overdrive attacks, extend your combos with a perfectly-timed Roman Cancel or reduce the damage taken with a Faultless Defense.
Truth be told, with such a short single-player mode, Guilty Gear -Strive- is better experienced if you go online and fight random people, either in Ranking mode or friendly matches. With every new fight, you'll earn money to spend in the non-violent Fishing mode, where you can try your luck to get new clothes and emotions for your avatar, as well as BGM and artworks. Not everything is about punches and kicks in the world of Guilty Gear!
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
Guilty Gear -Strive- surprised us with its haunting soundtrack and colorful graphics, but the best part of Arc System Works' new game is how good the gameplay feels once you master a new move and add it to your arsenal. It feels like you can go deeper and deeper into -Strive- and still learn new ways to take advantage of its complex mechanics, which is what ultimately separates a fantastic and fun game from an average fighter you can get bored of in a weekend. We can't but recommend this game to all fighting games fans, especially those already in love with the Guilty Gear franchise!
Beautiful anime-style graphics.
It comes with a handy guide for new players, explaining the full story of this game and the Guilty Gear saga.
As always, the soundtrack is wonderful!
Casual players may find it a bit too difficult.
Arcade mode feels too short and shallow, and the roster is missing very popular characters such as Jam, Baiken, Dizzy or Bridget. We can't wait for DLC!
Honey's Final Verdict:
We were so looking forward to the release of Guilty Gear -Strive- and it didn't disappoint us. For us, it's the best GG game so far, and now the game is finally available, our attention is put on the upcoming DLC characters, with some familiar faces making a comeback and hopefully some new fighters too!
Now our review is finished, we can go back to play some more! If you want to do the same, remember Guilty Gear -Strive- is available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC via Steam.
Author: Rod Locksley
Hey! I'm Rod, and when I'm not watching anime or playing video games I'm probably writing about them, but I'm also a graphic and web designer, and I even published a comic book and worked like 4 years for a well-known MMORPG. Curiously, my favorite series are quite different from each other, so I'm still trying to understand what I really like in an anime...