When Guilty Gear Xrd -SIGN- released back in 2014, It quickly stirred up various discussions within the gaming space. Arc System Works had created a 2.5D visual style that perfectly emulated the series’ previous 2D sprites, but the benefit of now being a 3D title gave them access to dynamic camera views that left many speechless.

It was a gorgeous aesthetic design that had many non-fighting game fans interested, but the fears of mastering more technical mechanics led to a bit of hesitation. However, the team has returned once again, to impress the industry with stunning visuals, and tackle the worries new players may have.

For many new players looking to pick and enjoy Strive, the first question is usually “Where should I start?”. As a game’s tutorial is generally the first stop, a lot of attention was put into how exactly a mode like this should be presented. After some light lore based banter between Sol and Ky, the key characters and rivals within the game, you’re thrown into the action. The run through a series of basic movements and attacks while their dialogue continues on in the background. It’s a subtle touch that makes it feel as though you’re experiencing a mini-episode rather than just running through a boring tutorial.

It’s this desire of making sure new players stay engaged while learning that makes these modes so impressive. You’re gradually presented with new information, then slowly eased into the proper ways to apply it. This sets the stage for the overall theme franchise seem to be headed towards, which is simplicity.

But making a more accessible always runs the risk of alienating longtime fans, so extra care needs to be placed on the core mechanics to ensure more technical playstyles can still shine. That brings us to the missions of the game.

Mission Mode is perhaps the most substantial mode inside the offline dojo. This section will run you through everything the game has to offer from basic fighting game techniques, mechanics unique to Guilty Gear, and even match-up knowledge for the entire starting roster. There are more than 120 mission divided into five difficulties, and you’re often given the opportunity to play them with whichever character you like.

It’s great that each mission is self-contained lesson, but it’s not without its drawbacks. If you intend on sitting down and running through an entire map, be prepared to sit through a loading screen when progressing to the next mission. While a fast SSD or PS5 will reduce the overall load time, the initial eagle flying animation is still unavoidable in-between transitions.

But once you clear everything the mode has to offer, you’ll have an expansive set of tools at your disposal, and a robust training mode to apply this knowledge.

Training gives you access to many of the features you’d expect from a fighter. You easily reset positions, record setups, and set your opponent to do various actions. However, one glaring oversight is the lack of the ability to display frame data. Arc System works has added this feature to previous titles post launch, but it’s still a bit strange that this wouldn’t be a priority at launch. Aside from that, Character specific combo trials seem to also be missing, though they have noted a “Combo Maker” update has been planned as free DLC.

A great tool within the game for new and returning players would definitely to be “GG World”. In this mode you’ll be greeted by a glossary full of people, location, abilities and more that are part of the Guilty Gear world. You can also dive into specific character relationships and read about events in the order they occurred.

The gallery and fishing make playing through the game, completing missions, and challenging others online worth your time and effort. As you partake in any of these activities, you’ll accumulate in-game currency, which can then be used to fish for various items. In general, items consist of artworks, music, avatars parts, and colors. Music items are particularly interesting, as you can fish for classic Guilty Gear songs from previous titles, and then play them during a match.

The online mode is a perplexing one. There has bit a lot of discussion on how fighting games tackle player connections in an online environment, and some sort of rollback networking implementation is usually at the end of these conversations. This is the first time an Arc System Works game has launched with rollback, and my initial thoughts are that it works exceptionally well. But getting to these matches is where things get weird. The online lobby sounds great on paper, you have a floor system that position player by skill, and there’s less incentive to quit as individual ranks are no longer important.

However, the visual style and navigating the lobby is a polarizing debate. The game utilizes a habbo hotel, 8-bit visual style for lobbies, which while I think looks great, I’m not quite sure it’s the right fit for the overall game. It’s also a bit disappointing that cross platform play appears to be limited to PS4 and PS5 only.

While the starting roster is somewhat scarce for such a long running franchise, there does appear to be some justification behind it. Strive initially set out to become something new, rather than a continuation of the past games. And this isn’t limited to gameplay, as you can see it extends to new vocal music pieces and the simpler character designs, as well.

Experiencing this firsthand, with modes like the tutorial, and their focus on capturing new players, it seems like a no brainer to start off small, and gradually increase the roster as new players learn the game. It will be interesting to see what new and returning characters can bring to the table, as we have a few new characters the evaluate already.

At the start, we given two new characters to explore, Nagoriyuki and Giovanna. To start off, Nagoriyuki is an overall great design. The game explains that he is a noble vampire samurai, and this can be shown off in his gameplay with the use of his Bloodrage gauge. Each time you use a special attack, this gauge will fill. Once you fill it all the way, you’ll enter Max Bloodrage mode, giving you access to new abilities and buffs to your S and HS attacks. All these flashy attacks in addition to his ease of use, makes him a great choice for anyone staring out.

The second new addition to the roster is Giovanna, which ends up feeling a bit underwhelming. Giovanna herself is a special officer that works directly in a unit tasked with protecting the President of the United States. She has a great visual design, and amazing wolf spirit known as “Rei”, but that’s where the disappointment starts. Despite how prominent Rei is in the overall character visual, it doesn’t really feel like Rei is properly integrated and used in her move-list well. Perhaps the could change in the future is balance patches that add new attacks, but for right now she’s not that interesting.

Lastly there’s the story, which does seem like an odd point to address last. Following in the footsteps of Xrd, story mode is presented as something you watch, rather than your typical gameplay, final boss battle experience. Most stories in fighting games tend to shoehorn reasons for playable characters to fight, as this would allow you to avoid modeling and creating move-lists for story specific characters. This can often limit the narrative the developers can tell, so I feel this movie-esque path was the right choice to take.

If you’re a new to the series they’ve also provided digest comics available for free on their website. This will help you understand the events up to the Xrd story, which is also free on YouTube, so you can enjoy Strive without any confusion.

Overall Guilty Gear Strive is a great addition to the series. The missions and tutorials will allow new players to improve, unique characters give a variety of options to fit everyone’s playstyle, and the great online experience insures that the community can continue to enjoy playing against each other for years to come.

Spectacular Visuals
Great Online
Mission Mode
Missing a few training options

Game: Guilty Gear -Strive-
Publisher: Arc System Works
Developer: Arc System Works
Release: 2021 Jun, 11

Review copy provided by the publisher.
Reviewed on: PC

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