Let’s Rock. Guilty Gear -Strive- is the 24th entry into the acclaimed fighter’s esteemed lineage, carrying a legacy that symbolises where the next generation of brawlers are heading. Thanks to the kind folk at Bandai Namco, DashGamer had the opportunity to check out an early preview of the Open Beta, which will be publicly available from today (February 18, 2021 2PM AEST). With developers Arc System Works behind the project, I expected the title to be absolutely gorgeous, and my assumption was on the mark. Our first look was a quick tutorial that gave us the basics of each characters arsenal, with light and heavy melee attacks along with close ranged attacks that can be activated with simple button mashing or the occasional combination chain. Upon completing the tutorial, we were only given access to Exhibition modes, both local and online.
Much like the Guilty Gear title’s of yesteryear, customisation is key. Setting a number specific rounds from 1 – 5, for those looking to prolong their spar you can turn the time limit off, and of course the importance of testing your might, setting the exhibition’s difficulty against a CPU from Very Easy to Very Hard will allow the experienced devout to count all those frames in each combo executed. Just from presentation alone, the title’s intention is to set a precipice for itself as a dominant contender for eSports tournaments held globally. Much like Arc’s DragonBall FighterZ, its anime aesthetic is rich and demonstrates and evolved presentation of the title’s gameplay loop. While the aforementioned fighter had facets of 2D style, 3D Modelled renders, it was apparent that this formula was pushed.
However Guilty Gear -Strive- improves on this intended design with excellent contrast. It’s composition of melding two respective dimensional fields of view adds such a distinct flavour to its overarching premise, that will no doubt have fans salivating from the thought of its full release in April. A series of transitions that take place during battle elevate this by its fixed camera shooting multiple angles of each combatant from multiple angles, almost extracting you from distinct moments to demonstrate and justify this title’s absolutely gorgeous design. While some characters may be a slow boil to assimilate, others carry skillsets ready for those that are inexperienced in fighters. As someone who is acclimated with his fair share of fighting titles, I still found myself drawn towards character’s like May. Wielding a Pirate Ship’s anchor as her driver, and already establishing much of her moves from previous entries in the franchise, her chain combos and commands were easy to pertain.
Then we have other character such as Faust, whose looming presence may disengage players into a frightening trance in this lanky, scrub-donned, medical genius gone insane. Attributes are taken into account for each respective character and the weapons they yield. Faust’s reach gives him a noticeable advantage over smaller characters like May, able to attack from afar while other character’s making their GG debut like Giovanna, who is accompanied by a Wolf-like apparition, Rei, will have to get close in range of her opponent to execute a melee attack. Of course, using special moves she can initiate a combo string from afar then jump into close range while a character is stunned, but can take some work. This is for the experienced brawler, but is certainly appreciated nonetheless.
Dialogue is presented before each fight, with characters either wishing each other lucky in friendly combat, or threatening foes looking to eradicate and annihilate their opposing adversary. A norm that has become a staple within every fighting franchise, but Guilty Gear -Strive- does it justice with non-dubbed localised voice over. As a “dub guy”, I do prefer English audio available in dialogue, but there’s something special about each character’s resolve and delivery that had me anticipate each encounter just a bit more. The low, deep cut that hits when morbidly mutated characters present themselves in battle hits harder, and some of the humour is delivered in a timely manner that will make you chuckle. But the intensity and overall purpose to have players engaged from beginning to end of each battle is quite encapsulating.
Online was interesting. Placing you in a lobby that allows you to explore a number of floors in this 8-bit like construct while waiting for an available fight was intriguing, but without many players online, I only explored it for a bit as most of its interactable options were not available in the Open Beta. However, the ability to customise your character with unique skins, unlock personalised name plates, playback fights and some movie clips is cool, but I’m interested to see what else online has in-store for Guilty Gear -Strive-. Regardless, this will no doubt be a memorable fighter for years to come. If anything, its an aesthetically pleasing demonstration that I would have expected Capcom and Street Fighter to capitalise upon. Guilty Gear has had an extremely adventuresome history, opposing the intrepid dominance of many that share its genre.
However, this will no doubt be a coming of age for the series, a renaissance that may very well place it at the forefront and may very well be, fighter of the year.
Guilty Gear Strive Releases for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5 and PC on April 6, 2021.
Pre-Order today and get access to the Open Beta from February 18 to February 22.
Guilty Gear Strive - Bandai Namco