There’s no hype like new fighter hype, and this week’s Guilty Gear -STRIVE- beta testing is going loud. Most folks will be getting their hands on the Open Beta at some point today, but Jesse and I (among other media and pre-order customers) got to hop in a little early.

After getting our feet wet with the latest STRIVE build, it was time for our destinies to intersect. Several rounds later, we walked away to actually do some real work, but more importantly collect our thoughts to fire off some impressions.

It’s Guilty Gear collab time, baby.

Guilty Gear -STRIVE- Open Beta Impressions

Lucas White, Editor and Guilty Gear veteran

Jesse Vitelli, Editor and Guilty Gear newcomer

First Impression!

Lucas: I was really impressed with how fully-featured this testing phase feels. You didn’t really have access to everything, but the UI seemed pretty official and was full of intriguing placeholders.

And while many betas restrict how you can play quite a bit, it was awesome to see things like offline multiplayer, training, command lists, and even a bunch of social features for online ready to go. STRIVE is shaping up into something that feels big.

Jesse: So, this is my first Guilty Gear game and I wasn't sure what to expect. I remember being enamored by the art style when Strive was first announced a few years back.

After playing a few hours of the beta it might be one of my favorite fighting games in recent memory. The flow of each fight feels paced out right. They just need to fix that god-forsaken lobby.

How’s it feel?

Lucas: The thing I was most curious about was the damage scaling. In the earlier testing, damage was turned way hella up and rounds were over in a flash. Here it feels more reasonable while still maintaining the sense of speed and impact STRIVE is going for.

I’m also super into the UI; it makes checking your movesets very easy regardless of what mode you’re in, and the little videos and context blurbs help me think about what to look for when starting a new character. The fighting itself is so silky smooth, even for a Guilty Gear!

I never once had any major execution issues, and the animations are so big and readable I had a great time exploring combo potential in real time. Dust launching is super extra though, and that’s going to take more time to get used to than I expected.

Jesse: It's tight and responsive. The animations looked and feel fluid, like a painting in motion. It doesn't seem terribly difficult to string together smaller combos, but I've already seen some crazy tech online.

It feels like a game that is easier to learn but hard to master. Older Guilty Gear tactics like Burst baiting are still a thing, but overall the game feels much more readable. Arcsys has found a way to make an over-the-top anime fighter that you can still understand what is happening on the screen.

Favorite character so far?

Lucas: I am all in on Giovanna, one hundred percent. I’ll try the other characters, but she and I instantly clicked. Punchy characters can be hit or miss with ArcSys fighters for me, but Giovanna is straightforward, easy to understand, and doesn’t get screwed in things like range thanks to her familiar-like wolf pal.

Despite how simple her moveset seems on paper, it seems like Giovanna's actual hit properties are tricksy enough that her opponents can have a hard time reading them. That said, you do have to be concious of the limitations she does have, such as her QCF+Kick's stopping range, and when her QCB+Slash overhead move cuts off if you use it in the air.

Jesse: I've been playing around with Millia Rage a ton. Her speed is just unrivaled and the tech online I've seen for her looks incredibly fun. Being able to slide across the screen and have access to a second air dash as a utility is pretty incredible. Also, who doesn't love a character whose hair becomes a blade? 

How’s the online?

Lucas: This is the best I’ve ever felt playing a fighting game online in a long-ass time. I have good, hardwired internet to be fair, but never once did I feel like there was any sort of disruption while Jesse and I clashed.

To be fair we’re both on the East Coast, but I think the FGC yelling at ArcSys until it caved and implemented rollback is really going to pay off. The lobby stuff, though… I dunno, I understand ArcSys has been experimenting with how to make lobbies a little more fun and social for years now.

But this setup feels so far removed from what the game is it’s hard to not feel oddly displaced. Running around with my little pixel person, hopping around on platforms and waving weapons around is just… weird? I loved the little arcade cabinets from Granblue Fantasy Versus, but STRIVE’s setup will take some adjusting to.

Jesse: Lucas and I were playing earlier today and while we both live reasonably close together, the online held out perfect. I also played with a friend across the country and had 0 input delays. Rollback netcode in the current beta seems to be some of the best version of it I've seen to date.

I have to echo Lucas' sentiments on the lobby system though. It's obtuse, overcomplex and ultimately doesn't need to be this way. I should be able to simply invite a friend or multiple to a lobby and just have them go round-robin. Instead, we have to create a pixel character, go to a tower and then find each other in a different virtual space.

Final thoughts!

Lucas: As cool as the Xrd series could be, I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. Something about the way it looked and played didn’t sit as right with me and I didn’t play it enough to settle on what. But STRIVE has me hyped. The character models are HUGE, the animation is on a whole new level, and the whole presentation is more over the top than ever.

I’ll never get tired of that eagle cruising in before each match. I’m a little bummed Giovanna is a cop, though. It was heartbreaking when I noticed that badge. Hopefully she’s the Chun-Li kind of cop at least.

Jesse: I am all in on Guilty Gear Strive. It's one of the few fighting games to actually get me to dust off my fightstick and spend some time in the dojo, which is another point I want to make. Thank you for putting a training mode in the beta. It helps a lot, and more fighting games should absolutely do that.

Anything else? 

Lucas: I’ve been playing Guilty Gear for like 20 years and just realized today that Zato-1 is a reference to Zatoichi the blind samurai. I am ashamed.

Jesse: Faust is absolutely terrifying and an absolute nightmare. Please make it go away.

As fun as it was to spend the morning beating the crap out of each other, the hard part will be trying to rank up in the towers online against strangers. Neither of us may make it to the top of the tower during the Open Beta this weekend when it opens all the way up, but I'm definitely going to try.

But hey, when Guilty Gear -STRIVE- launches for real on April 6, 2021, it's every anime for themselves. Do our readers have thoughts on the latest in Arc System Works' flagship fighter? Let us know over at the Prima Games Twitter and Facebook channels!