Guilty Gear Strive, the latest fighting game from Arc System Works offerings, isn’t as robust as some other recent games like Mortal Kombat 11 or Injustice 2; however, what is there, is excellent.

Guilty Gear -Strive- | Striving For Greatness

The crux of your time spent with the game will be playing matches online, which consists of loading into a lobby with a customizable sprite avatar. If you played the second open beta of Strive, you’d be very familiar with this concept. 

You’ll mill around different floors and queue up at Battle Stations to load into matches. It’s a little tedious but overall could have been a lot worse. If you're looking just to play against a few friends you can set up a private room with a bevy of different customization options. These options range from who rotates out after a match, how many rounds each match is, and even how many players can join the room. It's a simplified version of the online lobbies, and lets you have a couple of friends over for a few rounds. 

The fighting in Guilty Gear Strive is fluid, fast, and dynamic. The art style brings the world of Guilty Gear to life in a way previously unseen. Every game in the franchise has looked magnificent, but Strive’s new style lets the characters take center stage.

The roster of 15 characters all play and feel unique. I-No’s guitar-heavy slams are far different from the quick rush-down tactics of Giovanna. The superb rollback netcode further enhances this. Rollback is going to let Strive thrive in the online scene.

I didn’t feel any noticeable input delay or dropped frames in the multiple online matches I played. It felt almost as smooth as playing locally. This was playing against players on opposite coasts. I haven’t been able to put the online through its paces in other regions yet, but I’m confident it will hold up just as well from what I’ve played. 

Of course, the beautiful animations and art style are paired with a soundtrack that holds up just as well. A mix of different high-energy rock songs and shredding guitar help elevate the action in Strive to 11. 

Seeing Guilty Gear in motion might be overwhelming to new players, and jumping into a new fighting game can seem impossible. Luckily, Arc System Works has created a series of missions in the training area to break down each concept to its base form. These missions are quick, bite-sized looks at higher skill concepts like Roman Cancels, fighter matchups, and Super Freeze Counters.

The mission structure helps each of these concepts become digestible to newer players. Starting with elementary ideas like anti-airs and small combos and then moving to the more complex systems. 

I spent a lot of time here learning the concepts my opponents online would be using. While it still takes time to master these systems, at least online, I knew what to look out for and understood what my enemies were doing when they juggled me in the air like a clown at the circus.

It would be nice if there were more combo tutorials and character-specific training missions, but Arc System Works has announced that a combo maker will be making it's way into the game soon. This will allow players to upload and share their own combos for others to learn.

Guilty Gear Strive’s Story Mode isn’t structured like other fighting games in the traditional sense. It isn’t a string of fights tied together with cutscenes in-between, but rather just one long movie diving deep into the continuing lore of the franchise. If you need to get caught up before watching, there is a section in the menu to help you learn the timeline of the games. 

        

Outside of training, Story, and online, there isn’t much else to do in Guilty Gear Strive. Sure, there are some arcade fights and CPU matches, but there aren’t further single-player progressions like in other recent fighting games. This isn’t a knock against the game, but something people who aren’t looking to play online should be informed about. 

Strive has a ton of music in the game, unfortunately, it's all locked away behind a gatcha style fishing minigame. In order to (hopefully) unlock the content you'll need to earn money from playing any of the various modes and then use that money to fish. 

Mixed in with the music are concept art and avatar times so getting your favorite song from Guilty Gear is up to the fishing gods. It's frustrating to lock something like that behind a system that is entirely random, but here we are.

After the last year of isolation and no in-person events, I wish Strive had come out sooner. Its online features and rollback netcode are what will keep this game going long after it releases. Rollback is the future for online fighting games, and the proof is in the pudding with Strive.

If you're a fan of online fighting games and plan to spend a lot of time fighting friends across the world, then Guilty Gear Strive is best in class. If you're looking for more single-player modes and content there are other fighting games on the market that have more options. 

Related: Guilty Gear -STRIVE- Open Beta Impressions: Prima Games’ Post-Fight Perspective

Pros:

  • Rollback Netcode is unrivaled and should be a mainstay going forward
  • Excellent artstyle and soundtrack
  • Fighting feels fast and fluid.

 

Cons:

  • Lobby system still needs work and is overly obtuse
  • Music locked behind gatch systems
  • No combo tutorials 

 

Score: 9