Guilty Gear Strive just concluded its first closed beta over the third weekend of April 2020. Thankfully, I was able to get access to check out the game and try it for the first time. Here I’ll dive into some of the things I’ve noticed as someone who’s been playing Guilty Gear since Xrd first launched.
Of course, this title is still under development, so any of the criticisms in this article may likely be addressed in the final version of the game (or future iterations/patches. Thanks online gaming).
The presentation for Guilty Gear Strive is either hit or miss. Starting with the good, the best thing about this game is definitely the visuals and its art direction. The animations are gorgeous and the new models for the characters are dark yet wacky, which is a nice midpoint from the shounen anime style of Guilty Gear Xrd and the gritty art style of the older Guilty Gear titles. The wall break animation is still amazing after seeing it the first 100 times, but it will definitely get old fast unless it can be sped up enough to keep up the flow of the battle.
The character select screen is nothing short of revolutionary. This is the only fighting game that I’ve ever seen that will tell you the playstyle of the character in multiple ways. Having the short blurb that describes the character’s specialty is super helpful (e.g. Axl the long range duelist and May the relentless attacker). The little chart that shows power levels at different ranges is also extremely helpful for newbies and veteran players alike to understand such an advanced concept in a concise way. This will help anyone new to the series to understand how a character plays and how they should expect to use them. The heavy lean towards including useful info does cause the aesthetics department to take a dip. I think that it can still be more stylized and still convey the category of power, speed, balance, etc.
Battle UI has some great things and not so great with it. The coolest thing is definitely the counter and combo counter display (don’t @ me). The huge counter display with the slowdown is a very stylish way to reinforce the feeling of power behind counter hits. It’s also a great way to help players confirm into a stylish counter hit combo that they’ve practiced in the lab. The combo counter increasing in size is ingenious because it builds up hype for how many hits you’re able to land and utilizes the empty space of the screen for when a corner combo is being done.
However, the HUD for the battles definitely needs a lot of work. It’s unanimous amongst the community that the moving portraits in the life bars need to go. The RISC gauge is also impossible to see with how tiny it is along with it moving with the life gauge. This makes it difficult to know where to glance to do a quick check. The tension gauge is also extremely plain and so faint it was hardly noticeable during matches. The last major complaint is the camerawork for counter hits. It seems that the camera doesn’t snap back fast enough to allow the player in control to judge distances properly. The game is a work in progress, so these hopefully will be adjusted by the final version of the game.
The command list for this game is also another revolutionary idea for the genre of fighting games. The first noticeable change that is great is the animation of the move being shown in the menu. This is extremely useful for new players to confirm if they are doing the correct move when doing the input or quickly cross-reference to find what the input is for a move that you keep seeing a character perform. Although 3D fighters have already done something like this, it is nice to be able to see the whole list and see the animation in a smaller window. The second great thing is the descriptions of the moves. Typically, fighting games will just describe the move itself but GG Strive goes a step further and adds context. The description will tell you some important properties like if it’s plus on block and also when it is a good idea to use the move. What’s great is that the animation shown in the description also often depicts that context of when the move is best used. Unfortunately, there are some descriptions that didn’t seem to make sense or give any info, like Ky’s electrifying system as it didn’t really tell me how it lets me do more attacks. They also have a list for basic commands like dashing, bursts, and throws which is great for anyone who wants a quick reference. The one thing I do wish was there was more information about the new Roman Cancel system.
Finally the post-battle screen is a great addition to the bevy of useful information packed into this game. Having the “stats” that you are graded on (Offense, Defense, Heart, and Technique) serves to help players become aware of different play-styles and how well a player is performing in regards to them. Also, the general advice quips given at post-match screens are great to help give some positive reinforcement and generally good advice in regards to fighting games in general (e.g. “You got the potential to be a mind reading tactician”).
The mechanics of the game have changed a bit since the first time we reported on the game.
The biggest change that I saw was the airdash. This is the first time most of us were able to play the game with the glyph appearing for airdashes. Many players have had their concerns about the slow start up making it way too easy to prepare for an anti-air, but there’s more than meets the eye. The new airdash will allow you to choose between two angles of attack; a full standard airdash and a quick fall attack. If you hit a button or faultless defense at the right time after inputting an airdash, you will get a short dash forward that will drop you to the ground quickly. If you don’t press a button after the airdash input, you’ll go the full distance of the character’s airdash. This helps to mix up your approach for any opponent that can react to the dash startup animation and keep them guessing. The only characters who don’t have this glyph airdash are Potemkin (for grappler reasons) and Faust, who has a slower airdash that goes 80% of the screen length.
Another change I did notice was the addition of having characters be in counter hit status after performing an invincible uppercut. This is much like Street Fighter V, where missed DP’s equal death by counter. This may be mitigated by Roman Canceling (spending 50 meter) the DP to avoid getting punished.
The other major change to Guilty Gear overall is the renowned Gatling System. In all other iterations of the game, you could press P, K, S, HS in order for most of the cast and it would be a combo. Now this is not the case for Guilty Gear Strive.
These are some universal gatlings that almost everyone in the game can do.
- cl.S > f.S > HS > Special
- Axl doesn’t combo from f.S into HS (this may change)
- 2K or 5/2P > 6P > Special (except Axl) (Potemkin can’t special cancel from 6P)
- 2P > 5P > 6P > Special (except Axl) (Potemkin can’t special cancel from 6P)
- 2K / 5K > 2D > Special
- cl.S > 5D
- cl.S > 2D > Special
- cl.S > 6P > Special
Stuff like this is great to help lower the entry barrier for learning new characters (especially when people are still dating around to find their main). The muscle memory that is developed will serve players for sticking with the game.
There are a ton of other changes in the game that have gone against tradition for GG, but there’s too many to mention for this article so you can read about them in the article here.
The most important part of fighting games is of course the characters. We’ll take a look at some of the notable and fun changes that I’ve noticed with my short time with the beta.
Sol may be the scariest he’s ever been in any version of Guilty Gear that I’ve played. The amount of damage he can do and the options he has to open people up are bewildering much of the community. The biggest jaw dropper is Sol’s Wild Throw. The damage is immense, dealing over a third of the opponent’s life. This change seems to essentially give the player freebie combo damage that would normally follow from performing the throw. The other major change is the addition of guard breaks, namely with Fafnir. If the opponent blocks Fafnir, they will be open to attacks if the Sol player decides to Roman Cancel. But the most unfortunate change is the lack of Dragon Install. Hopefully this is just a missing feature from the beta.
Ky doesn’t have too many changes since we first saw him in the first teasers for GG Strive. The major change from the first glimpse of Strive is that his DP, Vapor Thrust, doesn’t have the kick followup anymore. A fun thing I found is that if you hit his close S on an airborne opponent, it’ll bounce them to the ground to normalize the height for a follow up hit.
Chipp is newer on the reveal list, so there doesn’t seem to be anything changed so far. Some notable things for him is that Gamma Blade (his running clone technique) can take damage if you hit it. This may sound like it’s really bad for him, but I see it as a compelling bait to open opponents up for a counter hit opportunity. Alpha Blade (teleport slash) has two angles, straight and 45 degrees upward. You can get some really cool combos with landing 2HS into the angled Alpha Blade. Also, wall run combos are way too cool.
May has grown up along with her strength for GG Strive. Her damage output along with having two incredibly strong supers makes her a powerhouse at this point. Her speedy dolphin attacks and the huge range on her anchor allows her to confirm almost any hit with RC into massive damage. Her beach ball attack also is guaranteed to come out even if May gets hit. Scariest of all, her Orca super works in the air and will beat out Heavenly Potemkin Buster for a ton of damage.
Potemkin is also a beast in this iteration of Guilty Gear. He almost feels like he’s been transplanted directly from Xrd minus having his rocket boosters. It was found that he has a kara cancel using his 6K which gives enough range to get a command grab at the start of the round. He can also use this with his new move, Gardua Impact, to guard break a foe and combo into 2D or grab without needing to Roman Cancel.
Axl is still as annoying as ever with his mid- to long-range keep-away style. Although he doesn’t have his DP from Xrd anymore, he’s been given a full screen command grab. The grab itself is highly telegraphed but it can be set up in tricky ways so anyone not paying close attention will be getting the clothesline. His green sickle have got some cool new properties, like the spinner followup now causing a vacuum effect and a brand new follow up that explodes the end of the sickle.
Faust has gotten quite the make over with moveset and his new look with medical scrubs. Many of his signature moves are present but done in quite different ways. Going My Way, the tornado spin attack that he’s had, is now more like the Tasmanian Devil spin and can be controlled horizontally now. His teleport now creates scarecrows and still has the left, right, up mixup but now the grounded versions can be controlled horizontally. And most unfortunately, he’s missing his butt poke super. I hope again, this is just a missing feature from the beta.
The online play for this beta was not received well by the community to say the least. The nature of betas come with the expectations of problems, but there were issues that did go beyond technical issues. The most criticized aspect of the online was the lobby room. Having a bunch of avatars move around a 2D platformer-like space resulted in a very cluttered environment that made it hard to navigate. Everyone could bunch around one area making it hard to select particular people to chat or fight with, along with making the exit almost impossible to toggle. Many players weren’t sure how to ready up to fight unless they went through the tutorial as most of them likely skipped it. It wasn’t clear how the matches were selected when the weapon up (ready for queue) system worked. Also, it wasn’t clear on how to choose someone you wanted to match up with. Another gripe with the battling system is that after you finish a match, it seems to let you know that you’ve “leveled up” and should be put into a higher room position. Constantly being taken out of the matches is quite annoying.
Some suggestions I have personally to mitigate these issues would be the following:
- Make avatars space apart from each other after getting into a battle (make sure they are pushed away from the exit and other NPC’s)
- Have some designated stations in the lobby that creates a queueing system (arcade cabinet style)
- Have the most-used controls present on the screen (e.g. hold square to battle)
- Allow rematches right away with the player you’re linked up with
- If you rank up, have the character come back into the room, but unable to match up and once you leave, you’ll see that you’re locked out of the room.
Not everything was bad, though, as there were some great ideas that came in this new lobby system. The pixelated aesthetic with creating your own avatar was very cute and looked great overall. Although, having the announcement banner be permanently on screen was a bit strange, and it would be nice if you could toggle it off after you join a lobby. The other great thing was the floor system, as it would lock strong players out of the beginner floors. This will help newer players match up with other new players to give them the expectation that their backs aren’t blown out by a veteran player. And veterans who think they’re hot stuff can go straight up to the top to see if they can hang. This self selection option is great for all players to help temper their expectations while giving them choice.
Of course, most important of all is how it felt playing matches. The matches I was able to get all felt really great. The game itself felt very responsive and I didn’t feel like lag caused any mistakes that I made in my own matches (I swear that wake-up super was going to hit). This beta was using the delay-based netcode so it won’t be indicative of the final product. Given this, it is promising to think that it can be better if the rollback netcode is implemented well.
Overall, I’m very excited for what is coming when it comes to Guilty Gear Strive. The bold changes that the series is going for are welcome to me wit things like the art direction and the battle system. There are definitely plenty of problems when it comes to the UI and matchmaking in this iteration of its development. But the good thing is that we still have some time to see more changes in the system for things that didn’t work out too well in this beta (praying that this statement will age well). Also with it being the first Arc System Works game to adopt roll back net code, I see a bright future for this game and the Guilty Gears beyond it.