Guilty Gear Strive is quite wonderful. It has gripped me ever since online play was enabled earlier this week. It is finely balanced - with each characters offering a unique look, attitude and playstyle. And unlike previous Guilty Gear games, which have proven too complex for so many, Strive will show you the door that leads to its brilliance.
And what brilliance! Guilty Gear Strive has trimmed the fat from the series to reveal a bristling core, a responsive, stylish and vibrant fighting game that's an immediate blast to play, but enticingly creative. Some of the complexity of previous versions has been shunted away, yes, but Strive remains deep.
Arc System Works has done a fantastic job of walking this tightrope. How do you keep veteran Guilty Gear fans on-side while also appealing to newcomers? The designers at the Japanese studio came up with a number of answers. Strive feels slightly slower and, as a result, more manageable, although much of the pace of proceedings comes from the sheer heft of the game. Strive packs a punch. It feels present, there on the screen, impactful with every slash.
First off, big-damage combos aren’t nearly as hard to pull off as they have been in the past. Even just comboing a simple slash, heavy slash, overdrive combo can yield a humongous chunk of damage. The tradeoff is that landing these big combos is a bit more difficult because you can no longer convert substantial damage off of quick light attacks.
The universal gatling system of punches cancelling into kicks, which cancel into slashes, which cancel into heavy slashes, which cancel into dust attacks is no longer present in Strive. Instead, if you want that combo damage, you’re going to have to find a way to land your beefier and slower attacks. It certainly creates a more deliberate pace and a more neutral-heavy style of gameplay, but I think it’s a great change that gives Strive its own unique feel and identity compared to other Guilty Gear games.
And make no mistake, even despite that change in pace, this is still Guilty Gear, a series that throws many of the typical rules of fighting games out the window with unorthodox mechanics such as its signature Roman Cancels. That’s when you press three attack buttons to cancel the startup or recovery animations of nearly any attack at the cost of 50% of your tension meter. So for example, if you rush in with an unsafe move like, say, Sol’s Night Raid Vortex, you can use a Roman Cancel when it’s blocked to not only make yourself safe from punishment, but also leave yourself in a position to continue your offense.
Or you could use a Roman Cancel to keep a combo going after Sol’s heavy slash, a move that normally isn’t cancellable into anything else. RCs are a Swiss army knife of utility, and that’s without even getting into the weeds of the differences between the red, blue, purple, and yellow varieties.