The Guilty Gear fighting game series has become one of the most popular fans of anime style fighting games. Arc System Work made its first chapter in 1998 on the first PlayStation, and since then the series has spanned multiple generations and platforms, still keeping its DNA, heavily based on animated style, technical combat type and good characterization. characters. There have been a few experiences in the history of the franchise, like fighting with multiple fighters, but we always came back to the highway.
When the production of the new chapter was announced at EVO 2019 Guilty Gear Strive, the enthusiasm of the passionate public therefore skyrocketed. The game is currently in development only for PlayStation 4 and it is not clear whether it will be applied to other platforms at a later date. Directly on the console, Sony Arc System Works launched the beta test phase, in which we participated with great curiosity. This allowed us to test a preview and limited version of the software where it was possible to play online in a public room at certain times in three days, or offline with no time limit.
The Guilty Gear Strive test phase allowed us to test the game with seven fighters to choose from: Sol Badguy, Ky Kiske, May, Axl Low, Chipp Zanuff, Potemkin and Faust. All the faces known to enthusiasts, even if the illustrious absent are missing. The list, however, is balanced and includes several different categories of wrestlers, immediately recognizable also by their appearance.
For example, the charming May, the friend of dolphins who can evoke his support, or Axl who specializes in aerial attacks where the variable of the distance of the adversary takes on an important technical value. Then there are bloody characters like Potemmkin, who make physical mass and brute strength their key to victory, but paying off with low agility that can cause big headaches against quick attacks and combos. ruthless.
Finally, there are balanced characters like Ky and Sol, who are quite agile and quick, good at defense, and equipped with powerful ranged attacks (in the closed beta, these are the ones we’ve come across the most).
Arenas and outfits were limited in number, with only one costume available for each wrestler. The style is pleasant, unmistakable and characteristic. Each fight is actually introduced with a spectacular animated sequence that conveys the idea of three-dimensionality, but in practice the match itself takes place in two dimensions.
The public lobby is very interesting because it features pixel-art graphics in which players can choose an outfit, interact with NPCs and other players around the world, and literally challenge themselves by shooting the weapon (which is not necessarily a sword but it can be a nice broom!).
Ranked lobbies have a “tier” system, where you go up against stronger opponents at the next level. You can choose to go up as much as you want, but not go down once the level is high, a smart system that prevents low shots and is an alternative to classic automatic matchmaking.
Now for some real gameplay, Guilty Gear Strive is a technical though not overly technical fighting game, characterized by pretty bland paces. The horizontal dimension of the arena is not very large, and players need several steps to get closer. Not too fast steps either.
This makes the approach of the opponent very important for strategic purposes, because in the approach phase it is easy to receive an attack from a distance. The vertical dimension is more important than ever, with jumps and aerial attacks essential to dodge certain techniques and jump behind the opponent, assuming a temporary advantage and a position of domination.
The range of combos is quite accessible: stringing together a series of attacks doesn’t require a lot of experience with the series and can be easy for beginners as well. However, it’s different from being able to match one attack well with the other and especially knowing when to stop, as the system is heavily based on counters, which are able to smash even the deadliest combos, if they are made with the correct Schedule. Although closing the opponent to the corner can be prolific, especially when using certain types of characters.
Wall closures are not necessarily fatal. In a nutshell, if they close us against the wall early in the game, it’s hard to be defeated with a perfect shot, just because of the high power of the attacks, we often get bounced around in the arena, thus succeeding in dislodging the “ropes”. And always if you do not manage to break a combo with the aforementioned counters.
Guilty Gear Strive is therefore a fighting game where defense plays a crucial role, just think that it is possible to parry areas. But anyone who abuses defense too much is also punished by filling the RISC bar which, when saturated, will dramatically increase damage taken. From this point of view, therefore, the gameplay encourages you to attack frequently, stopping to defend yourself only when necessary, and to prepare a solid and convincing attack.
We tested the game with DualShock 4 and two arcade sticks: Hori’s Fighting Stick 4 Mini and the Razer Evo Panthera with mechanical keys. The experience with the joypad is much more tiring and less precise, with a tendency to tire the left thumb quickly with the d-pad. Much better with both arcade sticks, especially with the professional Razer. The combos were faster, smoother, and easier to perform.
The gameplay is therefore solid and sometimes rewarding. Even against skillful and highly technical opponents, it is not impossible to win it for a round or even win the match. However, we found some puzzlement in the excessive amount of damage taken with some attacks, especially special attacks. While we believe that defensive weapons are plentiful and strong, the gameplay can get pretty balanced once you get to grips with them.
As for the graphical interface, it was clean and minimal, leaving room for splendid animations, spectacular during special attacks. The game is developed with Unreal Engine and works very well on standard PS4 overall, with no noticeable drop in frame when the connection is stable. The RISC and Voltage bars, however, can be too small and difficult to read in energized phases, and there is surely an imbalance with on-screen characters or meter combos, which in comparison seem decidedly large. Hopefully Arc System will look into this issue.
We found several technical issues in the online pixel art lobby which, when crowded, is plagued by lag and even difficult to find an opponent to challenge. The idea is beautiful, but it certainly needs some refinement.
In summary, the beta of Guilty Gear Strive gave us a first idea of the innovations introduced by the developer in his new chapter of the series. The gameplay seems more accessible than in the past, but no less technical.
Removed some physiological issues from a pre-release, which we hope will be addressed in more mature versions of the code, the game has us convinced and we can’t wait to try a more stable version and the other modes than we interviewed and that weren’t available at the moment, however. .