Guilty Gear -Strive- Beta Impressions
Guilty Gear -Strive- is a 2.5D beat ‘em up coming to PS5, PS4 and PC in June 2021, and at Jump Dash Roll we were lucky enough to have the chance to play it as part of a recent online beta. If you’re unfamiliar with the franchise it’s a key component of the professional fighting tournament Evo, and this will be the seventh main entry into the series; the 24th overall. On the surface it’s more Street Fighter in terms of button inputs than Mortal Kombat, with an art and animation style to match, and based on the limited time I had with it, the chances are I think high that it could indeed match the aforementioned hero of the genre in terms of contest and quality when it comes to a good old-fashioned fight.
First thing’s first and the game is very pretty, whether talking static or in motion. It’s a cel shaded style full of vibrant colours and larger-than-life characters. The fighting is played out on a two dimensional plane with the camera swinging around at various times, due to game state or particular moves, providing the pseudo-3D effect, or 2.5D as it’s generally termed. It’s bright and enjoyable to look at with no environment coming across as overpopulated with details or complicated by things in such a way as to distract from fighting. The voicework is excellent in the native Japanese, too, giving the whole game a truly solid and engaging feel.
Given this was a beta test, it’s not worth penetrating how well things worked with a release-quality viewpoint. Given the context, and once battle had started, the netcode was rock solid in all our tests. This is hugely promising and beneficial for Arc System Works as they can focus their network efforts onto the initial connectivity, lobby and matchmaking which was all painfully slow. The lobby itself is different to most, in that it’s an actual space where a 16-bit version of yourself can wander around and find other people to fight. It might seem cute but I’m concerned it will become very old very quickly unless everything can happen at super speed. I want to fight and rank up rather than being slowed down by navigating a glorified avatar when I could be beating down some global opponent instead.
To the actual fighting then. There are fifteen characters available to choose from and options to head to the training dojo, play against the CPU or go up against a real person somewhere in the world. The latter enables you to rank up, or down, but also gives you the opportunity to do so at a faster pace if you think yourself capable. Whilst you cannot play weaker opponents, presumably because it’s unfair as opposed to a waste of your time given the negligible gain you’d make, you can choose to go up against folk with higher ranks.
The gameplay felt to me, as an experienced beat ‘em up gamer of nothing more than average skill – so I absolutely cannot attest to how it would all feel for a pro playing at EVO – fun, responsive and purposeful. By that I mean that if you think about what you’re doing and execute it well, you will succeed. After a couple of moments with a given character in the training dojo, just to get a feel of their reach, their movement and their speed, as well as checking the special moves list for the, well, special moves, I felt like I could do a job of some sorts.
And so it turned out. My online battles all played out flawlessly (I played on a wired 40+ Mbps connection with around 14ms ping for reference), which given this was a beta of a now-delayed game (due for release June 11th 2021), was unexpected but demonstrates the readiness of the most important aspect of the game – the actual fighting, where frame rates matter. They will, too, as the game plays out like a stylised version of many two-dimensional brawlers of the past, streamlined to the main four face buttons, R1 for moves like throws, plus a variety of specials which can be executed generally, or upon filling of the appropriate meter. Dashing is present this time around and this ensures a lot of tactical play will be possible. Alongside traditional movements on the ground and in the air, the ability to move back and forth at different speeds provides opportunities to turtle and combat turtling, amongst other strategies and tactics.
With a lovely and fun art style, solid roster of characters and netcode in place, plus a fervent community ready to get back in the game, we’re looking forward to the full release of Guilty Gear -Strive- and how it does. It has a clear run on the PS5 currently with no other fighters planned, so it has a good chance. For sure it will succeed with pros and in certain territories, but with the right wind it could make gains in the UK, too.
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