If I’m not misremembering this, the game itself was made on the idea of not having a typical fighter which has typical fireballs, which is why insta-kills were added, and there aren’t really ‘fireball’ characters as you might see in a street fighter or mortal kombat.
Again, as someone new, I can’t comment much on their older games, but ArcSys seems to hold in high regard their older games, as they’re all on different platforms, R+ has been updated with Rollback netcode.
Guilty Gear Strive
Strive marks a new entry point where(and if you’ve been following ArcSys’s development over the past couple years) it is a game where they’re looking to attract newer players and bring down barriers to entry. The roster has been pared down(pending DLC), mechanics are lessened. Think Street Fighter III to SFIV. And, surprisingly to me, because I don’t think any form of games media has mentioned it, the end of the Guilty Gear story. I believe this only brings Sol Badguy’s arc to a close, but there may be more going on with Blazblue not having received a fresh entry in a number of years. I wanted to write a bit here because I was able to actually play the beta, and its pretty good.
It goes without saying that ArcSys’s graphical renditions are second to none, following up their DBFZ work. It looks and animates like an actual anime, which hopefully puts the ‘sprites or death’ crowd to rest. Their claim to fame I’d say if you know nothing about the game is that it has rollback netcode. We’ve seen fighting game developers in this pandemic or otherwise gravitate and experiment with rollback. If you’re unfamiliar, lets just say this is the preferred method of online play, as the only other option is delay based netcode, which is disastrous in fighting games. But most game devs have either already released their big project already and DIDN’T do rollback, or they tried to implement it and were unable to do so. So we see SNK, ArcSys going back to some of their older games and testing rollback on those. If its not clear, it’s a bit of an arms race to get functioning online in Corona-land. Guilty Gear R+ IIRC set record numbers for its beta rollback netcode. But this is the biggest, newest game with rollback netcode. That’s HUGE. No other “main” fighting game in this environment with rollback netcode – SFV? Nope. Tekken? Nope? Smash? You’re funny. I guess like Fire Emblem Awakening, even though this is supposed to be ‘the end’, we could see this game reinvigorate the franchise to reach greater heights than ever.
Story mode is actually a movie, which isn’t new for the series, but I do find myself conflicted on whether they should’ve done a half-arsed story mode, kept it out completely, just done a companion youtube video, or do as they’ve done currently.
The tutorial is horrible – as a new player, I had no idea there was a sweep motion in this game at all until I puzzled it out through myself and the internet. Commentary says they’ve pruned down the tutorial in combination with the ‘tower’ system and keeping the game de-cluttered of advanced mechanics in order to draw in new/less experienced players. There’s nothing wrong with a comprehensive tutorial, especially one you can come back to. In my experience, teaching someone, especially the WRONG way, it can be hard to unlearn bad habits.
It was only a beta so I can’t speak definitively, but the online experience was great. There’s a latency counter and a rollback status, so you know what you’re dealing with. I saw acceptable numbers (40-ish ms) when I got the chance to glance at them, but it was a short beta and testing the limits of rollback is tempting. I’m not really sure how to look at strength of connections, and I don’t think there was a pure winrate percentage I could look at. That’s when you’re in the match, however: Outside of the match, its more of a mixed bag.
I encountered serious trouble trying to use quick match for matches. I won’t judge them for this as it’s a beta and I’m sure launch servers will be better than beta servers. The elephant in the room is the lobby system(which you don’t actually have to use as I just mentioned with Quick Match). The lobby system has you make a pixelated Mii(think Minecraft) and you’re suppose do various things from there. It feels like they’re trying to reinvent the wheel for no real reason, even if they were to go back to what they did with DBFZ(lobby system, you can teleport to wherever you need to). On a personal level, I don’t understand why they have you running around as a Mii when you could, like in DBFZ, be an actual character or even an old guilty gear sprite. That being said, ArcSys seems to be pretty precious about using GG sprites(consider there’s no GG reps in Cross Tag), so maybe that’s why they didn’t do the DBFZ route. They should play to their strengths, and this feels like its…I don’t even know? Trying to emulate a social Minecraft experience? But to put a cap on it, people found it confusing. Compounded with that, instead of a normal ranking system(which is still in the game, wait for it…), everyone is to be on a specific ‘floor’ in a tower. There’s a number of floors and at the top is the ‘celestial floor’ which has a VIP floor on top of it IIRC. This creates issues in when people “derank” or rank up, as you can’t challenge them anymore, abruptly ending your matches, and exacerbating the fact that you need to use the disliked tower lobby. Anyone who’s risen to a certain ‘floor’ cannot go below that. While I guess this is to prevent people from demolishing noobs - smurfing, creating new accounts, throwing matches, and I’m sure more I can add to this list are all commonalities that can get around this. It feels like they put all this effort into this lobby system when it could have went towards other areas. Again, this is me guessing, but they may have been trying to get around people feeling bad for losing or being outclassed, so like smash or more recently, Overwatch, obfuscating actual stats. This also doesn’t really serve a purpose, as actual rankings are still there and readily available.
It is a bit alarming this game was supposed to release already, when the devs themselves admitted (2?) of the characters weren’t ready when the first beta concluded. In fact, one of those characters end up breaking the second beta when performing their super, so them getting their ducks in a row now is extremely wise. That being said, they’ve been REALLY communicative, especially for a (japanese)fighting game developer, so that bodes well. We haven’t really been sucker punched with anything as they’ve told us in advance. Which is a little surprising in that with their last release I cared about, DBFZ, they were eerily silent for MONTHS at a time, but part of me attributes that to everything needing to go through Jump and license holders.
Gameplay seems to be another sticking point in the community. As I’ve went over, Guilty Gear is an established name, and with that comes expectations. Them wanting to lower the complexity and presumably attract newer players has given us a game and characters that some players don’t seem satisfied with. I can’t answer the question of whether attracting new players is worth hurting your loyal audience, which again brings the Fire Emblem: Awakening comparison. On a personal level, I found myself drawn to Nagoruyki, which is a lucky break for me as he seems to play almost 1 for 1 as a Samurai Shodown character(a game I’ve spent a ton of time. Also funny that SamSho is getting a Guilty Gear character). I had fun and time was limited so I didn’t experiment much. Huge changes were made from last beta to this one, which again was controversial. I kind of feel like ArcSys realizes Strive may not be for everyone, even its past fans. So in them making sure their older games are competent online with rollback, there’s not a ‘danger’ of them taking some risks here with this entry. In fact, for those of you unfamiliar with fighting games, it isn’t uncommon for people to have favorite entries that aren’t the newest one, exception maybe being netherrealm games.
The UI seems to be another experimental element of this game, where the series’ aesthetics were rock inspired in the past, here they’re still that, but not the typical fare you expect in fighting games – this seems to be a pattern with this game, taking a chance and looking to change things up. Looking at the game will probably do better than reading what I’m writing about the UI here but here we go: in a fighting game, you have a combo counter, ‘COUNTER’ will pop up, you’ve got your HP bar and various other bars to manage. But it doesn’t vary much. I haven’t encountered too many UI problems in fighting games besides hard to see health bars in my history. But in Strive, you still get those things, but they’re flashier. I haven’t encountered anything too crazy, but I imagine it’ll take getting used to.
Dub is fine as far as I can tell. Much like Akuma, the characters don't talk overmuch, so it blends right in with music and sound effects. Didn't expect Faust to sound like that but it's good!
At the end of the day, the online play is solid, and in today’s world in a fighting game, that’s exactly what you want.
- All the bosses are women(there’s exceptions, but basically expect a mainline game to have a female endboss).
- Blazblue was developed as a spiritual successor partly due to Sega and Sammy’s merger: the rights to Guilty Gear were in limbo at the time. ArcSys eventually got the rights to GG back, however.
So as it’s most of what I’ve been doing for the past bit, I thought I’d follow up on my previous impressions, especially as fighting games tend to be mercurial. The game has sold three times what any GG before it sold, so that’s already off to a good start.
The netcode continues to impress. I tend to stick to USA East as that’s where I am, but I’ve heard of and seen players doing the unthinkable and challenging people cross region with little issue. This especially applies to those who’re stuck to higher floors and may have to swap regions to actually find matches. This also bodes well for the game as a standout among fighting games in the tournament scene. Covid may not be gone for years, and that applies to locals(local tournies) and bigger tournies as well. But with this in place, this won’t be a situation like we ran into with EVO 2019 swapping to games that were actually playable online before being cancelled. I’ve only encountered one bad match in hundreds, so I can only assume they were on wifi, But even that match was fairly playable beyond it rolling back. They’ve said a number of things were coming that were cut or delayed due to Covid, one of them being connection/wifi indicators.
Staying on the theme of the network, I don’t like the lobby much, so I end up using quickplay(there’s even a quickplay shortcut from bootup screen for those of you on PS5). Problem is, it seems to have some stability issues. Quickplay will take a good 2-3 minutes to get everything ready, and may end up kicking you back out to the main menu without a match being played. This doesn’t happen a majority of the time, but it is annoying enough to mention, despite having a PS5 you may still have some significant waiting time. Arcsys has announced they’re working on a number of things including some PC display issues.
I still stand by that the tutorial is bad, but in parsing some of what’s happening, it seems ArcSys’ goal was to not overwhelm players and get them in the game immediately. This ties into new players being excited about ascending to new floors. So who knows, maybe it’s just not aimed at me, or maybe getting players more than in the door is important to making them happy and not immediately quit. With that, there is also the mission mode, which I’d say is the real tutorial. It actually has some really great information for new players, and even character matchups. But it does have a problem in that some of the missions are unrealistic scenarios you won’t find yourself in, strange language use(which I saw a veteran community member comment), or just plain wrong in their description/follow through. While I definitely understand a game dev can’t predict everything with this sort of thing, giving bad information is worse than no information at all, which can result in bad habits being formed.
I still don’t like the lobby system, and while they acknowledged people don’t like it, in exploring more of the game, it is clearly an integral part of the online experience. Even when you queue up for quickmatch, you’re technically in the lobby. So for them to do anything drastic to improve the lobby, we may be looking at a new version of the game or something far down the line.
I don’t have much additional to say about the story, but its clear they weren’t able to put proper man and woman power behind this, as there’s already gifs online of how silly some of it looks. They’ve said they had 4 people working on it, and 40 assisting at times. Luckily for their and the internet’s sanity, the fans seem to be taking it in stride rather than crucifying ArcSys for this. This isn’t a cyberpunk situation.
On the front of gameplay, which left people skeptical on if there would be depth, I will have to say is fine. Great, even. Though characters have been pared down, the system mechanics like roman cancels are creating some awesome possibilities. I’ve seen all sorts of players, new and veteran praise the game. There does seem to be some resentment from the game community right before Strive, Xrd: a Xrd discord banned strive conversation, and they seem to be taking on a very boomer attitude about this whole thing. But I definitely think this is a front, and will erode in time.
On a very important note, it seems Strive needs to improve its accessibility. While I’m an able bodied, glasses wearing man, I’ve seen a couple issues which need to be resolved in order for strive to be accessible to certain peoples. For one, one of the characters was changed so that their main projectile is now red instead of blue. This was said to have been done because of visibility issues. While this makes sense on the surface, I’ve seen multiple colorblind people say this doesn’t work for them(because of course, red is tough for colorblind people). Additionally, someone with partial facial paralysis said they were missing an option to customize the UI to suit their needs that was in one of their previous games, Blazblue. If they did it before, they can do it again. Hopefully they address both of these issues.
Characters feel relatively balanced, with only 1 really being bad from early impressions. The devs have stated they’re going to be toning down one of the more powerful characters(Sol), but there’s another who could probably use an adjustment as well.
I can't really speak on the music, as it's not my jam, but sometimes I find listening to OSTs you can find songs you like sometimes, it seems sort of like the rest of guilty gear, kind of camp. and if you're into it, you're into it. If I can find a generous youtube playlist I I might rifle through the OST. I've heard some older GG tracks and they're fine. I guess it's worth mentioning this does have music from previous games as well. Still I probably enjoy the variety that comes from skullgirls, marvel 2/3 or sfiv.
I'd give Strive a solid 8.5/10 and recommend it heartily if you even have a passing interest in fighting games. This might not be the best for solo players. Kinda goes without saying for fighting games, but there is a surprising segment(at least to me) that seem to pick up fighting games and NOT go online.