So I guess June is the month of idea experimentation? I’m cool with it. This time I’m going to be doing a thing I don’t do often or ever weirdly enough: Talk about fighting games. Now, before you close the tab, hear me out. I love fighting games. I genuinely love them to pieces. I’ve loved them since My dad first introduced them to me by way of the Super Nintendo port of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo way back in 1996 (I was around 5 at the time). But my exposure to the genre has mostly been towards Capcom’s output, at least until 2016 when Street Fighter V, while still Street Fighter, didn’t scratch the itch (it’s thankfully in a much better place now).
One of my forays into the wider fighting game genre had me going “I remember that Guilty Gear game I played in the Game’s Club days back in high school, I should try the new one, Xrd”. The rest, as they say, is history; but the reason I bring this up is that Guilty Gear Strive came out last week and I wanted to yak about my early impressions so far. A lot of this should be tempered by the fact that the game has only been out for a week. Things could change drastically in the coming months because that is how fighting games typically work. With that out of the way, let’s get into it.
At first glance and for the most part, it’s still Guilty Gear but with some mechanical changes that make it relatively slower compared to other games in the series, but also allows for some interesting set play options. The most apparent of these is from the reduced Gatling combo options in comparison to previous games. The Gatling Chain is a series of attacks that can be chained in sequence; in older games, it went Punch > Kick > Slash > Heavy Slash > Dust for an incredibly basic combo that pretty much everyone could use. Was it good? Probably not, but it could be changed in ways that suited the specific character you played. In Strive, Punches can only be chained into command normals, Kicks can only chain into Dust, and Close Slash > Far Slash > Heavy Slash is still in as a streamlined punish combo starter. And this is all I found in around my first thirty minutes of gameplay. Aside from that, I like it because it has me changing my approaches in new and interesting ways and not relying on that dang chain even if it helped me a lot in earlier games.
And that’s the prevailing theme of Strive for me so far. I have to re-learn a lot of what Guilty Gear is right now and I find that very exciting. And this is best exemplified by my choice of character that goes around: Nagoryuki. As a character, he’s a Nigerian Vampire Samurai with a sick-looking mask. Mechanically, he’s a very unique power-type character. Like the Resident Grappler Potemkin, has next to no mobility to speak of barring a super jump with some very noticeable startup frames, being more reliant on his odachi and special moves to maintain and control space. However, he’s unique in that he’s also a mashup of characters from other Arc games; most notably Sin Kiske from Guilty Gear Xrd, the aforementioned Potemkin, OG vampire Slayer with his command dash/grab, and most interestingly Hakumen from Guilty Gear’s Sister Series Blazble. These come from a multitude of different things; chief among them being Nagoryuki’s ability to cancel special moves into other special moves and a secondary meter he has to manage. That’s his Bloodrage meter: specials cause it to fill up rapidly the more you chain them, your sword attacks (Slash and Heavy Slash)lower your blood rage, and your command grab (a vampire bite fittingly enough) negates it completely. When full, you enter a blood rage that shuts off your special moves but compensates by making your sword moves much more powerful and gain access to a full screen, high damage super attack. And you rapidly lose health while this all happens.
I’m a sucker for the kind of gameplay that has me balancing additional resources on top of the universal systems, and Nago is the best mix of all of the caveats I mentioned earlier. How good is it? He’s the only character I’ve touched since the game came out. That never happens with me. I usually bounce around the cast to see who I vibe with. But I found my main. And it feels great. Nagoryuki also has the side effect of giving me the learning experience I need with the newer mechanics and the changed mechanics in Strive. Case in point: YRC (Yellow Roman Cancel) is fucking busted as a “get off me” tool and I won’t be surprised if it gets a nerf sometime down the road. The ways other characters have changed are either subtle, like Ky receiving a new status effect for his lightning attacks, or drastic, like Ky getting a fucking Dragon Install. So it’s safe to assume that shit’s going to change in some serious ways over the next few months.
At the end of the day, the first week of the live version of Guilty Gear Strive has been an interesting experience. This is some of the hardest writing I’ve had to do because there’s just so much that could change even as close to a month from now that could render all of this meaningless. And that’s fucking exciting because if Missing Link could go to X and XX, and XX to Xrd, I am super stoked for what Strive is gonna be like when all’s said and done.
So yeah, count me on the interesting side for this game’s life development. Oh and before I go, as someone who never played the Betas: The Rollback is good. IT’S SO FUCKING GOOD!!! Now if only the lobbies fucking worked…