Guilty Gear -Strive- beta impressions: A gold standard

Guilty Gear Strive
Guilty Gear Strive /

Fighting games and the community, in general, have felt like there has been little to no progression given the COVID-19 pandemic putting the world and in-person tournaments at an indefinite standstill. Within the past few months, nothing major has happened in the FGC or its games either. Nothing really seemed as captivating and the following has mostly fallen off for the more relevant or hard-hitting games like Tekken 7, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Super Smash Bros. Melee and Ultimate.

It was not until the third week of February where things started to pick up again. Arc System Works held an open beta for Guilty Gear -Strive-, the first major upcoming fighting game in 2021. Guilty Gear games in general always had an extremely steep learning curve in terms of learning the mechanics and execution.

However, Guilty Gear -Strive- feels like it’s turning its combat system to be more beginner friendly. It’s not a bad thing; the last thing you’d want for a fighting game is for it to deter newcomers and casuals. The less barriers for entry, the better. As my subhead suggests, “you may want to invest in a fight stick for this one.” It still is an execution and precision heavy game, but just easier to pick up.

My only frames of references for this franchise come from their past iterations Xrd -SIGN- and Xrd -Revelator-. Comparing this game to those two, -Strive- feels much simpler in a way that slowly introduces you to even more depth with the more you play and progress. It can be really overwhelming to hear things like “Roman cancels”, “psych bursts”, and just other things that may sound like you need to know to win against other players.

Guilty Gear Strive 1
Guilty Gear Strive /

Good thing this beta did allow you to go into a training mode via its Dojo mode or let you play against CPU-controlled opponents before heading online and getting demolished by fighting game pros. What I saw in the training mode is a good indicator of what’s to come in the full product.

There are so many settings like character meters, counter hit settings, enemy follow-ups, wall mechanics, auto cancels, and a plethora of other things to tinker with to simulate if you ever come across something specific in an actual battle. The training mode is what you make of it, but there is room for growth as you get better acquainted with the various mechanics in the game itself.

The meat of this beta, though, is its focus on the online infrastructure and the highly praised rollback netcode. Players of the beta took to the online lobbies and fought against people, and to no one’s surprise, the connection was phenomenal. Rollback netcode is basically the saving grace of a fighting game’s online mode. I don’t know the technical details of how it works, but it’s what makes other games like Mortal Kombat 11, Killer Instinct, or Skullgirls 2nd Encore feel so seamless when playing online.

I experienced little to no lag that hindered my time online. The game displays the live ping by milliseconds and how many rollback frames. I couldn’t say that I lost my matches because of lag or any other lame excuse.

GGST Ky vs Chipp
Guilty Gear Strive /

The only downsides exhibited from this beta are the clunky and unnecessary online lobby systems. I appreciate the guides and the walkthroughs of how it works, but I don’t like that this feels like an afterthought of an immersive 2D, pixel-art styled platformer. I don’t know if it’s too late to scrap it, but the game could just do with a menu system or hell, even something like Dragon Ball FighterZ’s lobby system.

More from PlayStation 4

Guilty Gear -Strive- is exactly what the fighting game community needs right now given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. I really appreciate how it’s setting a golden standard for future games in this genre because of its strong netcode and less barriers to entry. If the beta is any indicator of how the game will be at launch, boasting its various online and offline modes, it will have no problem in maintaining a healthy lifespan post-release.

Guilty Gear -Strive- is set to release on April 9, 2021 on PlayStation 4 and 5 as well as PC. PlayStation 4 players will also be able to upgrade their games to the PS5 version at no additional cost.