The Smell of the Game
As an avid fan and a longtime player of anime fighting games, it goes without saying that I was beyond excited to get my chance to play the Guilty Gear -STRIVE- open beta and release my inner gear on unsuspecting players. Once my download was complete, my mission began – spend as many hours as possible playing this game non-stop. After losing out on tons of sleep, I spent the time to get my hands dirty and test out all the characters and modes, and really dig into the online hobbies. Now my impatience and anticipation were over, and my anticipation had reached a ridiculous new high. So without rambling on too much more, let me get to the whole reason you’re reading this in the first place and share my feelings on this spectacular fighting experience.
Truly an “Open” Beta
First and foremost, I hope the other fighting game companies are taking notes because this is how you do an open beta. This was a huge step up from the closed beta we got to try out about a year ago. It was a glorious day when they first announced everything coming in the upcoming demo, but not because we were getting another testing period; that was expected. It was the fact that they were going to give us a majority of the cast, a nice amount of their playing modes, and most importantly, training mode all open and for you to try out during a test period, something that’s rarely seen in demos or testing of any sort. It was really refreshing to see the developers put the thought into allowing more access in terms of playability this time around.
Not only was it a great chance for fans to test out their favorite returning fighters and some of the fresh faces, but it also served as an opportunity for newer players to get comfortable with the mechanics that may feel a bit overwhelming, especially if they were tossed right into online matches against more experienced fighters like last time.
Rollback Netcode, Is That You?
After spending a better part of a day and a half trying out the roster and honing my skills in training, I finally decided it was time to take all I’d learned and hop online. Well, my fellow fighting game fans, I think it is safe to say that we can finally rejoice, for we have been blessed with glorious rollback netcode. Frames stayed steady, making lag nonexistent, so hours spent in training didn’t feel wasted due to some random spike causing you to drop combos. Even execution under pressure felt perfect. I no longer feared some random button masher getting away with murder due to having wifi and me using a hard connection. This was everything that we could have asked for and then some. As someone who typically plays a lot of online fighting games, I can’t stress enough the greatness that is Guilty Gear -Strive- and its implementation of rollback netcode.
Even when I played friends in different parts of the country, the connection was steady and fluid, rarely dropping frames, which is just a foreign commodity within the genre. While this may only be the testing phase, and we have yet to see what will happen once the game is released and lobbies are flooded with droves of new and returning players alike. I think it safe to assume that if the netcode is this great in just the beta phase, things will hopefully stay steady or continue improving after the game is released.
If this what we can expect from Strive’s combat system, this is a vast improvement to the series and hopefully a step in the right direction for any of Arc System Works’ future projects. Gatling combos, aka dial-a-combos, a mainstay in Guilty Gear titles, are now a thing of the past. Instead, the developers seem to be aiming more towards a technical style of play this time around. While combos are still in abundance and players can still rack up the damage, you now have to be a bit more considerate since the gameplay seems to be aimed more towards the commitment, risk, and reward playstyle while still keep the blazing speed the franchise is known for.
Some of the characters themselves even seem to have gone through some massive or slight changes to fit in with the franchise’s new direction. For instance, Axl losses out on some of his “trap” or capture fighter moves and now seems to be focused more on his zoning playstyle; Leo has gained a command grab but lost some of that insane ground mix-ups, and Ramelthal is just way different this time. Everyone on the roster so far seems to have gotten a bit of an overhaul, a much-welcomed change. All in all, I think this is a step in the right direction, not just for more technical matches between experienced players, but this also gives even casual players the capability to perform on a decent level.
Nagoriyuki has slowly crept his way into becoming my new favorite character and a secondary character on my roster after my boy, Ky Kiske. His design is just badass, and that theme song of his only adds more of a reason for me to like him. While he’s a bit slower than everyone else outside of Potemkin, his ability to whittle down your health bar in just a few hits is similar to that of Hakumen from the BlazBlue franchise, minus the counter.
Heaven or Hell
Overall, Guilty Gear -STRIVE- is shaping up to be everything we fighting fans could have asked for and more. Everything from the visuals to the soundtrack slaps with the force that only Guilty Gear can deliver. Hopefully, Arc System Works will continue this trend towards more successful fighting games in the future because I’m all for it. I’d also like to add a quick thank you to the developers for adding an extra two days to the beta due to network problems involved. With all that said, after being a faithful fan of 0ver 20 years and playing all the titles, I’m completely ecstatic with the direction this game is going.