First Impressions Are Everything
The Guilty Gear -STRIVE- open beta has been over for a bit and the wait for June 11th feels so far away. Still, my time spent with the game was an amazing experience, to say the least, especially for us long-time fans. During this time, I had a ton of matches with a few of my friends. As we sat there bashing each other’s faces in and learning the roster as best we could, many interesting discussions and breakdowns about mechanics and characters were had. So since I can’t seem to stop thinking about the beta, I figured it’d make for an interesting article to give a slight overview of the characters and how I felt about them, a sort of first impressions based on the experiences I had facing off against or playing the roster. So with all that said let me get to the reason you’re here – my thoughts on the characters thus far.
Axl is still a dominant force from a distance and fights still tend to be a guessing game of if you can find a way in or not, (if Axl has his way, you can’t). The long-range zoner of the franchise is an absolute problem in Guilty Gear -STRIVE-. With his ability to control an enemy’s approach altogether or poke you to death from afar, it’s pretty obvious he’s designed to frustrate players with his long-distance zoning kit. While he may be a little weak in those close-range scuffles, once he manages to create some space then it’s right back to try to figure out a way in all over again. His Time Stop made him a nightmare once activated since you never know when he will just decide to channel his inner Dio and ruin whatever plans I had in mind. So if controlling the field and playing keep-away is your game, then you should most definitely play Axl Low this time around.
Guilty Gear‘s resident ninja master hasn’t lost a step and can still stick to your opponent like glue and open them up as easily as before with his arsenal of crafty moves, tricky mixes and speedy movement. His blazing speed and insane mix-up capability make him one of the more solid rushdown artists in Guilty Gear -STRIVE-, at least in my opinion. Chipp may be a little on the squishy side and his damage is lower than everyone else’s, but his ability to get behind you, open you up, mix you up like a blender, or be in your opponent’s face is more than enough to compensate. While he was a lot of fun to play he isn’t someone I’d recommend for beginners since he’s a bit of a higher execution character that requires time to learn. But if you like speed, deception, and unleashing stylish combos on the opposing player, then Chipp Zanuff is your guy.
I can’t lie to you guys; I hardly touched Faust at all in my time with –Strive-, other than seeing his moveset in practice. It really doesn’t help that I encountered absolutely no Faust players in my journeys, and I played matches every day during the beta’s release. From what I gathered, he’s generally the same and still as creepy looking as ever, although it does seem likes he’s lost a step or two since Xrd. Still, I’m more than sure Faust will be the mind game monster he always has been. Hopefully I don’t run into him too often online once the game comes out, since I never do well against random fighters like him.
May is still a really powerful rushdown fighter who comes equipped with charge moves, simple combo routes for beginners, and a projectile that will still remain onscreen even if she’s hit. Not one to be outdone in the damage department, May can still dish out a whole lot of hurt in the blink of an eye with her gigantic anchor, once she closes in. Speaking of closing in, her Mr. Dolphin attack was an absolute pain to deal with and made it way too easy for her to close gaps pretty safely or set up some insane whiff punishes. Let’s not forget about her overdrives, specifically the Great Yamada Attack. May becomes a beacon of pure fear the moment she gains at least half her meter, and once she does just be prepared for this giant pink whale to take a huge chunk out of anyone’s health bar as soon as you let your guard down. After taking a few beatdowns from her online, I think I can safely say that May is looking like an absolute goddess of devastation in -STRIVE- and I’m honestly afraid of how much worse she can get once players get more time to practice.
Leo fans can relax, as the king of cross-ups still reigns supreme in Guilty Gear -STRIVE-. Still a powerful, well-rounded close to mid-range fighter that can deliver pressure and has powerful mix-up options, Leo is looking as strong as he did in Xrd. Coming fully stocked with decent projectiles to deal with those pesky zoners and wicked combos to mix up foes, Leo is built to deal with just about any adversary, but it’s his cross-ups that undoubtedly solidify his position as king. His Brynhildr stance still limits his mobility a bit but it gives Leo access to some potent attacks and additional combo routes. Honestly, Leo plays the same, and yet he feels slightly better than before. He’s another character who isn’t exactly beginner-friendly, but once you get the hang of his stances, cross-ups and combos it will be game over for anyone that’s not prepared to deal with his majesty.
Good lord, Potemkin has always been really strong but he is looking scary as hell this time around, and that’s not a good thing. Guilty Gear’s grappling badass is more powerful in- STRIVE-, and to make matters worse, they’ve made his inputs for command grabs even easier. I didn’t play much of him myself; however, I did encounter plenty who didn’t mind taking it upon themselves to show me exactly why Potemkin is a straight-up beast this time around. His normal pokes hurt, and he can rack up loads of damage in just a couple of moves. Besides his annoying standard punch, what really helps Potemkin out isn’t just the massive amounts of damage he can get on counter command grabs or from his normals; it’s the fact that stages are smaller, and that means less room to run around and play poke the bear with the big guy. Still, you can’t deny that Arc System Works gave their resident grappler a ton of love this time around, which is a big plus for all those Potemkin players out there.
Millia Rage is a menace and I honestly flat out didn’t enjoy fighting her at all. Fast, flashy, and just insanely hard to get a beat on, she can instantly get to the other side of her opponents, making it extremely hard for you to play defense. Her extra movement abilities only add to the confusion that comes with her blitzkrieg speed and luscious locks. Her overwhelming offense is just insane to deal with and once she knocks you down it gets even worse. I didn’t play a lot of matches with her myself, but from the ones I went up against online I can tell a lot of Dragon Ball FighterZ players are going to be drawn to her. She may not be as fast as Chipp, but Millia’s tricky movement and relentless onslaught of attacks from every angle are perfect for anyone who just wants to deliver non-stop hurt.
Zato was always that one character that I’ve wanted to learn, but no matter how long I practiced with him, I couldn’t get the hang of how he works since he’s essentially two characters in one. Well that hasn’t changed one bit in Guilty Gear -STRIVE-. His kit is still pretty much the same from what I can remember, hard as heck to master but extremely rewarding once learned. Zato-1 is sort of like a zoner with some rushdown capabilities and with the added ability to just shower your foes in attacks from multiple directions, the blind assassin is still a nuisance from far away or up close. While he does look like a lot of fun to play, Zato-1 definitely requires a ton of patience and some knowledge to effectively use two separate characters, but I’m more than sure that Zato players like KnowKami will find a way to turn him into an absolute nightmare once again.
From the little bit of time that I did put in with Ramlethal, I can see why a lot of players online were using her. She’s really strong and from the looks of things, she’s going to be a top-tier nightmare. Her range is incredible, with some really long-reaching normals that can easily combo off of counter hits. On top of that her corner pressure is nuts and she has some really potent projectiles that have delayed explosions. She’s a monster at mid-range when she has her swords at her disposal but pretty easy to deal with without them since she’s not too good in close, but that’s easier said than done since the explosions that come after the swords have a nasty habit of catching people off guard. A pretty straightforward character with a huge risk and reward playstyle, Ramelthal was fun to play against and not too hard to break into. If she doesn’t get slapped too hard with the nerf stick, she may dominate the lobbies early on.
At first glance, everything about Nagoriyuki screamed badass and I really couldn’t wait to try him out. Sadly, after putting in more time with him, he’s turned out to be just a tad bit disappointing. I instantly got Hakumen vibes when I had seen his release trailer and was hoping his moves were at least somewhat similar. Just like his white-clad counterpart he does MASSIVE damage with single strikes or with his moves which can be chained into one another. He looks like some kind of cyborg samurai with hair, has a huge sword that makes him great at mid-range, and that’s about where their similarities end. The poor guy has no real get-off me option, is really slow with no air mobility and can get zoned out pretty easily. Worst yet, his Blood Rage can kill you just as fast as it can change the tide of a fight. In all honesty, even though this would seem too similar to Hakumen, a counter is a much-needed addition to make him functional.
Giovanna was the first person I tried out in training mode and online and she’s…interesting. In no way is she bad, she was just your standard run-of-the-mill in your face brawler and will stop at nothing when it comes to putting you in the corner and keeping you there. Her deceptively quick and far-reaching normals and supers were great combo starters that are extremely safe and can be easily ended with one of your overdrives for some nice damage depending on how much meter she has. I wish I had put more time in with her but from the matches I had against my friend Robbie and the input he gave, I could see she was a lot of fun to play and a good pick up for beginners to learn the ropes with.
As the series protagonist, there’s not much change Sol Badguy really needs. He’s still a rushdown god that deals big combo damage and is packed with a ton of pressure-heavy tools to help him get in an enemy’s face and stay there. While his rushdown capabilities are his strongest tools his Gunflame can still help him hang with the zoners when needed, although it did seem a bit slower. After playing a few matches with him it was easy to see that Sol will be one character that will benefit greatly from the new “wall-break” mechanic since he can still drag you to the corner as easily as before. As always, Mr. Badguy is still maintaining his status as the strong, well-rounded character with good normals, crazy combo capability, and is easily accessible for beginners as well as a pretty solid character for returning Guilty Gear players.
I definitely had the most fun with Ky Kiske and he’s pretty much who I intend on making my main once again. Ky has always been the swiss army knife of the series and that really hasn’t changed in Guilty Gear -Strive-. Ky can still play well at any range, and his normals can easily connect with his Stun Edge or most of his kit for easy combos. He may not be as pressure-oriented as some of the others, but his extremely strong anti-air game, long-reaching pokes, decent zoning ability, and the addition of Sol’s Dragon Install only further cement his status as the can-do all fighter who can deliver the hurt at any range. All and all, King Kiske is looking as powerful as ever in -Strive-, and just like Sol, he’s an easy pick-up for the most inexperienced or experienced players.
Well, I think that should cover about everyone, and I’d like to give a huge thank you to my close, personal friends DiazoSoul, Arikado, Mavsown, and HeartlessPrinny for their inputs on May, Sol Badguy, Axl Low, Giovanna, Ramlethal and Leo Whitefang and for kicking my behind with those characters. Guilty Gear -STRIVE- is seriously living up to the hype. It feels super smooth, the sprites look gorgeous, and it’s shaping up to be the next big fighter on the scene. So with that said, I can’t wait for the release on June 11th and hope to have some friendly matches against some of you out there!