Guilty Gear is one of the most underappreciated fighting game franchises out there. It’s been around for about twenty-three years now, but it’s always been mostly under the radar. It’s had a large enough following to keep going, but nothing to blow the world away. It’s always played second fiddle behind the Street Fighters and the Mortal Kombats and other more recognizable fighting games.
The same can be said about the company behind it, Arc System Works. They’ve always been known for making rad anime fighting games. But for a long time, they weren’t exceptionally well known. They were just the guys that made underrated fighting games.
Then they made a little game called Dragon Ball Fighterz.
Thanks to that, ArcSys is now one of the most watched developers in fighting games. Which has made the new Guilty Gear one of the most watched games in the genre to be coming out. Old fans and new fans alike are watching this game, waiting for the release, or at the very least the next beta.
I’ve participated in all three betas, the one closed and the two open. Between the three, I’ve gotten the chance to play dozens of matches with every character in the starting roster. So, how’s it looking? Is Guilty Gear: Strive going to be the next big fighting game?
Maybe. It’s definitely good, but it’s got some massive issues.
The biggest thing that gives me hope is the netcode. This entry comes packed with a brand-new rollback netcode. Which, from what I’ve experienced during play, is practically flawless! I often forgot that I was playing online due to how smooth each match was! This is on par with what we got in Skullgirls and Killer Instinct! Thanks to that alone, it’s beyond doubt that this game will last for a very long time.
However, two issues give me pause: the lobbies and the simplified gameplay.
We’ll start with the lobbies. I don’t know why, but ArcSys has a boner for making their lobbies into these little minigames. And this is my least favorite one yet. You run around as a 2.5D pixelated avatar, walk up to a station, and que up for a match. Once the match is done, you get back into the lobby and repeat the process all over again.
Problem one: it increases downtime between matches. Problem two: it barely fucking works; the matches themselves are as smooth as butter but getting into them is a colossal pain in the ass. And problem three: the whole thing is a waste of time. No one wants a dumb minigame in their lobby. All you need is a menu.
It’s also divided up by a floor system. Basically, if you do well enough or poorly enough, you move up or down a floor respectively. Problem is: the game forces you to do so the moment you can. Meaning that if you’re playing a set and you win the first game, you’ll be kicked out before you have the chance to rematch your opponent as you are sent to the next lobby.
I hate this system with a burning passion. It’s too complicated, it raised the downtime between matches dramatically, and it barely even functions. Unfortunately, there’s zero hope that the system would be removed for something better at this point. With the game less than a month away (unless they delay it again while I’m writing this), what we’re seeing is what we’re getting.
Now for an equally large, if not larger, problem: the game itself is very simplified. See, previous Guilty Gear games have been fairly complicated. Each character had an extensive move list and the basic combat mechanics were so deep that you could play for years without seeing it all. It may have been difficult to learn, yes, but the sheer amount of depth there made the games infinitely playable!
Guilty Gear: Strive is far simpler than the previous games. Move lists are shorter and the more complex mechanics are either stripped down to their basic forms or removed entirely. For example, Instant Kills are gone. Like, entirely. They’re not there.
The move list is my concern. One big thing I saw in the beta was people using the same move over and over again. Simply because that was the most effective move the character had. May had her dolphin, Anji had his stupid Fujin that pissed me off to no end, I-No had her low charge move, so on and so forth. If not addressed, this could lead to the game getting fairly repetitive as time goes on.
This is the problem I’m least concerned about. By the time it becomes a problem, an update will have likely rolled around to change it. A Guilty Gear: Strive 2.0 that adds extra depth to the game to keep long-time players around. But it is something I worry about for the first year or so of the game.
Am I excited for GG: Strive? Oh, absolutely! This is my second most anticipated game of the year! But that optimism comes with caution. This game definitely has issues, issues that could hurt its longevity. And I definitely want to see this game last.
Because god knows my list of fighting games with good online play is short enough as it is…