Fighting Games have been one of the main genres in gaming, and while definitely not getting the attention they deserve, they have been a mainstay ever since the home console era. The various TEKKEN, Street Fighter franchises alongside all the other fighting games have created a community that stands very close together even though not everyone might be playing the same title. Perhaps the huge availability of fighting games is one of the factors in keeping this unity among the Fighting Game Community, and it is such a great thing to feel part of your local scene, no matter how small it is.
The just ended Online Beta test for Arc System Works‘s latest entry in its Guilty Gear fighting game Strive was another case of the FGC uniting together, as streamers and players from plenty of other fighting games came together to explore and play the latest iteration of the 2D Fighting Game. Players from the TEKKEN 7 scene, Street Fighter, Dragon Ball or any other anime fighting game were all streaming their experience with Strive, and when you try the game out yourself, it is so easy to figure out why the game got all of this attention.
The fact the open beta was freely available to any PS4/PS5 owner was surely a factor in this hype around it, but one cannot deny that Strive is incredibly fun, and anyone who tried it has come back to it time and time again up until the last minute of this beta test. Coming from Tekken with no prior experience of 2D fighters, the game feels a blast. The game feels very welcoming to beginners but has also plenty of depth within its system, making it an excellent first 2D fighter to start with.
Guilty Gear Strive is visually beautiful, and with around 6 weeks left before the full launch, there is even time for that extra polish to make the game even prettier. The UI feels just right, with plenty to please the eye for both players and spectators. Watching the game may give a feeling that the screen is too cluttered with visual information like the different meters or combo counter, but once you get to play you barely notice any of that. It strikes a very thin balance between too much and too little, which is a great feat for any fighting game.
The game system as mentioned before is very easy to pick up. The game consists of five attack buttons, namely Punch, Kick, Slash, Heavy Slash and Dust, with only a couple of options for each depending on direction of input and proximity to the opponent, making it not as complex as other 3D fighters. The depth in the game stands in the Roman Cancel inputs, which requires pressing three attack buttons during certain situations.
This Roman Cancel is the core mechanic in Guilty Gear games, and serve as an “EX Cancel” in other games to help you get more hits in a combo than normally permitted. Getting used to the game takes some time as with all the fighting games, but some previous experience in any game from the genre will be a good asset in your learning adventure.
The move list in training mode is surely one of the best implemented in a fighting game, with a video of what the move looks like and a description of the move in the menu itself, along with a suitable situation or tips for the move. It is a great feature, and one which hopefully gets implemented in various fighting games going forward as it helps new players get used to the different situations quicker than through experience.
Training mode also permits you to explore the different combo routes and mechanics offered by the game, and also permits you to lab some character moves and learn how to counter them. The recording function in Strive is pretty neat, with a button to record and another button to play, making it easy to test the situation time and time again. The only downside is that you need to bind two buttons for this process, but rebinding buttons to your preferred inputs would not take more than a couple of seconds each time.
Another feature I really liked was that after a match, you were presented with a graph of sorts, displaying your strengths and basically your game plan for the match, divided into Offense, Defense, Heart and Technique. While Offense and Defense are pretty straight forward, Heart and Technique are a bit subjective and may refer to comeback ability and execution, but not having much experience in the game I cannot commit to the definitions for sure.
Match replays are also saved and can be viewed in the lobby theatre, and a face to face score is displayed to the lower right of the screen. In the beta instant rematching was not available, as Arc System Works wanted to collect as much data as possible from different combinations of matches, so it was not that useful here. However, come launch, the feature will surely be much more of use.
The standout feature in the closed beta however was how amazing the netcode was. Streamers all around the world played hours upon hours of the Strive beta and everyone was saying the same words – the rollback netcode implemented in Strive is insane, and permits smooth connections even from distances one would have thought unimaginable. I saw streamers from the United Kingdom connect to East Coast, with the players confirming how “buttery smooth” the connection was. I even witnessed a decent connection between Japan and Norway which speaks great things of this network.
Seeing all this, I wanted to test out myself, so from Malta, I played against a friend in Montreal, Canada. The connection was great, and although there were some disconnections outside of the game, the battles themselves were very decent and playable indeed. Convinced but wanting even more, I entered the Japanese server to test probably the farthest players possible, and while a hint of lag was felt at 300ms, it was still manageable. Maybe not tournament worthy, but surely playable for a couple of sets against a friend. Then again this is still a beta, and further upgrades to the system may make it as smooth as offline.
Ironically enough, Guilty Gear Strive‘s only fault in the open beta was its only feature outside of gameplay, meaning the notorious lobby system. If there was another thing that everyone unanimously agreed upon after the great connection, it was how cumbersome and unpractical the lobby system was. The concept is quite cool, as roaming about the floors of the tower on your designed floor is a good idea, but the execution was surely flawed. First of all, there are no direct player matches, and you need to find the player you want to play inside the lobby to be able to challenge them.
There is the option to open a player list and teleport to your friend and challenge them there, but again it takes some time. For players to be able to play each other, one must “hold their weapon” and the other must challenge the other, which is why the need for finding each other in the lobby. Unfortunately, in some cases holding out your weapon transferred your avatar some distance away, so again this made matching up against friends really tedious. Disconnections when matching up were also not uncommon, which booted you back to the menu screen, having to repeat the process all over again.
With all that said, I went into the Strive beta expecting to have some fun, but I found myself really impressed with everything that Arc System Works have created in this newest Guilty Gear. The game feels great to play and to watch as well, with myself clocking probably around 50 hours on Twitch watching players actually good at the game duking it out. The beta has surely impressed a lot of people around the world and has lifted the hype for full release much further than the closed beta did in April of last year. I am confident that upon launch it will live up to the expectations, given such a polished and excellent offering in this version of the game.
Preorders are open directly from Bandai Namco‘s online store.
UPDATE: After analyzing the feedback form, the game has been, unfortunately, delayed to June 11, 2021. ArcSystem Works have stated that they have pushed back the date to polish some features of the game such as lobbies.
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