A few delays later and we finally have the newest Guilty Gear. As a fighting game and Guilty Gear fan, this was one of my most anticipated releases this year. So let’s not waste any more time.

Alright, let’s start with the graphics. Hands down, this is probably the best-looking 2D fighter I have ever played. I mean, the bar was already set high with Granblue Fantasy Versus, so the fact that they went even higher with Strive is quite the accomplishment. Everything from the models, the backgrounds, the animation, the effects – it all looks fantastic and maintains that same gritty Guilty Gear look while doing so. Building the game in Unreal Engine 4 has definitely paid off and I can only imagine how the next BlazBlue will look.

The game runs well too. I played at 1440p with maxed out settings on my GTX 1070 Ti and didn’t have any issues with frame drops, stuttering, crashes, or anything like that. The only issue I had was that the game would continue to launch at 1080p before switching to 1440p upon loading my settings. This messes up my windows and everything in the background and was a bit annoying, so hopefully that is something that can be fixed. Otherwise, it is very polished.

Then there is the music. I have actually seen some people complain about it, but I don’t see any issues with it. It is a bit different from past Guilty Gear games, sure, but it is definitely not bad and still fits the overall theme – fast-paced and loud. It is 100% something I would listen to outside of the game, so hopefully they make the soundtrack accessible in some way.

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Alright, now the gameplay. I honestly do not even know where to start. There is a lot to this game and I am by no means a fighting game expert. I mean, I’ve played several in the series before, but never did any tournaments or competitions – mostly just played with friends. So, trying to review a title of this depth is an intimidating task – but I’m gonna try to do it anyways.

So, something I have always liked about the Guilty Gear series was its depth. Okay, not just the depth itself, but how it achieved such depth while having a relatively limited move list. My main game is Tekken 7, so I am used to seeing 100+ moves on any given character, but in Guilty Gear, it’s maybe 20 max. Strive is no different and it gives the game a deceptively simple look.

That is until you actually boot it up and get slapped by some random online pulling off this insane combo and blocking everything you do. Actually being able to input moves properly and remember them is no issue here given there isn’t a lot of them per character – but using them all effectively and utilizing the game’s more advanced mechanics is where the challenge is at. There is a reason people call the Guilty Gear series one of the hardest to get into and I had that same impression here with Strive.

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However, Strive feels a bit different in that it does not seem to be as combo-dependent as past Guilty Gear titles. There are still some nasty combos here, but the moves in general seemed to do more damage overall. In fact, there’s some characters that can literally clap half your HP in two moves – something I became painfully aware of when powering through arcade mode.

I kinda liked this overall approach though. It makes the fighting less dependent on these massive combo strings and balances it out a bit so you’re not just sitting there waiting to fall from someone’s combo. That’s not to say they are completely gone – I mean, roman cancels are still a thing and I still struggle to use them – it’s just that movement, blocking, and positioning seemed to play a more important role.

At least, that is the impression I got. Maybe once the pros pick it up, we’ll start seeing some crazy stuff, but for now I’m definitely not complaining. It feels good to play, moves have proper impact, movement is smooth (of course dependent on character), and there’s a good bit of freedom to come up with your own stuff. On the technical level – it pretty much nails it and I haven’t had this much fun playing a 2D fighter since Granblue Versus.

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So that brings me to the characters. There are currently 15 of them and they cover all sorts of play styles. I played through the arcade mode for each and generally had a good time with most of them. Of course, Faust is still my favorite by far (as he was in the last game), but I grew to like Potemkin, Ramlethal, Anji, and Zato as well (and he might actually have the best animations in the game).

The two new characters are Nagoriyuki and Giovanna. The former is built for those super heavy damage attacks and has this neat blood mechanic that allows him to drain his own HP to do more damage. He’s slow, but I liked his overall heavy-hitting play style – I’m looking forward to seeing how pros use him.

Giovanna on the other hand, I did not have any fun with. She just feels like a run-of-the-mill close-range fighter. Like, they added this whole “fox spirit” gimmick to her character, but it’s hardly utilized because almost all of her moves are simple hand-to-hand stuff.

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Anyways, here’s my personal tier list. This isn’t based on who I think is the most powerful, but just how much I liked each character. If anything, I am glad they kept Faust as that weird outlier character. I never not have fun when playing him and he feels just as good to play in Strive as he did in the last game.

So on the topic of game modes, Strive pretty much has what you would expect. There’s a brief tutorial, a mission mode that explains the game mechanics in-depth, and a training mode with a mountain of options and stuff to change. I spent a good deal of time in the mission mode trying to adapt to how Strive plays and that was definitely helpful before diving into the actual game.

Offline modes consist of the usual 2-player, versus CPU, survival, and arcade. The arcade mode has some brief character interactions at the start and end, but nothing that really makes it more than just a string of fights together.

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There’s also story mode, which is basically a long movie. Like, there’s actually no gameplay – it’s just a full-on story animated within the game engine. This was exactly how it was in the last game, but I won’t deny I was a bit disappointed. It would have been cool to see the game tackle something like the story mode from Granblue Versus. But if you are into the Guilty Gear lore, there’s a lot to explore there as you also have this glossary, correlation chart, and timeline to go through. It follows the story immediately after the previous game, so you’ll want to be familiar with it before diving in here.

Outside of the story, there’s also gallery mode, replays, a fishing mini-game to collect unlocks for your online avatar, and profile customization. This stuff is nice and all, but honestly, I still think the game is lacking in offline modes. It took me maybe six hours to clear all of the arcade and beyond that – there really isn’t much gameplay-wise if you’re going solo. A bit disappointing, but this is a multiplayer-focused title so not too surprising I guess. Maybe I was just spoiled with Granblue Versus.

As for that multiplayer, offline versus works just fine, but this is also the first Guilty Gear to support online rollback netcode on launch. I really wanted to test it before posting this review, but I was not able to because the servers have been down the past several days. However, if the beta is anything to go by, then it is going to be some good stuff. I’ll have to edit this review once I give it a shot and give my impressions.

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Guilty Gear Strive is yet another excellent addition to the series and an easy recommendation for fighting game fans. It not only feels good to play, but is easily the best-looking 2D fighter on the market and has bunch of unique characters to try out on top of that. As a fan of the series that has been looking forward to it all year – it’s about time and I’ll likely be playing this one on and off into the future.

Score: 8.5/10

Quote: Guilty Gear Strive is an excellent addition to the series and an easy recommendation for fighting game fans. It not only feels good to play, but is easily the best-looking 2D fighter on the market.

Guilty Gear Strive retails for $60 USD on Steam, but you can get an official Steam key for 15% off using code STRIVE through my Gamesplanet partner link. The code also applies to the deluxe edition. It is also available on PS5 and PS4.

I was provided a review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.