Guilty Gear Strive: Hands-On Impressions

Last weekend, Michael and I attended Frosty Faustings and had a pretty good time. I only wish they’d be a three day event, but I digress. One of the big reasons we were so ready and hyped to go was because they were having a demo of Guilty Gear Strive here as well as demos of Under Night In-Birth Clear and Granblue Fantasy Versus (which has the most RIDICULOUS lines). So, of course, we played a ton of it. Between us, I think I played more than him…mostly because I woke up early Saturday and stalked the stations like some lion in the bushes. But was it worth it? Well, here are my personal impressions.

By now you’ve seen high-level play and other impressions of the game from game journalists and community influencers. I had expectations of the game going into it and for the most part, the game met them. Still, there was a lot to get used to that I think will be tweaked by the time this game is ready to launch. For one, the game feels heavy. I played with Sol initially and to call him slow would be an understatement. Don’t get me wrong, he felt rather responsive. But his movement felt sluggish. Just jumping and dashing around was slower than I’d seen in games prior. This varied from character to character; May and Ky feeling fine to a degree and Chipp feeling the fastest as usual.

Not only does the movement feel heavy but hits feel brutal. This is a heavy damage game and right now, combos are absurd. Seriously, why can Sol just shoot off Fafnirs and deplete your entire life bar? I know they’ll patch that but dear god the damage. With enough meter and know-how, a character could knock off about 40-60 percent in 1 combo. And what about Potemkin you may ask? I don’t want to talk about him. As if to supplement this, they have wall breaks which seem to discourage corner combos. They look cool and all, but it’s like they told the players “no corner stuff” for fear of the game being over too quickly. This is strange because while long combos are certainly possible, they’ve never been something that was a central focus. So discouraging them further seems like a strange decision.

What I found even stranger and harder to adjust to is how they handled air combos, or the lack thereof. Often, my instincts told me to jump cancel a move when I had an opponent in a juggle and do a basic air combo. Not here. When you jump cancel, you’re basically given one move to do, maybe 2, and that’s it. Legacy characters that have awesome air combos likely won’t get to shine here, for better or worse. To me, that was harder to deal with than the lack of gattling combos. Which, while bothersome, did start to feel a little familiar to me.

Roman Cancels were another point of debate, and I have to say that I preferred the Xrd implementation better. It just made more sense to me. Using it offensively wasn’t the worst, but it didn’t seem to add to the combo that much. To me, it definitely feels like this is better suited for canceling unsafe moves and continuing pressure. And if that’s the point, then they nailed that. Thankfully, Tension seems to build so quickly, I always felt like I had meter for a Roman Cancel whenever I felt like it. Speaking of defensive options, it is worth noting that in all my games, I used Burst only once. Perhaps it’s because of the combo structure, but I never felt like I needed Burst for anything. I never felt like I was getting pressured or comboed so hard that it was necessary. Perhaps that’s the result of nearly removing okizeme from the game, but who’s to say?

As for the characters. They all felt like them, but fitted for this game. Ky, for example, had his Greed Sever removed. That makes sense for this game because you’d usually use that for starting an air combo, which has been neutered in this game. Instead, he gets some flip kick which is more of a pressure tool. His fireballs also give characters debuffs, too? I noticed but didn’t really get a good feel for what it was doing. They feel like they’ve been tweaked for what this game is trying to do, and in that regard they’re fine. Though, it can be jarring to pick up Ky or Sol and expect them to play exactly the same and have to learn the new changes, Though, that’s part of the fun. Potemkin players are exempt from all I said because he basically plays the exact same. I wasn’t able to find notable differences, but then again I’m no Potemkin player. If you are one, lemme know what’s changed, if anything.

To wrap this up, I liked Strive. I have my gripes with it, such as the way combos work (or don’t work) and the insanely high damage. Those are things that can be ironed and fleshed out during development. But when this game hits the market, it’ll be the best looking fighting game on the market, bar none. It has so much cinematic flair and (for lack of a better term) cool shit going on that it’ll be great to watch. I hope their gamble for more accessible play helps out because I would understand if long-time fans are put off from this. But players new and old, I say give it a shot. It’s still Guilty Gear, and it’s definitely still fun. Have you had a chance to try it out? Let us know what you thought. And if you have more specific questions, let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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