Fighting Games of Yesteryear
To escape the turbulent and sometimes anger inducing current fighters, I’ve gone back to the previous generation: Street Fighter 4 and Mortal Kombat X. These games are often romanticized as the pinnacle of fighting games. They provided a level of depth, variety and creativity that has been lost in our current eSports driven games. It would seem that Guilty Gear Strive might be falling into that same rabbit hole.
Moreover, doing cool and fun things is important in a fighting game. The sentiment has been argued before and now we’re back because of Guilty Gear Strive. From what we’ve played so far, the game looks to reward small combos with huge damage. In the current build, Potemkin can take roughly 60% of your life with a single command grab. May’s damage output is equally absurd now that she’s a rushdown character. Sol’s damage is insane and he doesn’t even have Dragon Install yet. Getting damage in this game is easy, but is it too easy? And does that ease put it in the leagues of SFV, MK11, Granblue Fantasy Versus, and so on?
First let’s lay some foundation with what this design more or less boils down to. Take mechanics from the last game out and replace them with beginner or “casual” friendly mechanics. Let’s compare two vital elements from Street Fighter 4 to Street Fighter V. All combo links became 3 frames instead of 1 frame and Invincible Reversals changed from mostly invincible to conditionally invincible. Street Fighter V is heavily criticized for lacking defensive options outside of the poorly implemented V-Reversal. This led to people stating that this game punished defensive play and encouraged reckless “brain-dead” “unga bunga” play. Street Fighter 4’s answer was the Focus system, hard knockdowns, and true invincible moves. I won’t tell you which one is the better game or which had better design philosophies. I’ll leave that to the community at large.
The Beta Impressions
Now, we have Guilty Gear Strive compared to Guilty Gear Xrd. I have to say that the new Gatling system implementation is unintuitive and there was little reason to change it. What’s weird is that the goal of this game is to make it more accessible, but what’s more accessible than hitting 3-4 buttons in a sequence into a special move? I digress. Gattling is different now, for better or for worse. Dust has been completely changed and no longer goes into an air combo. Instead, it seems to just wall-splat. I’m not so sure of its purpose since all I saw it do was extend wall combos by a hit or two. Roman Cancels (which were simplified already mind you) are even simpler by making them all basically the same but if the ring from the RC hits you, your proceeding combo is heavily scaled in damage. Air dashing is slower with a weird startup animation added to it. That’s just the system changes I noticed so far, which is nothing to say of character changes.
Playing the build Frosty Fausting and this Beta, I can see where the changes and improvements are being made. It also makes me confident that the game will continue to evolve. However, the core of the game is where a lot of contention lies. No matter how they tweak and change things, they obviously had in mind that this would be a game of high damage and a low execution barrier with maybe 3 or 4 characters in it to make it a little deeper. It’s falling into that vein of a flashy and easy fighter to watch, but simple to play.
Are eSports To Blame?
Does the formula work? One would think it has to, or why else would they keep making it? Is it that these sorts of games aren’t made with the players in mind, but the viewing audiences? The developers that made these games all have their own “leagues” attached that they hype up and people watch by the thousands. In turn, the developers get sponsorship money, ad revenue, and more casual players to buy their game. Whether or not they stay isn’t the point because they have the money, and the ones that do stay will buy the future DLC. Now, to be clear, I don’t hate this game or games like it. I also don’t think that these games don’t deserve to exist. I also can see why long time fighting game fans and players seem to shy away from these games and end up hating them.
Be it because of the age of social media where anyone can air out their thoughts or because of the generational shift in the player base, fighting games have become more divisive than ever. Guilty Gear Strive has become another game that has split the fanbase. It’s a beautiful game and it looks stylish but in return, the game is much more simple and takes out more than it puts in. As a side effect, veteran GG players who choose to play will have no problem climbing to the top and beating new players. At that point, what will convince a new player to stay?
I could go on about Strive, but the internet is full of opinions more nuanced than mine. So I’ll leave it at this: Strive is definitely trying to hit that market that SFV, MK11, Granblue, BBTag, and other games have taken up. Will it succeed? I think initial sales will be good but longevity will struggle. I could be wrong, but that’s my prediction. What do you guys think? Does Strive have a long life ahead of it or will it struggle to find its place? Let us know in the comments.