Guilty Gear Strive Is Almost Perfect, Except For One Thing

The Guilty Gear Strive beta has finally concluded after being open to the public for several days, and the verdict is in: this is a really, really good fighting game. Arc System Works has been honing its talents in making gorgeously stylish and competitive fighting games for years, and after the success of the likes of Dragon Ball FighterZ, Guilty Gear Strive is looking to be its next big hit.

Everything you could want from a competitive fighting game is here. A diverse cast of characters with fascinating and distinct movesets, beautiful visuals that improve on an already incredible track record of bringing the anime style to life, and perhaps most importantly for the more hardcore members of the fighting game community, rollback netcode.

Let’s get that out of the way first: Guilty Gear Strive’s rollback netcode is a revelation. While a similar style of netcode had been implemented in games like Street Fighter 5, it was never quite correct, and resulted in online experiences that had many fans abandoning the community in droves. True, fully-functioning rollback netcode is excellent, and makes your multiplayer games feel almost as smooth as they would if the player you’re facing is sitting next to you. Fighting games have always deserved this kind of seamless playback, especially during the current pandemic. Guilty Gear Strive, with this one inclusion, is making a case for it being one of the best fighting games available to play online right now. This comes after years of Arc System Works sticking with a delay-based netcode for games such as Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue Fantasy Versus. This should be the new online standard for all fighting games.

That netcode is exactly what is needed to make a fast-paced and exciting game like Guilty Gear Strive better than ever. For most of the beta period I was sticking with May, my favourite character from the previous beta and a powerful fighter in her own right. May has a variety of excellent tools at her disposal, getting full-screen mobility with the aid of her dolphins, projectile beach balls, and a big anchor to swing around for her normals. May is powerful, but now that I was finally able to play against seasoned Guilty Gear players, I was shocked by how high the skill ceiling can go. I was just about breaking out Roman Cancels and some of the other new mechanics when I came up against a Millia player who was mixing me up to hell and back in the corner. Jump-in overheads, followed by a swift mix up between either another air dash overhead, or a landing low, this player showed serious talent. Millia and May are two of the more traditional and predictable characters the game has to offer, and yet they can still feel so dynamic and fun to play.

The cast isn’t just cute anime girls – although the recently announced I-no does look incredible. The heavy grappler Potemkin is obscenely brutal, trading mobility for sheer firepower. Faust is still as tricky and mysterious as ever. Axl Low has been given mysterious time-stopping abilities which, in all honesty, might just be broken. And then we get onto the likes of Nagoryuki, who is, without question, destructive, sacrificing his own health to deal massive damage to opponents – even while they’re blocking – with his bloodlust technique. Each of these characters will require some time to master, and will become deadly foes to face off against online.

So it runs amazingly, looks beautiful, and plays like one of the best fighters from one of the best fighting game developers. That’s why it hurts so much to complain about one minor, stupid thing: the lobby system. The lobby system has been moaned about, at length, since the first beta, and Arc System Works clearly has no intention of changing things around now. It takes place on a 2D field, where you control a small pixel-art avatar and attempt to engage with other players in the lobby. Once you get into a match everything runs beautifully, but the process of matching up with others in the lobby is a nightmare. Readying up doesn’t always work, and if you attempt to view a player’s “R-Code” – essentially a profile – the game loads for nearly a full minute before you can see it, preventing you from actually playing the game. This is true hell, and although you can play Training Mode while the game automatically waits in a lobby, this method wasn’t always successful for me.

The lobby system is not going to change now, despite how much I would like it to. But I am willing to forgive those trespasses as long as the rest of the game is as high-quality and adrenaline-pumping as what I’ve played thus far. Oh, I also hope the story mode is not just a several-hour-long cutscene with no gameplay this time around, because damn, Arc System Works, that is… unnecessary.

Next: Arc System Works Releases New Trailer For Guilty Gear: Strive Modes

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TheGamer Guides Editor.
Am I supposed to write this in the third-person? Do you know how awkward it is talking about yourself like you’re someone else? No one would ever believe someone else has this many nice things to say about me.

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