Game Recs

Guilty Gear Strive Is a Top-Tier Title That's Been 25 years in the Making

Play it now on Xbox Game Pass.

Skill is everything. Whether we’re talking about music, engineering, or competitive eating, human beings are capable of demonstrating ludicrous amounts of skill. The problem with skill is that you can’t always acquire it from training alone. Yes, some people are born with talent/aptitude for something, but even prodigies must practice their skills. Video games are no different; Skill is everything. And the “git gud” mentality is especially prevalent in our most competitive games. But nothing is more competitive, or more skill-based, than a fighting game. And a real banger just dropped on Xbox Game Pass.

Guilty Gear Strive from Arc System Works is the seventh installment in a franchise that is absolutely cramjam with lore and characters. What makes Strive different from other entries in the series is its emphasis on teaching skill instead of simply celebrating it. Alongside some breathtaking animation and truly over-the-top story, Guilty Gear Strive offers the best chance for seasoned pros and n00bs alike to dive in and start swinging.

First, a warning. Guilty Gear Strive is not an easy game. This isn’t a button-mashy arcade brawler where you can jump+kick your way to victory. So it's difficult to recommend it to anyone looking for a casual, low-stress game session. However, what it does offer new players is a Mission Mode that will teach you how to do the many different techniques required to get the most out of your matches. And if you’re not the type of gamer who has to win to have a good time, you’ll find your fun exploring the impressive roster.

With more than 20 characters to choose from, Guilty Gear Strive runs the gamut from predictable fighting characters like ninja-obsessed Chipp to weird-ass concepts like Bedman?, a sentient robot made out of a bedframe and piloted by its dead creator’s little sister. The gorgeous art style does justice to each character and stuffs fights with plenty of eye candy and flashy moves. Beyond that, though, is the nuance each character has in their play style. This makes it easy to jump around and find the character who works best for you (usually Ky).

The very definition of punching up.

Ark System Works

Guilty Gear Strive does offer some familiar fundamentals. Combos are king, as in most fighters, and the aim is to fill your special bar so you can unleash a furious attack often accompanied by an over-the-top animated sequence. These high-risk, high-reward moves are central to the gameplay and an awful lot of fun to master. And unlike previous entries which focused more on chaining light attacks together, Strive puts an emphasis on timing. Those bigger, slower attacks have to land because they’ve been well-timed, not because you’ve entered a staggering series of quick attacks first.

The most accessible, and most curious, choice Arc System Works made in Strive is to turn story mode into, well, just a story. There are no fights or gameplay present at all, instead, players are basically given a mini-anime to watch that breaks down big plot points and introduces characters and their motivations. I’d recommend new players start there just to get a sense of how deep the lore goes, and to gain context for what exactly some of these characters are even doing in the game. It’s a fun watch that isn’t tied to winning lots of fights, though YMMV on whether you think that’s a good thing or not.

Come for the stunning visuals, stay to talk trash.

Ark System Works

Guilty Gear Strive is the rare fighting franchise that decided to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get new players involved instead of just doubling down for their fanbase again and again. The effort pays off and creates one of the most welcoming environments in the genre. You can find a character that speaks to you, learn their story, and get into the action in very little time. There are some ongoing issues with their online matchmaking though, so you might have some trouble connecting with friends or finding meaningful matchups online. But if you’re looking for a fun, fast fighting game to dust up your knuckles then you need to play this ASAP.

Guilty Gear Strive is available now on Xbox Game Pass. It’s also available on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC.

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