Anime Fighting Review

Guilty Gear -Strive- – Review | Roll On Rollback

Guilty Gear -Strive- the delayed fighting game messiah is finally available to purchase worldwide and be a next favorite fighting game. Published by anime powerhouse Bandai Namco, you can find this on the PlayStation or PC. I was given the chance to sit down with the game and Strive to tell you if it’s worth your hard-earned money or Guilty of grinding my Gears. 

Heavy Day

Guilty Gear is a series that originally graced the PlayStation 1 back in 1998. It spans well over 20 titles with spin-offs included and is home to a host of light novels, manga, and Drama CDs. For a fighting game Guilty Gear has the lore down. 

Guilty Gear -Strive- is touted as the end of the “XRD” Saga which launched with Guilty Gear -SIGN-. It sees series mainstays Sol Badguy & Ky Kiske in the middle of a series of plots between “That Man” & the enigmatic I-No.

Set out much like the previous games in the XRD Saga the story is presented as an anime using the in-game engine. These are done in 20 minute long chapters with no interactivity; just sit back and “ride the lighting”.

I much prefer this approach to Arc Systems’ other anime fighting giant Blazblue. That’s much closer to the visual novel style with fights sprinkled in. In Guilty Gear -Strive-, I can sit back, just enjoy the story and absorb what I can. That isn’t to say it’s easy to follow at all but it’s a damn good time either way. Beautifully paced and some fantastic plot revelations for oldtimer lore lovers like myself.

If you need a refresher or are completely new to Guilty Gear, there is a fantastic primer included in the game. It shows you every connection and significant event leading up to this point. That said, it doesn’t tell you the entire story. Due to its size and depth, I would suggest newcomers maybe look for an online recap. You can use this to fill in any blanks as frankly convoluted doesn’t even begin to describe this series’ story.

The smell of the game

The roster of Guilty Gear -Strive- currently sits in at 15 characters comprised of the following:

  • Sol Badguy
  • Ky Kiske
  • May
  • Axl Low
  • Chipp 
  • Potemkin
  • Faust
  • Millia Rage
  • Zato 1
  • Ramlethal
  • Leo
  • Nagoriyuki
  • Giovanna
  • Anji
  • I-No

Mostly comprised of series regulars, Anji returns after a long absence from the series. Leo and Ramlethal represent the XRD additions. To round it off, Giovanna and Nagoryuki are making their debut. 

While the roster is wonderfully diverse, I feel it is slightly “too” safe considering how many characters appear in the story mode and previous games that aren’t playable here. Even more when they get mentioned or screen time in Guilty Gear -Strive-. 

Having only 2 new characters is a bit of a letdown, especially after -SIGN- where we got technically 5 new characters (Sin making his 2D fighting debut after being in Guilty Gear 2: Overture). With more characters promised in the Season Pass, it shows the change in focus in the genre compared to 5 years ago – that focus being on post-release profit. 

That said, it’s a healthy classic roster where there is a character for everyone, newbies and long-timers alike. I found myself enjoying the rush-down combo beast that is Giovanna but will always have a place in my heart for the original Badguy who like all the roster has had their moveset tweaked to make them feel fresh yet familiar in this title.

The Missing Link

Guilty Gear -Strive- is a classic 1 Vs 1 fighter, the genre made famous by Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II. The Guilty Gear series was one of the first commercially successful “anime” focused fighting games that puts more focus on various unique mechanics and a sense of speed and style than that of the genre originators. -Strive- keeps that tradition while tweaking things enough to lower the barrier of entry somewhat.

Guilty Gear has always been focused on making characters as unique as possible, be it design or play-wise. It was often known for its high level of entry, with some characters that were frankly a grind to use and would confuse casual players to no end. 

Strive still manages to keep some of the more unique aspects. For example, Faust is just as insane to play or fight as ever with his teleports and status effects, but it streamlines them. This lets you pick them up easier. While not completely diminished, people who aren’t as versed in the unique mechanics can still hold their own much better than they could in some other titles, such as Accent Core+.

Guilty Gear -Strive- - Slash

Momentary Life

Punch, Kick, Slash and Heavy Slash are your main 4 attacks. You have Dust that knocks your foe into the sky for some follow-up attacks and throw also makes an appearance. If you’ve played any fighting game, it won’t take long to give you the basics. 

There are more advanced techniques too. Roman Cancels allow you to cancel any move into another for huge combos. Wall breaks which are very reminiscent of Dragon Ball Z send your foe to another stage and speed up your special meter game. 

Instant Destruction moves are gone from Strive but you still have a range of special moves and wacky over-the-top ultra moves. These are usually followed by a detailed cutscene. They’re all performed in different ways but the game has a handy “Command List” within the pause menu for you to dissect.

Midnight Carnival

To get everyone on an equal playing field, you have a standard tutorial that shows you the ropes. This is followed by Mission Mode, which shows you the more intricate stuff like Roman Cancels and positive/negative meter gain situations.

You’ve got the Story Mode which as mentioned is partially an interactive movie. The Arcade Mode is your standard arcade tower which changes difficulty depending on how you perform in your matches. 

Unfortunately, unlike previous games, there’s no additional story within the arcade mode. Medals of Millionaires mode is also not present, despite being a series staple 

Naturally, training mode is back and essential for learning the best combos and reactions, it’s fully customizable for any situation and a lot of players will be more than happy to experiment here.

Survival Mode heads up the single-player content and pits you again the roster on one life bar to see how far you can get and upload the score. 

There is the option to spend money earned within the game modes to go “fishing” here you unlock stuff for your online avatar, display card, and in-game music from previous Guilty Gear titles to play on the Jukebox.

Guilty Gear -Strive- - Is this Habbo Hotel?

The March of a Wicked Man

Online features Ranked and Casual alongside the most bizarre lobby system I’ve seen yet in any fighting game. It features some kind of 2D Habbo Hotel styled system as a lobby. Ranked is beautifully split up between the floors of a tower which restricts higher-ranked players from going lower with the newbie fighters. 

The online is a mostly buttery smooth experienced powered by the fighting buzzword of the month Rollback. Connections to players across the world had minimal delay or lag. 

Customizable avatars and display cards called “R-Cards” are great incentives to play more and earn some of the GG$ to fish more and show your unique style off. 

Guilty Gear -Strive- - Anime Style

Sky should be high

The presentation in Guilty Gear -Strive- is second to none. If you’ve ever played any of the Arc System Works games you’ll know they always look phenomenal and in my opinion, this easily surpasses titles such as Dragon Ball FighterZ and Granblue.

Visually the game is on par with the recent CGI Anime shows when showing story cutscenes or win animations. When the game is in motion for battles, it’s like witchcraft how these 3D models look, animate, and feel like they are hand-drawn animation frames. It’s a simply gorgeous visual style and pops with Guilty Gear’s metal over-the-top anime-inspired art direction. 

The U.I is puzzlingly horrible, especially within battle. It’s overly intrusive. This is particularly the case when you hit a counter – you’ll definitely know about it. The health bars and everything else seems almost placeholder and clash with the U.I of previous games. They may have been extreme, but damn it they had character. 

The sound in Guilty Gear -Strive- is naturally top-notch. I’ve always heard the joke that the games are just add ons included with an awesome metal album, and by god, they have done it again. The music here is fantastic. It’s brilliantly over the top and perfectly suits the on-screen action – it helps that it is also catchy as all hell. The voice acting is brilliant too. Though at the time of review there was only the Japanese dub, I believe there is an English dub coming.

Guilty Gear -Strive- - Fighting


Guilty Gear -Strive- is a fantastic anime fighting game with excellent presentation and some of the best online around. The story is gripping and I found myself approaching it more like an anime. It doesn’t feel like a tacked-on mode for a fighting game. 

That said, it’s not all positive. It feels like the complete package, but be it a change of the times or a need to push a Season Pass, it feels quite lacking compared to some of the previous games. It’s a shame.

The core product is some of the most fun I’ve ever personally had with the series. That said, the amount of content, care, and the eclectic roster within the previous XRD games makes me favor them. For newcomers though there has never been a better title to get you acclimatized to the weird and wacky world of Sol Badguy and friends.


Platforms: Steam (PC), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5

If you would like to see more anime games, you may be interested in our review of Touhou Hyouibana ~ Antinomy of Common Flowers, another fighting game.

Many thanks go to Arc System Works for a PC review code for this title.

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