The next Guilty Gear promises to keep on rockin’
Over the past week (March 15th-21st, 2020,) Arc System Works has been revealing more information about the upcoming Guilty Gear Strive on their social media. Said information was supposed to debut alongside another on-the-ground beta test and survey collection at Final Round 2020 in Hapeville, Georgia. However, due to the recent influx of COVID-19-related event cancellations, ArcSys was forced to pull out of the event and chose instead to make all of their reveals online. While this unfortunately means one less event for ArcSys to get player feedback, as well as one less event for excited fans to pop off together at a venue when the reveals dropped, the safety of players, spectators, and staff is the top concern. In the end, all the information was still delivered in a timely fashion.
The first major reveal was dropped on ArcSys’s Twitter account on March 18th. During the JAEPO2020 interview, the directors at Team Red had already confirmed that they were shooting for a spring 2020 release for the first closed beta, and that the full title would release in fall of 2020. However, an official release date had not been given until now. The recent tweets linked to a press release and an update on the ArcSys Guilty Gear Strive official website, where players could now sign up via email for a chance to be entered in the upcoming Strive online closed beta test. The application period has been set from March 18th, 2020 at 5PM PST (when the tweets were made) to April 5th, 2020, at 6:59AM PST. Those who already filled out surveys at events where ArcSys was conducting locations tests- the events in question being ArcREVO 2019, Frosty Faustings XII, EVO Japan 2020, and JAEPO2020- need not apply, as they have already been guaranteed a beta code. (Yours truly included!) The beta will feature seven characters- Sol, Ky, Axl, May, Potemkin, Chipp, and Faust- and will be the first look at the completely new, overhauled UI and character select.
Embedded within the press release and online beta details- and confirmed outright in a bombshell tweet- was the long-awaited inclusion of rollback netcode in the final version of Strive. I’ve already written at length about what rollback-based netcode is and why it’s so important, so I’ll provide the link to my explanation here. The Strive survey taken at the above events questioned players about how they felt about rollback netcode, and whether it was a valuable inclusion in the upcoming title. Players have argued after reading the press release, since the upcoming April beta will not feature rollback, that the initial plan was to move forward with a delay-based netcode solution. This is likely a fair assumption, although a counterargument that the in-house rollback will simply not be done in time for the beta is also not out of the question. Regardless, it seems that due to a combination of survey responses, online outcry, and pressure from ArcSys USA, the developers at Team Red have decided that implementing rollback is worth the time in order to satisfy the player base.
Furthermore, it seems as though CMZinac, a Guilty Gear player whose resumé includes working on the Killer Instinct netcode, is overseeing the development of Strive’s rollback. His Twitter has since been made private as of March 18th, but Zinac alleges that he will do what he can to ensure that the Strive netcode doesn’t fall into common pitfalls- the assumption here being that the Strive team will learn from the mistakes of games such as Street Fighter x Tekken and Street Fighter V. Killer Instinct’s netcode has also been historically highly praised by the community and is credited as one of the main reasons why the 2013 Microsoft fighting game has been able to maintain a solid playerbase to this day. Between Zinac’s oversight and the inclusion of a UI that has been changed in response to overwhelming player feedback, players can have faith that the final version of Strive will be in good hands.
Subsequent tweets also announced that the character reveal trailer meant to debut alongside the rest of this information at Final Round 2020 would go live on March 21st on the official ArcSys YouTube channel at 6:00 PM PST. To the shock of many, the minute-long trailer revealed not one, but two returning characters- Millia Rage, and Zato-1! The two remaining Assassin’s Guild members have come back to Strive with new designs, but their gameplay seems to function just as we’ve come to expect from them. Millia still seems to be an incredibly fast-paced setplay character, running in on enemies and setting up her disks for high-low mixups that are difficult to block and counter. Meanwhile, Zato continues to make use of his partner Eddie to come at his opponent and oppress them with offense from every conceivable angle.
It’s worth mentioning that Millia and Zato were both characters that came up in discussion at the JAEPO2020 player-developer interview. When the topic of how okizeme and setplay-oriented characters would be changed in Strive, producer Akira Katano specifically mentioned that if characters like Millia and Zato were to hypothetically come back in Strive, that their gameplan and toolkit would have to stay the same. Director Daisuke Ishiwatari also mentioned that one thing that would indeed have to change would be the visual language of setplay characters, so that the opponent can see what they’re being hit with and react accordingly. While the trailer was only a minute long and divided up between the two characters, there was still enough to suggest, at least to me, that these two okizeme-based characters were making their debut with their gameplan intact. The trailer demonstrated Millia’s familiar oki setup, putting Tandem Top over a knocked down Sol and then airdashing over him for the crossup. We also got a glimpse of Zato and Eddie pressuring an opponent from the front and from behind simultaneously, trapping them in a difficult blockstring situation. Whether setplay is truly “dead” remains to be seen, but it seems that such playstyles and archetypes still exist in Strive in some fashion.
Players getting into the online beta will receive their codes and invites starting April 12th, 2020, and the closed beta test will last from April 16th to April 19th. While players won’t get a chance to test the rollback netcode, they will be able to experience a newly revamped UI that will hopefully be more heavy metal-flavored and communicative. Those who had already experienced the game at the aforementioned location tests can now get their hands on the mad doctor Faust and his new design and moveset. Hopefully, we can anticipate a second run of the beta with the new rollback netcode alongside other characters such as Millia and Zato. I myself am waiting very patiently for a Jam reveal, but I am very much looking forward to trying the beta test when it launches in April. I am also still dumbstruck and filled with thunderous excitement over the reveal that they really went and put rollback netcode in an ArcSys game in 2020. The recent Strive announcements have been a small light of hope for fighting game fans stuck at home during a global viral pandemic, wondering how their community will thrive. As it so happens, a highly polished fighting game with good online play is what we’ve all been striving for- pun intended and worked for.