Arc System Works revealed that they were working a brand new game in their popular fighting game series Guilty Gear back in 2019 and today, that highly anticipated title has finally arrived. With gorgeous visuals, a fluid, satisfying combat system and a brilliant roster of fighters, Guilty Gear Strive may end up cementing itself among the top fighting games of all time.

One of my favourite things about Guilty Gear Strive is how accessible it manages to be, without compromising the depth and complexity on offer. I am quite bad when it comes to fighting games and it tends to take me a long time to get to grips with the mechanics and combos when picking up a new fighting game. I was fearful of this when going into Strive, however, I was shocked with how quickly I managed to start weaving together combos and making respectable plays. While certain characters on the roster were beyond my ability as a newcomer, the fighters were sufficiently varied that I was able to find multiple who were easy to pick up.

Guilty Gear Strive’s stellar mission mode played an enormous part in helping me learn how to play the game. Through a series of interactive tutorials, the game will slowly introduce new mechanics, combos and tricks to the player, testing their ability to pull these off before allowing them to proceed. I found this in-depth guide hugely beneficial as a newbie and I would highly recommend anyone new to the series or inexperienced with fighting games to check it out.

Outside of mission mode, there are of course a host of other modes available to the player. Online play is a key area in which the majority of serious players are going to be spending practically all of their time. While I didn’t play a huge amount of online matches due to my status as a beginner, I did try out a few games to get a sense of the mode. The netcode in Guilty Gear Strive is second to none, providing an immensely responsive and stable experience. This is one area which fighting games often tend to be lacking in at launch, which is later improved through patches. Arc System Works have rounded off a polished experience by delivering an almost flawless, bug-free system from day one, across the board.

The story mode in the game surprised me, as it does not contain any actual combat. Instead, the story mode is a series of animated cutscenes, telling a story without any interaction, like a movie. While this is quite unorthodox for a video game, I felt like it worked really well as a way to introduce more lore in a fun and engaging way. I realised when playing through this that the typical fights which are inserted between cutscenes in fighting game story modes serve to do little more than break the immersion and flow of the narrative. After all, if you wanted to battle, you would be in one of the battle modes, not in the story mode! If you find yourself wanting to know more about the characters in Guilty Gear Strive, story mode is a great little bit of side content to enjoy.

Of course, you also have the ability to play offline versus the CPU, and there is also an arcade mode for you to enjoy if you don’t wish to play online. Local multiplayer is also an option if you want to play with a friend or family member in your own home. Overall, I think Strive delivers a great slate of game modes for fans to enjoy, and there is something here for every type of player to choose from.

The star of the show in Guilty Gear Strive is, in my opinion, the visuals. Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful anime style game ever created. Most of the time, this game looks like a true, pre-rendered anime sequence, however, everything is being rendered in real time. Whether it is the beautiful 2D character artwork, the animations, the visual effects or the transitions, Strive is breathtaking on a visual level and the art direction is just sublime. This aspect was honestly the first and primary draw for me; once I saw the gorgeous visuals, I knew I had to try this game for myself, even if my fighting game skills are quite limited.

However, let’s not turn a blind eye to the fantastic audio design. The soundtrack of over sixty tracks is excellent and I thoroughly enjoyed the wide array of music available to me as I fought it out on stage after stage, completing tutorial after tutorial and seeing my skills slowly but surely grow. Voice acting for the characters (in both English and Japanese), as well as in-fight sound effects were equally spectacular and the sound design is a perfect fit for the breathtaking visuals and art style, so hats off to the Arc System Works sound team on nailing that aspect of the game.

Due to the complexity of each and every character in the game, I found the roster of fifteen characters in Guilty Gear Strive to already be too big for me! I only managed to even properly try two characters during my time with the game so far. I would say, for experienced players, the roster is still probably large enough to give you plenty of fun and varied experiences, despite being smaller than some other games. This is somewhat understandable, as the costs associated with the mind-blowing visual style are likely higher, as this is a gorgeous, highly polished game. In my opinion, the level of quality oozing from the experience all-around is worth having a somewhat smaller upfront roster of fighters, however, this may be down for you to decide, as an individual player.

While my experience with Guilty Gear Strive has been close to flawless, there is one semi-major annoyance which I have faced with the game. When loading up the game, connecting to online and loading up the lobby often takes over a minute to complete, which is an incredible long time to sit and wait for a menu, given that the next generation consoles are loading into entire games in under ten seconds. While this is far from a deal breaker and is primarily just mildly irritating, it would be nice if they could improve this in a future patch, as I don’t see why connecting to online services should take such a long time; other games do not have this problem. Outside of this, I can hardly fault Guilty Gear Strive, so hats off to Arc System Works on a solid, polished, fun experience.

Overall, Guilty Gear Strive has firmly cemented itself among the top fighting games ever created. The gorgeous, breathtaking visuals are matched by the incredibly satisfying combat and stellar audio design to deliver a solid package which I can strongly recommend to any fighting game fan. While I am not very good at fighting games, I found Strive to be such a fun experience that I am motivated to continue playing this incredible game, striving to become better (excuse the pun).

Overall, Guilty Gear Strive has firmly cemented itself among the top fighting games ever created. The gorgeous, breathtaking visuals are matched by the incredibly satisfying combat and stellar audio design to deliver a solid package which I can strongly recommend to any fighting game fan. While I am not very good at fighting games, I found Strive to be such a fun experience that I am motivated to continue playing this incredible game, striving to become better (excuse the pun).

DISCLAIMER: This review was carried out on the PlayStation 5 platform, using review code which was kindly provided by the publisher, Bandai Namco Entertainment.