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Ballet Dancers




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Modern Dancers

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First impressions aren\u2019t everything. The first time I played Arc System Works\u2019 newest fighting game, in which I played my old Guilty Gear Xrd main, the king of the world Ky Kiske, for roughly half an hour, I returned Guilty Gear Strive. I took to a group chat to complain about how they had massacred my boy. I resented the dumbed-down gameplay, the gutted combos, and the million-year-long connection times.\n\n\n\nThen I saw Lord Knight playing Millia Rage, and I was inspired enough by what I saw to buy the game again. Embracing a new main and letting go of my old one has led me to enjoy one of the most mentally engaging fighting games to be released in a long time. Honestly, only the ridiculous time it takes to get into the main menu remains, out of the complaints above. Strive\u2019s rollback netcode is incredibly smooth, its gameplay solid, its visuals stunning, and its music as top-notch as any other Guilty Gear, just with more lyrics.\n\n\n\n\n\nI still lament a bit that I can no longer do Xrd combos, because that was the first traditional fighting game I had played where I felt like I understood the combo system on any level beyond knowing that normal attacks cancel into specials, which cancel into Supers, which is pretty much the extent of my combo game in Street Fighter. Oh, and I had a few Touch of Death combos in Dragon Ball FighterZ back in some of the earlier patches, but many of that game\u2019s combos could probably be performed by a trained dog. By comparison, in Guilty Gear, character weights impact combo routes, and some ad-libbing is necessary to have an optimal punish game. Maybe your more-damaging jumping Slash won\u2019t connect in the middle of this combo against that character at that spot on the screen, so you can improvise and substitute in a weaker but bigger jumping light Kick, as an example.\n\n\n\nI can feel the mark of all that Xrd Ky practice spent confirming far Slash into down + forward + Heavy Slash (only a combo on counter-hit or crouching opponents!) into Greed Sever into Vapor Thrust corner loops deep in my muscles. Hitting Millia corner combos still feels nice, but those Xrd combos were on another level of tight. The first 2.5D Guilty Gear made me appreciate the piano-esque practice that goes into a long 2D \u201canime fighter\u201d combo. And it made me feel like a beast for being able to adapt combos on the fly once I really started to understand the game\u2019s systems, such as character weights and hitting crouching opponents resulting in a bit more hitstun to confirm combos which were not possible on standing ones. It\u2019s certainly reasonable to say that the loss of such complex combos hurts the depth of Strive.\n\n\n\nIt makes up for it in other ways, but as is the case with just about any fighting game, the latest version of Xrd \u2013 called Rev 2 \u2013 is more complete than the first iteration of Strive. See the Street Fighter II series or any of the word vomit subtitles that the other later titles in Guilty Gear have gradually accumulated, like XX Accent Core +R Revelator -Sign- Reloaded Sparking Omega Repentance Gobbledygook. The roster of Xrd, at the end of its life cycle as Rev 2, had many characters who are now sorely missed. Kum Haehyun, Baiken, Answer, Bedman, and Kuradoberi Jam are my favorites who I\u2019m hoping will return as DLC.\n\n\n\n\n\nGuilty Gear has always been known for its incredible soundtracks, at least in the all-important eyes of casual audiences. Deservedly so, I might add \u2013 Guilty Gear XX (or \u201cX2\u201d if you\u2019re hip with the lingo) has one of the best OSTs for any video game, up there with the likes of Chrono Trigger but in Ishiwatari Daisuke\u2019s unique hard-rock style. On the gameplay front, this niche anime fighter series is known for its complexity and depth that emerge from its wide variety of systems. I\u2019ll break down some of the changes in a bit, but Strive having less complexity in some areas isn\u2019t necessarily a bad thing. Some of the old systems were archaic and often \u201cbroken,\u201d wildly unfair. Eddie unblockable loops in X2 come to mind.\n\n\n\nStrive\u2019s deviations from past games which are in the forefront of my mind are as follows: the \u201cGatling\u201d combo system has been reworked; Instant Kills have been removed, to my disdain, since they looked excellent and didn\u2019t affect normal gameplay much; Strive also removed the randomly-initiated clown fiesta that was Danger Time, which certainly helped convince me to make my second Steam purchase of the newest entry in the series; and I am really sad that they removed the ability to grab Bursts (Guilty Gear\u2019s take on Combo Breakers, which gives you a Get Out of Your Mistake For [Almost] Free card). Blocking your opponent\u2019s Burst and then punishing them is still so satisfying, so oh well.\n\n\n\nStrive is a Guilty Gear game that reflects trends in modern gaming toward more accessible gameplay, but without sacrificing the series\u2019 heart and soul. The heartstrings in there happen to be guitar strings, so let\u2019s move on to the soundtrack.\n\n\n\n\n\nI\u2019m typing these words while vibing hardcore to Anji\u2019s theme, \u201cRock Parade.\u201d I\u2019ve had the character themes playlist on repeat for days. It\u2019s a proper parade of rock. Millia\u2019s theme, \u201cLove the Subhuman Self,\u201d is an absolute, certified banger. And I could listen to May\u2019s song, \u201cThe Disaster of Passion,\u201d all day long... no matter what anyone says about it, and no matter how much I hate playing against that stupid little anchor wielding dolphin rider. \u201cThe Disaster of Passion\u201d almost makes me like her for the first time in the series. Almost.\n\n\n\nUnlike past Guilty Gear titles like X2 and Xrd, and like I mentioned above, Strive strives to include vocals for each character\u2019s theme song. Ishiwatari Daisuke, the series\u2019 creator and primary composer, has a very... interesting grasp of the English language. There are very few, if any, grammatical mistakes across the lyrics of this $60 album. There is a delightful twist on regular English singing, however, in that there are often wildcard or antiquated phrases like \u201cthe bee\u2019s knees\u201d that get thrown into the mix, as that one literally does in Millia\u2019s theme. As outsider art makes one question the conventions of that particular medium, Daisuke\u2019s lyrics make me reflect on my own relatively straightforward poetry and prod me to include more phrases similar to \u201cpatched-up liberty\u201d and \u201cThe Roar of the Spark.\u201d\n\n\n\nI do think I\u2019ll stay away from lines like the first ones of the first song on the album: \u201cI know who I am. The moonlight lake told me, \u2018This is who you are.\u2019\u201d They can\u2019t all be winners, I guess.\n\n\n\nEven with some whiffs, the lyrics for this game\u2019s soundtrack have a lovely, modern, slant feel to them. You won\u2019t always understand what\u2019s being said \u2013 I certainly don\u2019t, considering I thought Potemkin\u2019s theme included the hilarious phrase \u201cI\u2019m the clown of fate\u201d until I realized its title and that section is actually \u201cArmor-Clad Faith.\u201d If the human voice is an instrument, NAOKI and AISHA play it very well. And Daisuke\u2019s English phrasing is always interesting, if nothing else.\n\n\n\\r\\n\\r\\nThere are some delightfully philosophical turns of phrase in these lyrics. In the credits song, \u201cThe Name of Heaven,\u201d the line \u201cI don\u2019t hesitate, just be guided\u201d and the main theme\u2019s line \u201cmy tribe is my world\u201d fill me with a similar energy to when I listen to Nahko and Medicine for the People\u2019s \u201cLove Letters to God.\u201d This is a feeling of a guiding force that is not above or below, but everywhere. We are in the Heavens right now, in the stars. \u201cThe Name of Heaven\u201d seems to lean at least a bit on this cosmic consciousness, and there are plenty of nuggets of wisdom to be found around the other tracks.\\r\\n\\r\\n \\r\\n\\r\\nFor one, and back down to Earth, in stark contrast to its almost J-Pop feel, \u201cThe Disaster of Passion\u201d opens on an echo of the most enduring quote by the Greek philosopher Heraclitus \u2013 \u03c0\u03ac\u03bd\u03c4\u03b1 \u1fe5\u03b5\u1fd6, panta rhei: \u201cAll flows.\u201d AISHA belts out the synonymous \u201cOver time, most things fade away.... All of the memories dissolve it all.\u201d But there is no need to cling, to swim against the cosmic current, because \u201cIt will be reborn as something new.\u201d Beautiful, unexpected, undeniable.\\r\\n\\r\\n\",\n \"_text\": \"field_5e2a1f048473b\"\n },\n \"align\": \"\",\n \"mode\": \"preview\"\n} \/-->\n\n\nGranted, reflecting on the inevitability of winter yielding to spring, and summer to fall, and life to death, does not help me land big combos. I\u2019m out here reflecting on the meaning of life while these May players are hitting me with her stupid anchor or her cursed Mr. Dolphin. Still, we jam.\n\n\n\nI had never jammed to a song in the intentionally made-up language (as opposed to naturally evolving, as I\u2019d argue most languages are) Esperanto before this game. Thanks for changing that, dear intro of \u201cNecessary Discrepancy.\u201d Most of Ramlethal\u2019s move names are in Esperanto, so it\u2019s fitting that her theme would also feature it. And the language just fits her in general, as a being who was created rather than born. The English lyrics to her theme are also fantastic. The lines \u201cRight and wrong \/ are not for sure. \/ The castle made of sand will fall\u201d and \u201cBlack and white, \/ two are one\u201d always have me nodding my head sagely, while also bobbing it to the beat.\n\n\n\nNagoriyuki\u2019s theme, \u201cWhat Do You Fight For,\u201d may be the most head-bobbing track in Guilty Gear Strive\u2019s OST. It rocks a deep, pulsing beat which matches the cyberpunk black samurai vampire perfectly. His song is great, but not quite as incredible as that design. I thought that he was a bit... much at first, but he\u2019s really grown on me, to the point that I now consider his to be one of the sweetest fighting game character designs of all time. Not a lot of super moves out there in the world of fighting games end with a beautiful rendition of Hokusai\u2019s The Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Including that masterpiece is cool, but only one part of the massively cool iceberg that is this \u201cNoble Vampire Samurai.\u201d\n\n\n\nNoble Vampire Samurai\n\n\n\nAnd \u201cNago\u201d has a theme that once again seems to be written with an open third eye. I mean, that first verse! \u201cEverything in this world \/ leads to soul enlightenment. \/ There is nothing wasted about our lives. \/ The snow falling in spring \/ Moon hangs during the day \/ One with self and time.\u201d Comforting confidence shines through in the first three lines, followed by an odd but poetic juxtaposition of snow and spring, moon and day. Then\u2026 \u201cOne with Self and Time.\u201d Makes you think\u2026 can we be separate from ourselves? Are there levels of consciousness greater than human beings? The Self vs. a self. I happen to think that everything we do is the Universe reflecting Itself, and it\u2019s so refreshing to hear a song come right out and say that there is nothing wasted about our lives. It\u2019s all part of the Heavens, even if it can feel like Hell.\n\n\n\nSide note: Guilty Gear, like many other \u201canime fighters,\u201d continues to have absolutely absurd introductions in its newest entry. The first two lines of this part of the main theme are used as the intro to every single fight, before a well-animated cutscene with both fighters in frame, often with unique dialogue, is played. \u201cMankind knew that they cannot change society. So, instead of reflecting on themselves, they blamed the beasts. Heaven or Hell. Duel 1. Let\u2019s Rock!\u201d Just the right amount of absurd.\n\n\n\nSetting aside my fake philosophy degree, the centerpiece of Guilty Gear Strive\u2019s soundtrack is the main theme, from which that nonsense about \u201cman\u201dkind and the Beasts is pulled. This may be thinking too deep into things, but \u201cThat is bullshit\u201d is a common refrain of fighting game players, and perhaps the most iconic lyric in the whole OST. I bop my head like that cat from that one gif when I hear my man taking about hearts blazing. That\u2019s another feeling familiar to FGC competitors, and we\u2019re not talking about heartburn. When NAOKI sings, \u201cWe already know the smell of the game,\u201d that seems to me to mean that we \u2013 those who had played Guilty Gear games in the time before Strive \u2013 already knew, before the game released, that there would be some stuff that would make people cry \u201cThat is bullshit!\u201d See the angry discourse on the Internet about Sol Badguy\u2019s Strive iteration for an example. Yet still, our hearts blaze with passion in the heat of battle... even if the game smells like the bullshit that is Sol having a 5K that comes out in three frames. He smells like the best character in the game. Still our hearts are blazing.\n\n\n\nNow, in Strive, since every character\u2019s theme has lyrics, there are no purely instrumental masterpieces like \u201cWrithe in Pain\u201d or \u201cHoly Orders \u2013 Be Just or Be Dead,\u201d my two favorite tracks from X2. Well, there no new ones, anyway \u2013 you can still fish for songs from past Guilty Gear games in ArcSys\u2019s system where you can spend ingame currency to get 10 random items. That usually means you\u2019ll get nine items you don\u2019t want and one item you already have, as evidenced by the fact that I still haven\u2019t fished out \u201cWrithe in Pain.\u201d Regardless of that annoyance, the guitar parts of the Strive soundtrack are still legendary. I particularly enjoy the solos in Sol\u2019s, Millia\u2019s, and Potemkin\u2019s theme songs. Daisuke\u2019s still got it.\n\n\n\nTo pull back Oz\u2019s curtain from the title for just a moment, I don\u2019t think that I would no-joke have bought the OST for $60. But the bonus free fighting game really brings it all together. Plus, we likely have at least a few years in which a steady drip of DLC characters will be released, all coming with a new song to add to the album. Goldlewis Dickinson has already delivered a great one, even if I have no interest in actually playing the big guy.\n\n\n\nNothing makes training better than having something to jam to, in the gym or in the \u201clab.\u201d I even pull up the GGST OST when aim training in Valorant nowadays. In Strive, we don\u2019t even have to leave the game client to have sweet music to train to. The only real problem with the OST is that pretty much no game between two players is long enough to hear any of the full character themes\u2026 but that\u2019s alright. No reason to make every song 99 seconds when the full versions are all so good.\n\n\n\n\n\nJust a quick disclaimer: many parts of this penultimate section may be indecipherable if you\u2019ve never played Guilty Gear before. Maybe just scroll to my conclusion if so \u2013 I recommend learning the game and coming back to consume this kind of GG content later.\n\n\n\nI again bring up Lord Knight\u2019s name in the header of this section because he showed me the beauty of the gameplay in Strive, and I hope to promote his platform. The man\u2019s Millia is sick, and his YouTube channel has a ton of knowledge for both his character and the game at large. He demonstrated to me that the mental game is now at the forefront of Strive, with disgusting mixups and beautiful yet effective movement, dancing around opponents\u2019 hitboxes with Millia\u2019s excellent mobility options, and with less of an emphasis on 20-hit combos. Where Ky felt clunky and gutted to me, Millia feels free and open, if more so in neutral and on Mixup Mountain (which I so name because players like Lord Knight have climbed up it much higher than I have, with climbing gear made of sick ways to crack open their opponents\u2019 guard) than when performing combos.\n\n\n\nWe might have lost some depth in the transition from Xrd Rev 2 to Strive, but it\u2019s mostly on the mechanical side, mostly in the realm of combos and block-strings. And I\u2019m not convinced those are such huge, horrible losses. And there\u2019s still a ton to learn about the combo system for those of you who don\u2019t like to let your opponent play the game: micro-dashes to perform, character weights to consider, and ways to burn meter that let you keep a block-string going while adding a high-low-throw mixup.\n\n\n\nPast Guilty Gear games allowed each character to chain most of their light normal attacks into most of their medium normals into most of their heavy normals. Everyone would have different routes, often with command normals performed with a direction + the button added into the mix. This made learning one character hard enough, but you also had to at least understand the other characters\u2019 basic \u201cGatling\u201d chain structures. Lord Knight discusses the past and present of Gatlings in this video.\n\n\n\nAll that learning made Guilty Gear very difficult to properly get into back in the day. I might have been able to do some Ky combos that felt cool to me, but I got my butt handed to me by most of the properly competitive folks I played in Xrd.\n\n\n\\r\\n\\r\\nNow, no longer can you get stuck in the corner for that long, nor can you convert a combo from a Punch into a hard knockdown for free (as far as I know). Everyone has the same basic chain structure, in which light attacks only rarely offer a big return. The emphasis is on getting a strong first hit, strike-throw mixups, and the ever-enjoyable knockdown-wakeup game. Of course, Millia and a few other characters can indeed get a Kick to chain into a hard knockdown, but that\u2019s rarer than it has been in past games, and the damage from those combos less scary. Even with a Super at the end, starting a combo with the K button won\u2019t be doing much more than 25% of a health bar. It\u2019s all about the engaging mixup to follow, if you opt for a character who likes to combo Kick into sweep. Everyone\u2019s Punch moves, however, are pretty much free of highly damaging or rewarding combo enders. I think that\u2019s a good change, now that I\u2019ve played with it for a while. Low-risk and high-reward isn\u2019t a great combination for fighting game design.\\r\\n\\r\\n \\r\\n\\r\\nIf you couldn\u2019t tell from that comment about not letting the opponent play the game, I personally don\u2019t want to spend time studying in the lab when I could sit in the online lobby \\\/ training mode hybrid, do a few bread n butter combos to warm up, and then get matched up with a real human being. I\u2019ve always preferred the mental side of games to the physical. For me, this started with the purely mental chess in preschool and moved to sports like football or soccer and finally moved to video games like Guilty Gear.\\r\\n\\r\\n\",\n \"_text\": \"field_5e2a1f048473b\"\n },\n \"align\": \"\",\n \"mode\": \"preview\"\n} \/-->\n\n\nAnd now, Strive has opened the door to more and more players being able to feel like they\u2019re engaged in a mental duel. There\u2019s still a host of classic Guilty Gear depth buried in its systems \u2013 I don\u2019t know if I\u2019ll ever consistently implement the dashing Roman Cancels, as an example. Overall, however, the emphasis is on player vs. player rather than player vs. game.\n\n\n\nLess now does it feel like Guilty Gear is quizzing you and throwing each of your failures back in your face, like \u201cOh, you didn\u2019t know that this character can chain from their 2P into an overhead that looks like a low? Nice idiot, moron! Enjoy your time in Corner Jail.\u201d There are

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