Guilty Gear Strive was one of the most anticipated fighting game releases in recent memory. The series has plenty of lifelong fans that were beyond excited for the next installment but Arc System Works' dedication to rollback netcode and breathtaking visuals brought in plenty of new players. Guilty Gear has traditionally always been a difficult fighting game with complex inputs and hard-to-learn mechanics.
With Strive, the developers were hoping to simplify the barrier to entry while still maintaining the difficult-to-master combat and flow of the previous games. While the game may feel more approachable now, new players to the franchise are surely struggling with the woes of picking up any new fighting game – choosing a character to start with.
Fighting games are made by their colorful casts and Guilty Gear Strive's 15 character roster offers plenty of personalities to choose from. While every character is hard to truly master, there are a few that are mechanically good pickups for newcomers to the series.
Updated September 6th, 2021 by Russ Boswell: Guilty Gear Strive has seen two DLC characters enter the arena with Goldlewis Dickinson and Jack-O' Valentine, bringing the total fighters up to 17. The title continues to see updates and many players are starting to flock to the fighter to give a shot at its unique brand of gameplay. Because of this, the following list has been updated to add two additional fighters that offer solid gameplay mechanics that are suitable for beginners to both the game and series. Both Axl Low and Potemkin offer up some unique beginner-friendly nuances that can be learned "easily" after spending some time with the characters.
At first glance, Ramlethal Valentine looks like a boss in an old JRPG. She is flanked on either side by massive floating swords and even she floats slightly off the ground. As one might expect from her outside appearance, Ramlethal's bread and butter are her two swords.
Ramlethal is a great first pick thanks to her range values and screen control. Her normal attacks offer meaty swings with good range and damage. She controls neutral in most fights and her Dauro punch is a good combo starter from range.
Perhaps the biggest draw to choosing Ramlethal is her play in the corners. Utilizing her two swords, Ramlethal can become the uncontested powerhouse of any stage's corners. Using quarter-circle forward slash and heavy slash will make Ramlethal send her swords forward as frighteningly fast projectiles. In the corners, the swords actually stick into the wall and explode, causing the opponent to take two different hits. Enemies will be forced to turtle up in the corner or take the hits from the blades.
Either way, it'll be bad news for them as Ramlethal can pursue her enemies into the corners and deliver punishing combos that often lead to wall breaks and massive damage. Ramlethal lives to fight in the corners, and if huge burst damage and wall breaks sound appealing, she is definitely the right choice.
Players looking for a little bit of British flair and some seriously dangerous range values will definitely benefit from picking up Axl Low. The Guilty Gear bad boy returns in Strive with some impressive moves that are capable of zoning out rivals and rattling off some wild combos.
Axl is a supreme zoner, giving knowledgeable players the ability to easily manipulate the fight by keeping hard-hitters out of range and chipping away at technical fighters with his impressive speed and flowing movement. It's difficult at times to guess his highs and lows thanks to the free-wheeling nature of his chain sickles. Beginners can easily keep other players guessing, while simultaneously providing ample pressure.
What makes Axl such a nightmare for opposing fighters is his ridiculous amount of range. Pair this with his ability to pressure opponents and it's easy to see why he can quickly control a fight. His Sickle Flash into Soaring Chain Strike covers the entire length of the screen and those wanting to extend a combo can move Sickle Flash into Spinning Chain Strike, which will pull opponents towards Axl when held, allowing him to fire off a series of strikes.
Those that can effectively gauge Axl's moves still run the risk of being thrown off their feet by his punishing command grab. His Winter Mantis charge move covers the entire length of the screen and is unblockable, with players having to hop over it to avoid being grabbed. All of this is capped off by his One Vision, which comes with a 5-second install that completely "stops time" for the opponent, allowing Axl to defend against an oncoming barrage or to get damage in on the offensive.
Players new to the franchise might not know this, but Leo is considered to be the gorilla of the roster. This nickname carries a few meanings, but chief among them are Leo's ease of play and outgoing damage values. Many fans dislike Leo because of his ability to turn out huge chunks of damage with relatively easy attacks and button mashing.
While it's true that Leo is an absolute force of offensive nature, mastering his playstyle is a little tricker than many fans give it credit for. Leo is a great all-around pick thanks to his decent zoning ability and his pure aggressive ability to be a rushdown character. During a fight with Leo, it can almost always feel like it's his turn. This is in part due to his great frame data and continual attacks.
Leo is a "charge" character, meaning several of his attacks are products of holding directional inputs and following with either opposing directional inputs or button presses. These attacks are much easier to learn than quarter-circles, half-circles, or any pretzel inputs. Leo still has plenty of those special attacks to learn, but he can make a lot happen off his charge moves.
One of Leo's best moves is his down charge attack, which allows him to spring up from being crouched into a sword flurry that grants I-frames. The attack is fantastic for surprising opponents and can even be used as a get out of jail (corner) free card. Perhaps Leo's best move is his quarter-circle forward heavy slash which crosses up the opponent at close range. The attack actually has Leo go behind the opponent and slash them, crossing them up and being difficult to track and block.
To make the move even better, it can be mixed up at range to deal damage but not cross-up. Finally, the move is still fantastic on block! Even if the opponent blocks the attack, Leo ends on plus frames, allowing him to recover first and press the attack even further. Players looking for pure offensive pressure and great screen control should look no further than Leo Whitefang.
Those that love big characters with even bigger arms will instantly fall in love with Potemkin, the metal-clad powerhouse Grappler. The hulking militaristic guard hits like a freight train, with surprising speed at times and an overwhelming force thanks to his Super Armor-infused command dash.
Potemkin lives to punish his opponents, breaking them easily when they make mistakes. Beginners that learn his inputs will find themselves capable of decimating an opponent through a series of gap-closing strikes, strong hits, and bone-crushing grabs. His Potemkin Buster command grab is fast, unblockable, and downright devastating to most characters. Those that find themselves on the receiving end of a Heavenly Potemkin Buster are greeted with a spectacular display of rocket-infused strength that ends in three-quarters of their health bar missing.
Players will find it hard to keep away from Potemkin thanks to his gap-closing Mega Fist attack, which does a healthy chunk of damage if it connects. Zoners that attempt to flee to the corners are susceptible to his screen-length Hammer Fall charge attack, made even more unavoidable thanks to a Super Armor infusion.
Potemkin is even more dangerous due to his ability to push players into the corners and keep them there. His Giganter Kai shield will protect him as he closes long gaps, giving him the ability to pressure characters of all types.
Giovanna is a brand new character to the Guilty Gear universe. She's seemingly built for new players with her forgiving combos and easy-to-learn attack patterns. Players who aren't great with combos can lean on Giovanna's command combos which are much easier to mash out as they simply require repeated button presses of the listed command.
While this can make combos easier, it also makes the player behind Giovanna predictable and easy to read. Players can definitely use her command combos to learn but they shouldn't be used as a crutch, as this can lead to bad habits. It can also make learning other characters seem like a chore, as not every character has command combos.
Giovanna also has a great mixup game and some of her best attacks can be canceled or mixed up which keeps the opponent guessing at all times. Her quarter-circle forward kick attack has great range values and is very slightly plus on block, so new players can throw it around to keep up the pressure. Giovanna also has cross-up attacks which are always good for tripping opponents up as they swap the side of the screen the players are on.
Perhaps Giovanna's most forgiving feature is her passive buffs that are built with her meter or gauge. In Guilty Gear, every character has a meter that builds over a fight. The gauge can be used for special attacks and can often be the difference between winning and losing a fight. Giovanna is great for new players because she gets buffed from having half a meter and a full meter when it isn't being used.
Using a gauge is one of the trickiest parts of the game, and many new players will forget to use it entirely. Luckily, Giovanna gives them a passive buff of increased damage and reduced incoming damage, with it capping at 10% damage and 10% reduced damage at a full meter. All of these assets make Giovanna one of the friendliest characters to pick up for a new player.
It seems that every fighting game has that one character that lives in every player's nightmares. Maybe it's because of their annoying voice lines, their jailing attacks, or maybe it's just because they're simply not fun to play against. A good May player can be all of these things and more thanks to her unique kit and attacks.
While many characters in Guilty Gear Strive will rely on some sort of weapon for most of their attacks, May instead relies on aquatic life and an oversized boat anchor. May is an absolute nightmare on any part of the screen and her frame data makes her feel oppressive in combat. Perhaps her most notable (and spammed) attack has May ride across the screen on the back of a dolphin. The attack comes out fast and May ends in plus frames when the attack is blocked.
May is a very spam-heavy character that could be perfect for a new player looking to rack up wins. When she isn't flying across the screen on a dolphin, May can summon a seal to smash a ball across the screen. That's right, May's aquatic assistance doesn't end with dolphins. Her projectile comes out rather slow thanks to it being more of a summon than a traditional fireball. Don't think of this as a negative though. While the seal's animation plays out, May can actually start to move. This gives her the ability to push forward during her projectile's animation, making the already hard to deal with sailor even more annoying.
May can completely dominate a match, especially when the opposing player is unfamiliar with her matchup. Her fast attacks and great specials can make her a solid first choice for a new player. On top of all of this, her grating voice and mocking lines will surely torment the opponent even if her oppressive offense doesn't.
Sol is the main character and the face of Guilty Gear. These characters often fall into tropes of being good all-around starting characters. Sol breaks free of this image by not just being a decent starting character but by being arguably the best rushdown character in the roster at launch.
Sol is all about up-close combo-heavy attacks. He wants to be right in his enemy's face at all times, and his move set lends itself to hyper-aggressive playstyles. What Sol lacks in projectiles and zoning he makes up for with his raw damage and cross-screen rushdown attacks.
Sol has plenty of attacks that get him up close and personal. Perhaps his best out of these is his quarter-circle back slash attack called Night Raid Vortex. The attack sends Sol forward slightly and ends with a small jab that deals damage. The real benefit of this attack is that it can be held down and charged. At full charge, Sol will zip across the screen and jab the opponent, often leading into a full combo if not blocked. The attack changes Sol hitbox enough to dodge certain projectiles while he's in the midst of the Night Raid Vortex.
No opponent is safe from Sol's rushing attacks, and constantly jumping won't help as the fighter has good overhead options and decent air attacks. If an opponent thinks turtling will save them, they'll surely meet Sol's punishing command grab which crosses up and deals huge damage. Simply put, Sol is a great choice for players who want to learn the game's mechanics while being aggressive and always pushing the offense.
Ky acts as the undisputed jack of all trades in Guilty Gear Strive. He has basic combos, plenty of good projectiles, good range, and great stage control. While characters like Giovanna might be the most forgiving, Ky is the ultimate pick for learning the mechanics, flow, and feel of Guilty Gear Strive. Ky offers a little bit of everything in his kit, making him a great pick for new players trying to learn how everything in the game feels.
Ky has command combos for easy mashing attacks, projectiles that act like traditional fireballs, and plenty of aggressive combos with his other special attacks. His basic attacks are fast and have good range and he has good all-around offense. One of Ky's unique assets is that he can essentially "debuff" his opponents, leaving them with electric sparks around their player model. For the duration of the debuff, they will take more damage from Ky's electric attacks and they will suffer minor damage over time.
Ky's main draw is his Dragon Install attack, which can only be activated when he is in low health. Players will notice red sparks around Ky when the move can be performed and if the player has the meter for it, Dragon Install can be inputted. Ky basically transforms into a supercharged version of himself. His attacks are faster and do more damage during this state and it doesn't go away until the end of the round. Dragon Install can bring Ky back from the brink and force a loss on an opponent.
These features make Ky the best choice for new players and also just a solid pick for anyone looking to have fun with a good character.