Although released halfway through the year, Guilty Gear: Strive has already seen plenty of action in its first few months of competition in 2021. With the prospect of what could be a very fruitful 2022, let's take a look back at how things shaped up for the early months of this title.
A Rock-Solid Release
On the 11th of June, GGST hit the shelves, or more aptly, the digital storefronts on Steam and Playstation to a resounding success, though its success was not entirely a surprise. An earlier Beta of the multiplayer had already left a mark on many top players and content creators, a positive one at that, and many were hyped to see how the latest instalment of a beloved franchise would go. Especially after ArcSystem's previous successful take on the 2D Anime fighter genre, Dragon Ball Fighter Z.
Within the first few weeks of release, it had already gathered a large following in social media across creators from across the FGC. Incredibly, a year later, it is still one of the top stream games of the genre with nearly five times more viewers than DBFZ.
It all began in what should be a familiar setting. EVO, the pinnacle of Fighting games, the event of the year for the past decade. Of course, things have changed. Around the world, a pandemic gripped the attention of the global and forced much of what makes the FGC shine to go into hiding. Locals cancelled and majors delayed or postponed. EVO was no different as 2020 saw its cancellation. Not even a year later, the original organizers would be bought out by SONY to secure the long term stability of the event.
Come 2021, EVO online was the name of the competition. Unfortunately, it was not a great one. Shotty connections and problems with the early builds of Guilty Gear Strive meant many of the regional competitions had lengthy delays. LATAM is perhaps the worst among them. Connection issues littered the open qualifiers and even delayed the final sets of the event. GGST was not the only game with these issues, but clearly the Japanese made titles had the worse time at adapting to the online-only environment of the past two years.
Nevertheless, through pain and glory, the champions were crowned:
By the time Summer Jam 2021 rolled in to provide the stage of the first GGST offline event in the West, a clear ranking of characters had developed among players. Leo at the top, no doubt powered by Sonifix's phenomenal play in the weeks prior, and May close behind thanks to her powerful zoning and punish ability.
This made the eventual top four, not a surprise at all with Rize Gaming's and former MK11 pro player K7 Showoff taking the bulk of the prize pool in first place with Leo, followed by SoSickNASHFAN with May, then back to Leo with Third place finisher Razzo, whose previous had failed to secure a top 8 finish in GGST outside of a small appearance in ICFC North America. Finally, in the fourth, we saw the first player that moved away from the Leo/May dichotomy, Lord Knight with Millia. This would, unfortunately, be the last time LK would find himself in the top 4 in 2021.
Come October and up in the warm north of Vancouver. We got to see the first display of top GGST in Offline settings. Pinnacle 2021 was of significance as the first significant event for GGST and one after the release of GoldLewis, the first of GGST DLC characters. In general, after some quick patches, the meta had evolved away from the previous May/Leo and expanded outwards as players were starting to specialize in their different characters.
With the calibre of participants in the bracket, it was not surprising to see some incredibly tight matches come down to the wire in both the top and bottom brackets. A 3-2 Grand finals between Supernoon and KizzieKay shows how close things were. Thus, the ending order was Supernoon taking home the grand prize and victory over KizzieKay. Do not let his second-place finish lead you to believe that somehow they did not work for it. A 3-2 series against JWong and Sonicfox should be more than enough proof of KazzieKay's prowess in a franchise he has competed in for nearly two years.
Just a few months after the game release, and still amidst a global pandemic, Red Bull had organized an event in the middle of Las Vegas to bring in the best FGC talent the world over, Guilty Gear: Strive included. The men of the day for RB Kumite Las Vegas was without a doubt Diaphone, the American player that had failed to reach the top 8 in EVO online earlier in the year, ground his way through the LAst chance qualifiers and eventually overcame the challenge all his opponents in Group B to take a down to the wire victory over ApologyMan. Though he would fall to Japanese player GOBOU, his 5-2 series against him was certainly one to remember.
Closing out the year was the ever bombastic Community Effort Orlando, CEO, in the titular city down in Florida. The Fighting game community wished it could forget just for a bit about the ever-present virus and enjoy quality matches in various titles, including GGST. Unfortunately, the new additions to the GGST roster, Jack-O and Happy Chaos, did not appear in the top 8 at the event. Nevertheless, those two would come alongside a series of changes to inputs and air normals that shook up GGST's gameplay enough to get players back into its online environment for the holiday season.
K7 Showoff took to the podium's top step with a great grand finals reset against sole top 8 Canadian Remi Celeste. It was a 3-0 and 3-1. Just a few matches prior, K7 had lost to Remi in a close 3-2 series that saw him down in lowers and winning in another clutch set versus KizzieKay. But at the back, in fourth place, as if foreshadowing what could be in 2022, Punk, the Street Fighter V legend, was defeated in an unceremoniously 3-0 series. Time will tell if we are to see him roam the lobbies of locals participating in GGST, but it would be a show to watch if he does.
The competition never stops at the locals worldwide except, quite appropriately, for a once in a century pandemic. After two years of constant fighting to keep FGC offline events alive, it seems more challenging than ever to justify their expense and safety. Though invitationals seem like one of the ways, the dangers can be lowered while maintaining a high level of competitiveness.
At the same time, the Guilty Gear: strive Latin American community has been hit hard by many issues in PC. These network problems have been hurting the competitive scene in the region for the past few months. Although news of potential fixes come and go, it is unclear when they will be able to engage with the scene thoroughly and start turning out high-end players like those we saw during EVO Online in 2021.
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