Guilty Gear Strive’s creators had to “destroy” past games to keep series alive

Virginia Glaze

We spoke with the development team behind Guilty Gear Strive for an eye-opening conversation about the challenges of making a fighting game that’s bucking major trends for Arc System Works as it seeks to connect with its global fan base.

Guilty Gear Strive is the latest installment in the beloved fighting game franchise that first kicked off in 1998. Over the years, it’s seen an eye-popping amount of evolution, most notably when the series made the permanent jump from 2D to 3D with the release of Guilty Gear Xrd in 2014.

Xrd became a staple in the fighting game community with its explosive graphics and ripping soundtrack. Strive elevated these elements to new heights, introducing exciting new characters like Nagoriyuki and bringing back old favorites such as Season 3 DLC fighter A.B.A, a character Guilty Gear creator Daisuke Ishiwatari told us he’d been planning to bring back to the franchise for several years.

Even years after its initial 2021 release, the game is still a massive hit among fighting game players — but little do they know that the title was a much-needed refresher for the Guilty Gear franchise.


Along with Ishiwatari, I also got to speak with Strive Director Akira Katano, Strive Producer Ken Miyauchi, and ArcSys CEO Minoru Kidooka about the complex and challenging process of making a Guilty Gear game that ‘breaks’ every rule the series set for itself in the past without alienating its diehard fans.

Guilty Gear devs wanted Strive to “destroy” Xrd

The process of making Guilty Gear Strive the breakout success it is today wasn’t an easy one. In our eye-opening conversation, series creator Ishiwatari explained the biggest difference between Strive and Xrd, claiming that their goal was to ‘break’ Xrd with Strive’s improvements.

“The decisive difference between Strive and Xrd is that Strive was made to destroy Xrd,” he told us. “In that sense, we were trying to make Xrd as an example of failure. Of course, it wasn’t a failure, but we had to change the direction completely. We had to be prepared for that.”

Game Director Akira Katano also chimed in, explaining that the team is focusing on their broader player base outside of Japan with Strive.

“What we originally created came from a very limited world view, because we were focused more on our Japanese player base and values in terms of what we wanted to put into it,” he explained. “But with Strive, this is when our American division was born. And with Strive, we really wanted to expand our perspective and our field of view to the entire world. That’s another big difference in the mindset and the direction that we took when it came to Strive’s development.”

“Since we decided to put more focus on the global market, we also have to start thinking about how we message to the global players,” producer Ken Miyauchi added. “We are very used to communicating to Japanese players. Even in the previous Guilty Gear Xrd, we ran a lot of location tests in Japan only, and had the first reveal in Japan. We took a step back from that kind of approach and tried to implement a new approach to messaging to the players around the world.”

ArcSys is taking on the global market with Guilty Gear Strive

This focus on taking Guilty Gear to a global market was a sentiment echoed by Arc System Works CEO Minoru Kidooka, who told me in another interview that the company strives (no pun intended) to cater to its international fan base.

The explosion of Western popularity for the Xrd games, as well as Dragon Ball FighterZ, inspired them to look outside of Japan when it came to the marketing and creation of new titles.

“Well, last year was Guilty Gear’s 25th anniversary,” he began. “At that time, there were people from all over the United States who were playing the game. We’re a small company based in Japan. Previously, all of our developments, efforts, events and things like that were really focused on appealing to the Japanese fan base. That was sort of the focus that we wanted to approach when it came to development and doing events and things like that.

“We always felt like we needed to broaden our perspective to the global market. In our previous installment of Xrd, we switched to 3D graphics. And then we had the opportunity to do Dragon Ball FighterZ. We wanted to make a fighting game with the name Arc System Works, and we started making fighting games little by little in 2013.”

“From there, it put ArcSystem Works on the global map, as far as a fighting game development company. And that was probably around 2017, when we started to become more established and more recognized globally. And then, Guilty Gear Strive really enabled us to propel and actually branch out into the world.”

“There was a lot of risk involved in making that giant leap with Guilty Gear Strive. We really thought about, ‘What are our long-time fans going to think when we do this, when we go into this new direction?’ Yes, there were a lot of risks, but I think it paid off, and we have an even bigger audience now that we took that leap.”

Bridget from Guilty Gear Strive.

Taking that leap wasn’t the only challenge facing ArcSys, by far. The company is known for their jaw-dropping art style, as evidenced in Strive, something that Kidooka made sure to tell us was a major labor of love — emphasis on “labor.”

“Those graphics are not easy,” he laughed. “It’s really, really hard. It’s very hard work to make that happen. It is true that it took a long time for us to make it, and we made our fans wait a long time. So in that regard, we feel a little bit bad about it. But we are very grateful for the response and the feedback that we get in terms of the graphics and visual style.

“It’s a great project. Again, we’re a small company, and it takes a long time and very hard work to make this happen. But we really want to keep challenging ourselves and keep evolving as a company, and bring surprises — not just the expected thing.”