My relationship with Guilty Gear has always gone the same way for the past almost 20 years. A game gets announced and looks incredible. I consume every bit of media I can about it up to launch. I buy the next entry on day one, play it for 12 hours, and never touch it again.
This has been true for every game except Guilty Gear XX, which I stumbled on completely accidentally. I spent at least a hundred hours and most of my high school years singing the gospel of this obscure PS2 anime fighter. Entries in the series after that have been a bit of a chore for me to get into. This has less to do with the quality of the games, which has admittedly been shaky (looking at you Isuka), but more to do with how difficult they are. As the pool of people playing – or at least my ability to find these communities – expanded, my very poor skills and understanding of this series’ ever-growing list of subsystems was exposed. And between the late 2000s and mid 2010’s, I worked up to three jobs and once and eventually went to school full time. I just didn’t have time to get good.
Guilty Gear Xrd dropped in 2016, but I didn’t get into it until the Revelator update, which was definitely too late. So when Strive was announced at EVO 2019, I resolved myself then and there to not miss the boat this time. Touting the best 2D-3D graphics in the industry, and promising a stripped down, more comprehensive fighting system, Strive looked like the perfect on-boarding tool for lapsed fans and new fans alike, in the same way Street Fighter V attempted to be. But Street Fighter V doesn’t have an enormous unit of a samurai vampire.
Teased at the end of the original announcement trailer, the internet speculated a very long time about who and what Nagoriyuki was, and when he was officially revealed in July 2020, it seemed like the entire planet all found their new main, me included. 7 months later, and even through old favorites like the shadow puppeteer Zato-1 and fiery posterboy Sol Badguy look sterling, I can’t find myself choosing anyone else to play in this limited time beta than the blood-soaked zaddy.
— なかお/NAKAO (@WHITE_ABSOL) February 17, 2021
To get it out of the way now: this isn’t entirely an identity thing. Black characters in games, especially games from the East, are often designed from a lens of people who don’t really encounter black people in normal society, nor consume black media on a regular basis. It’s taken many years for us to be portrayed as little more than lowbrow caricatures in anime and games and even still that tends to come with caveats. No different with Nagoriyuki. He’s dark-skinned Nigerian with prominent bomba dreads who is presented with poise and with reverence. He’s in the same game as Dr. Faust, who puts afros on his opponents as a gag, continuing a long Eastern tradition of reducing a natural ethic hair style of various groups of people into a simple joke.
I’ve gravitated to black characters in games in the past, in the same way that I’ve maybe rooted for black characters in tv shows or black pro wrestlers a little louder than the others. I’d be lying if I said the compulsion to want Nago to be my favorite simply because he’s black didn’t exist at least a little bit. But as with Street Fighter’s Dudley or Tekken’s Leroy Smith, that’s a skin-deep impulse.
I like my fighting game characters to be pretty simple on paper. A good array of basic attacks is a must, the more reach the better. Their special attacks, the ones you usually have to hold a direction for or rotate a movement stick to do, are simple to execute and do reliably basic things. I don’t like execution to be a barrier to getting into a character. To me, the challenge should be “how do I put these very basic concepts onto my opponents head until they lose?” This describes many of my mains – Sagat in SF, Bane in Injustice, Sub-Zero in Mortal Kombat, Incineroar in Smash. Nagoriyuki is the poster child of concept in Guilty Gear Strive, and I welcome him to the family with open arms.
I’m not alone in really enjoying Nagoriyuki during the Beta this past weekend. Besides having a great set of basic tools, he has some other unique features that can make him overwhelming in the right hands. Standard fare in fighting games is a feature where normal attacks can have their animations shortened (read: canceled) by entering a special move right at the end of it, giving players the ability to guarantee that special moves will hit so long as the basic moves do first. Occasionally, special moves can cancel into other special moves, but usually at a limited basis. In Nagoriyuki’s case, all of his special moves can cancel into all of his other special moves, allowing for situations like this.
— HiFight(ハイファイト) (@HiFightTH) February 21, 2021
Yeah, that’s for me, I think. April 6th can’t come fast enough.