Much can be said about how Guilty Gear Strive shifted the genre-wide direction of fighting game netcode design with its masterful implementation of rollback. However, that’s far from the only thing that makes Guilty Gear Strive impeccable. It also has some of the most delicious visuals in all of gaming right now thanks to the absolutely amazing work Arc System Works has poured into all of its art and animation.

ArcSys was always top notch when it came to the design of their fighters, but in Guilty Gear Strive, they’ve taken it a step further. All of the characters have fantastic redesigns to them, looking like they’re ready to grab the mic at a rock show. The stages also look amazing in the game as well with transitions adding more to the typical Guilty Gear background than ever before. You’ll find yourself blasting from a vast mountainside cliff to a shadowed cavern as you fight it out with the opponent in one stage or battle between a castle’s steps and garden in another.

Guilty Gear Strive’s lush use of color is already present in these previous conversations, making everything pop all the more, but it’s the reactive nature of shading and shadows in Guilty Gear Strive and their effects on the characters that make it truly jaw-dropping. That is to say, the stage background have actual effect on the lighting and shadows of the characters. We’ve seen plenty of 2.5D fighting games already where there’s light and dark staging, but it never reflected on the characters like this. It means that between the same characters standing in that castle or a snowy forest stage, you have entirely different shading and color adjustments on the characters showing on the characters as they move.

Arc System Works’ fighting games have always been strikingly brilliant, but Guilty Gear Strive goes beyond what anyone would likely expect out of a fighting game. The use of color, adaptation of light and shadow, and sheer cool designs of both characters and the backgrounds they fight in make Guilty Gear Strive a cornucopia of visual delight. That’s why we’re giving it the Shacknews Best Art Style of 2021.

Watch the Shacknews Awards 2021 YouTube playlist or read our Year of the Games: 2021 article for all of the awards in one place. We wil be announcing our Shacknews GOTY 2021 on December 31.