Striving to understand Guilty Gear's lore for Guilty Gear Strive

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Buckle up

If you’re looking for something to chew on until Guilty Gear Strive releases June 11th, look no further than its story. Guilty Gear’s narrative is far from “easily digestible,” so let’s all take a lore laxative and gloss over some of the story’s broader strokes. Below is an overview of every character’s story arc leading up to the events of Strive. It’s the kind of series that uses narrative to justify changes to characters’ in-game moves between iterations: a beautiful, if not convoluted, piece of art.

So, what even is a Gear? And why is it guilty? Gears are augmented beings. Originally intended to speed up our biological advancement—and cure disease along the way—the military naturally gravitated toward Gears to use as weapons of war.

Keep in mind, this is a story told across decades of arcade and console games, manga, Japanese drama CDs, literal pachinko machines—it’s a wild ride. But before we get into each character, we must first set the stage.

In 1999, an unknown entity named the Universal Will attempted to materialize itself through the world’s technology. All technology became dubbed as “Black Tech” and banned; however, humanity came to replace tech with magic taught to them by five suddenly appearing apostles. As magic integrated itself into society over the years, three scientists utilized it to work together on the Gear Project: Frederick Bulsara, Aria Hale, and That Man (later revealed as Asuka R. Kreutz). Two lovers and their enigmatic friend.

Aria got sick, so Frederick and That Man tried (and failed) to cure her. She rejected cryosleep because she wouldn’t be able to see Frederick again, but That Man refused to accept Aria’s loss. Without consent, he turned Frederick into a Gear—the Prototype Gear—to grant him immortality. He then preserved what remained of Aria by turning her into a Gear, as well. Frederick awoke with That Man and Aria nowhere to be found. Once he realized what happened to him, he escaped the lab. He developed a headband to suppress the Gear cells in his body, hiding his true identity, and vowed vengeance on That Man.

SOL BADGUY

Once Frederick Bulsara is reported dead, he adopts the name Sol Badguy. Thanks to the Gear cells in his body, Sol no longer ages. He uses his immortality to become a bounty hunter, aiming to kill all Gears and get revenge on That Man, the Gear Maker himself.

Alongside the US government, That Man turns what’s left of Aria into Justice—a Gear to command all other Gears. Sol hears the news and develops the Outage, a superweapon too powerful for any one person to wield. Sol splits it into eight parts called the Sacred Treasures and scatters them around the world. Soon after Justice is formed, the Universal Will invades her body. She hovers over Japan and declares war on humanity, taking control of every Gear in the world. What follows is a 100-year war known as The Crusades, which eventually pushes Sol to join the Sacred Order of Holy Knights. This is where his rivalry with Ky Kiske begins.

Sol was far too brash and uncooperative to function in such a power structure for long—he’s used to the lone-wolf life of a bounty hunter, not taking orders from a superior. Sol abandons the Holy Order and steals the Sacred Treasure they kept, the Fireseal weapon, in order to defeat Justice and bring an end to the war. He weakens Justice enough for Ky and the Holy Order to seal her away in a dimensional prison.

The original Guilty Gear follows the story of Justice getting freed from her prison. Testament, a human-gear hybrid, organizes a tournament so he could use the bloodshed to release Justice. After her defeat, she reveals she’s born from Aria Hale’s remains, and Sol swears revenge on That Man for what he’s done to him and Aria.

Sol winds up chasing a bounty on Dizzy, a Gear with Justice-like abilities. Sol determines Dizzy isn’t a threat and leaves her to Ky. Dizzy and Ky eventually fall in love and have a son, Sin Kiske. To help Ky out of a bind, Sol agrees to take Sin under his wing at a young age. The two travel around hunting bounties for years until the capital of Illyria gets attacked by someone named Valentine.

Sol and Sin make their way back to the capital to find the city fallen and Ky stuck in a magical seal. Sol defeats Valentine and restores peace but for a moment. Ramlethal Valentine shows up not long after, declaring war on the world, and Sol is back to work. He fights Ramlethal and she gets captured, but her presence was a diversion. The Conclave, a shady Senate of four sages, destroys the city of Babylon while everyone’s distracted by Ramlethal. Once Ramlethal reveals the Conclave’s plan to revive Justice in the Illyrian capital, Sol prevents her resurrection with the help of That Man (!), but the Conclave escapes.

The Universal Will resurfaces, however, making herself known as Ariels—essentially Guilty Gear’s version of the Pope—and works to revive Justice herself. Sol fights Ariels with support from most of the playable Strive cast, and emerges with what appears to be a revived Aria.

Still, Sol has a score to settle with That Man, and Strive begins with That Man turning himself in to the authorities.

KY KISKE

Ky Kiske is the First King of Illyria and a good-boy foil to Sol’s bad-guy caricature. Ky has “Hope” etched into his belt, and there’s no better word for what he stands for. Having lost his mother at a young age, the child sought to join the Holy Order during the Crusades and discovers an aptitude for combat. An absolute prodigy with the blade, Ky goes on to become the Order’s leader by the age of 16, and is given the Thunderseal sword, one of the components for Sol’s Outrage weapon, that amplifies his skill with lightning magic.

Ky leads the front that ends the war and joins the UN’s International Police Force (IPF) to help monitor world peace. Eventually promoted to Chief, he develops from a commander known for relentlessly murdering Gears into a King with a soft spot for them. He eventually encounters Dizzy, a Gear with Justice-like abilities—the final boss of Guilty Gear X—but decides she isn’t a threat. Ky and Dizzy fall in love; however, their relationship must be hidden to protect Ky’s reputation. After they have a son, Sin Kiske, Ky gets blackmailed by the Conclave, a shady four-person Senate secretly plotting to revive Justice. They know about Dizzy and Sin, and they want Ky to be king. Sin is entrusted to Sol to help keep Ky’s relationship with Gears hidden from the people, and Ky becomes the First King of Illyria.

Years go by before Sol and Sin return to the Illyrian capital only to find the city falling to an attack by Valentine, a genetic copy of Aria Hale created by the Universal Will. Sol and Sin find Ky magically frozen inside the castle. Once freed, Ky plans the assault that takes down Valentine, thanks to Sol’s execution.

Before Ramlethal Valentine, sister to the original Valentine, declares war on the world, Ky gets a visit. A third sister, Elphelt Valentine, appears before him to warn about the coming disaster. She’s locked up for safety concerns, but her wise words come true when Ramlethal appears above Japan.

After Ramlethal is captured, she comes clean about the Conclave’s plans to revive Justice from inside the Illyrian city. Ky orders an immediate evacuation from the capital and goes on to defend the control room during the fight with the Conclave. He ends up getting ambushed and shot by Axus, a Conclave member; however, Ky’s eye turns red, preventing his death and showing an unknown side of Ky’s abilities before killing Axus.

Ky then investigates the Opera House, an old Conclave hideout. There he meets Potemkin and Chipp, and it’s revealed that the Universal Will could be a human named Ariels. Ky goes on to confront Ariels alongside Sol, Sin and company, and prevents her from reviving Justice. Ky publicly announces his intentions for peace between humans and Gears, and invites Ramlethal and Elphelt to come stay at the castle with Dizzy, Sin, and himself.

Ky and Sol maintain their rivalry, and in the middle of a duel, they receive information that That Man has turned himself in. This is where Strive starts for Ky.

MAY

May is Japanese, a big deal in the Guilty Gear universe. Japanese people are the most adept with Ki magic, the most mysterious magical element, and the primary reason why Justice targets Japan when she the Crusades began. May, orphaned by the attack, doesn’t remember much from her childhood before Johnny, captain of the Jellyfish Pirates, saves her. Named after the month in which she was discovered, May finds family in the Jellyfish crew. When Johnny gets caught stealing from the rich and thrown into jail, May tries to break him out. In the first Guilty Gear game, May catches wind about a tournament where the victor gets any one wish granted, so she attends in order to use the wish to bring Johnny back.

Johnny ends up breaking himself out of jail, however, and May hunts down Dizzy to collect the bounty on her head to afford a present for Johnny. When May and Dizzy meet, they actually get along and Dizzy ends up joining the Jellyfish Pirates. May eventually runs into Anji Mito on her travels, who sniffs out her Japanese heritage, but May still struggles to get any clear insight into her past.

Dizzy ends up falling off the ship, so May goes off to find her. Once Dizzy’s found and brought back, May presses Johnny for answers about her past but gets nothing out of him. Johnny ends up disappearing once again, so May leaves Dizzy with Ky so she can go search. May starts to come down with a sickness, however, and starts to get constant migraines. A reappearing Johnny disappears once more to seek Faust’s help.

After Ramlethal declares war on humanity, May takes it upon herself to fight her. When the two meet they discuss how humanity views Ramlethal as a monster for simply existing, and May runs away in an emotional response. Chipp shows up out of nowhere, as a ninja does, and saves her from a collapsing bridge, bringing her back to her crew just in time for Faust to show up with the cure for her headaches.

May eventually ventures to the Japanese colony with Johnny and Faust to meet up with Haehyun, a renowned Japanese master of Ki magic, to investigate strange local happenings. May meets Baiken, a Japanese swordswoman with one arm and one eye, and they team up to defend Haehyun during the final showdown. Ariels, the Universal Will’s human form, commands her forces to attack the colony during the final fight as Sol, Ky, and most of the playable Strive cast take on Ariels herself.

Her Japanese heritage is surely a variable as to why she can wield such a heavy weapon as a ship’s anchor, and her command over water life hints towards an affinity for water magic. May’s foggy history is what makes her so interesting, so who knows what Strive will reveal about her.

AXL LOW

Axl’s kind of just a guy? Axl Low’s from 20th century London (East End), before magic was ever taught to humanity, and he abhors violence as it permeated his environment since childhood. He eventually cleans up his neighborhood, peacefully; however, he gets thrust through a moment of time travel and slips into a world 200 years in the future.

Axl’s entire motivation through most of Guilty Gear’s story is to find a way to return back to his original time so he can reunite with his long-lost love, Megumi. This drive leads him to participate in the first Guilty Geartournament as the victor was said to win one wish—his ticket home. When he realizes the tournament was all a ruse just to release Justice, he uncontrollably slips through time yet again. Axl meets Anji Mito in whatever this time is, and learns about That Man’s abilities to travel across the ages. He starts to investigate That Man’s whereabouts, which brings him to meet Faust. He diagnoses Axl with a time slipping disease, saying it’s caused by someone else sharing his identity. That person is I-No, a chaotic time traveler and boss of Guilty Gear XX. Her entire existence is inextricably linked to Axl’s.

Meeting I-No didn’t get Axl very far, but he goes on to find That Man and his accomplice, Raven, and discovers Raven’s to blame for his random time traveling. Axl then goes on a pretty wild series of time slippages, running into the Crusades, a man named Crow who tries to kidnap him, and multiple battles. He eventually encounters a world where he’s contacted by an omnipresent voice who refers to himself as The Original—the person who first discovered the extra-dimensional Backyard. They request Axl to deliver a message to That Man, and Axl slips through time once again to find himself in the dream realm of Bedman. The dream world and the Backyard are somehow related, making Bedman’s power incomprehensible here.

Bedman turns out to be working for Ariels, and plans to cause a mass extinction by blurring the lines between the Backyard and reality. He nearly kills Axl, but I-No appears and saves him, chucking him back through time. After a bit of cat and mouse chasing I-No, she helps him realize the true weight of his situation. If Axl were to return to his original timeline, it would essentially destroy the current one. While I-No helps Axl accept the power he has, he continues to play a passive role because he’s scared of the implications of his own abilities. Paralyzed with indecision, he seeks out Bedman, peacefully, to talk about how he came to accept the consequences of his incredible power.

Eventually Axl comes through, sacrificing his old life for the preservation of the present. He stops time—”One Vision,” a new ability added to his move set in Strive—giving Sol enough time to prevent Justice’s revival and defeat Ariels.

CHIPP ZANUFF

Chipp came up as an orphan in the streets of America. He was young when he got addicted to drugs, leading to an involvement with the mafia. He bails after the mafia attempts to murder him, and while on the run meets Tsuyoshi, a ninja master and Ki user who becomes Chipp’s sensei. Tsuyoshi helps Chipp get off drugs and trains him for years, but never tells Chipp about his history with the International Police Force (IPF). The Assassin’s Guild eventually finds and murders Tsuyoshi for having infiltrated their ranks as an IPF officer, leaving Chipp masterless. Chipp enters the tournament in the first Guilty Gear game with plans to use the wish he’d win to avenge his fallen master.

As the tournament comes to an end, Chipp realizes the folly of his efforts in a rigged tournament and leaves to train himself in seclusion. He pursues the bounty on Dizzy’s head to test his abilities, but quickly shifts his attention to the Assassin’s Guild as he notices a weakness in the guild. He defeats Zato=1, but spares the guild’s leader, Venom. Chipp realizes that achieving vengeance wouldn’t help anything and invites Venom to accompany him on his journeys. And then?

Chipp develops aspirations to become President.

Zepp, an independent colony living on a gigantic flying airship, is the only place holding elections, so Chipp heads there. He meets Potemkin and agrees to be a bodyguard for the current president, Gabriel. Over time, Gabriel and the US President, Erica, form an alliance to pass a law that removes all government ties to the Assassin’s Guild. Chipp saves Erica’s life from an assassination attempt and becomes her bodyguard to protect her until the law passes.

Chipp eventually leaves Erica and stumbles upon an area in South Africa ravaged by a lack of post-war aid—a region of folk who succumbed to lawlessness since the Crusades. Chipp cleans up the place, establishes a sense of order, and thus the Eastern Chipp Kingdom was born. Chipp is elected President and recruits a staff with Answer, the “Human Database,” as his personal assistant.

When Ramlethal Valentine appears to declare war on the world, Chipp seeks to take care of her to legitimize his country in the eyes of the UN. Ky rejects Chipp’s proposal, but Chipp travels to the Japanese colony and meets May. They confront Ramlethal, but May runs away. Chipp finds her, saves her from a collapsing bridge, and brings her back to her group.

Having questions about the Conclave, a shady four-person Senate, Chipp’s curiosity leads him to the Opera House. He discovers documents that point to Ariels’ influence over the Conclave, and Answer digs into them to discover that Ariels is the Universal Will incarnate.

Chipp infiltrates Zepp and gets President Gabriel to agree to assist their forces in the battle against Ariels. From there, Chipp stays on the ground with most of Strive’s playable cast defending the Illyrian city while Sol, Ky, and Sin battle Ariels in the sky up above.

POTEMKIN

Potemkin was raised in Zepp, a floating military state born from the rubble of the Crusades. Zepp rejects magic’s prominence in life with technology was banned, so their city stays airborne on a massive ship to avoid the meddling of countries below. Potemkin’s genetic mutation is to blame for his absurdly bulky figure, granting him a unique advantage that scared friends and foe alike. Under Zepp’s rule, Potemkin’s humanity is stifled by being forced to wear an anti-bomb collar.

Zepp finds a place for Potemkin, though, and he’s ordered to participate in the first Guilty Gear game’s tournament. He’s to use the one wish awarded to the victor as a means to expand Zepp’s territory and influence. Once Potemkin realizes there is no wish, just a plot to revive Justice, he gets furious and turns on Sergeant Gabriel. Honest Gabe informs Potemkin he was secretly selected as a key soldier in a rebellion plot to take over Zepp. Eliminating the corrupted hierarchy of the Empire would lead to a more peaceful, democratic state, so Potemkin agrees to the offer. Pot’s a big boy, but he uses his strengths as a violent means to a non-violent end. He’s a lovable lug. Gabriel promptly removes his anti-bomb collar.

Potemkin is later sent to retrieve Dizzy when a bounty is placed on her head, thinking she’d fare far better up in Zepp. Dizzy ends up going along with the Jellyfish Pirates, and Potemkin returns to Zepp to protect the city’s peace. Once Ramlethal declares war on the world, however, Potemkin receives orders to scout the area in Japan where Ramlethal was last seen. Along the way, he encounters Bedman, a mysterious meddler, who keeps Potemkin from reaching Ramlethal’s location by putting him in a dream state for three days. After Ramlethal’s capture and Babylon’s destruction, now President Gabriel (previously Sergeant) captures Bedman and works with Potemkin to interrogate him. Bedman remains comatose, however, eventually teleporting away.

Gabriel orders Potemkin to investigate the Opera House. He uses this time to go on a reflective journey as he re-learns to trust in his own abilities after his recent failures. He runs into King Ky there, alone, and has a heart to heart with him. The two agree to be an eternal source of hope to help humanity stand up in the face of the unknown. They encounter Chipp who informs them about Ariels’ true identity.

During the final showdown with Ariels, Potemkin helps the effort on the ground to keep the gigantic Gears from destroying the Illyrian city while Sol, Ky, and Sin confront Ariels on the platform in the sky above.

FAUST

Faust, originally “Dr. Baldhead,” claims the tile as best surgeon in the land. Hailing from China, Dr. Baldhead goes insane after Zato=1, then leader of the Assassin’s Guild, secretly kills one of his patients. Thinking it was his own fault and unable to detect what went wrong, Dr. Baldhead goes on a murderous rampage. He’s caught and imprisoned, but Testament, a human-gear hybrid, one day appears outside of Dr. Baldhead’s cell. Testament gives him the giant scalpel he fights with in-game, and tells him he has patients waiting for him.

After his escape, the doctor participates in the tournament Testament set up to revive Justice. Realizing it’s a sham, the torment of his past is all that remained. Before he could take his own life, however, Dr. Baldhead learns that someone else was responsible for the girl dying. He re-commits himself to the ways of healing people, puts a paper bag over his head, and starts going by the name “Faust” to gain distance from the murderous psychopath he had become.

Once a bounty is placed on Dizzy’s head, Faust returns to The Grove to warn her. He had met the Gear there when caring for nearby villagers some time ago. From here, Faust’s story explores multiple timelines with multiple characters as he tries to rid them of their ailments. Slayer, an otherworldly vampire and founder of the Assassin’s Guild, appears to Faust one day as he’s working in downtown Illyria and tells him about the Conclave’s involvement in the botched surgery that drove him to madness. Faust takes off to the Opera House to look for answers and runs into Zato=1, who confirms it was his doing. They fight, but Faust is no match for Zato=1 here. Faust’s life is spared, however, as they both seek to learn more about the Conclave.

Johnny, captain of the Jellyfish Pirates, seeks out Faust to cure May of her headaches. He immediately senses May’s Japanese blood, noticing a great power within her. Concerned with the health of the Japanese colony, Faust travels to Japan to unravel the strange activity. There he meets Haeyhun who tells Faust about the residents’ sickness.

After meticulous research, Faust discovers a new “Antimatter” Gear made from Japanese people, and develops an injection to prevent the self-destruction that follows their creation. During the battle with Ariels, Faust remains on the ground injecting huge gears with his new solution, preventing their explosions. With support from most of the playable cast in Strive, Faust helps protect the city as Sol, Ky, and Sin fight Ariels on a floating platform up above.

No one knows why Faust is so damn creepy or how he got his extra-dimensional powers, but I have no doubt Strive will shed a little more light on it.

ZATO=1

Zato comes into the Assassin’s Guild from Spain. He doesn’t ascend the ranks like he wanted to, so he gives up his eyesight for the power to control his own shadow. Little did he know the process actually merges his body with Eddie, a Forbidden Beast developed by the Post-War Administration Bureau (PWAB) to combat Gears during the Crusades. Whoever’s able to host one inside their body must sacrifice something in return for the awesome power.

After Slayer, the guild’s founder, left, Zato climbs the ranks to leader and establishes a romantic relationship with fellow guild member, Millia Rage. Zato steers the guild into contracts with money as motivation, leading them to assassinate a Duke. Millia gets kidnapped by the PWAB, but it’s not long before Slayer frees her. Without knowing Millia was saved, Zato agrees to kill a two-year-old King for the PWAB in order to get her back. In the throne room, Millia shows up to protect the child and stabs Zato in the process. He escapes and meets with Slayer as the pair get attacked by the PWAB, but Millia and Venom show up to save them both.

Zato forgives Millia, but the guild goes downhill. Zato tries to kill Dr. Baldhead but accidentally kills his patient, and Millia betrays Zato and runs away. The remaining guild members can’t endure the chaos from Millia’s departure, leading to Zato’s arrest and confinement. Testament appears to Zato in his prison and informs him about the upcoming tournament he’s hosting. In the first Guilty Gear game, Zato escapes his prison to win the tournament’s reward: a single wish, all he needs for vengeance.

By the end of the tournament, however, Zato’s body becomes too weak to maintain control over his shadow. Now Eddie commands Zato. Despite Zato’s constant inner battle with Eddie for control over his own body, Zato seeks out Dizzy to collect the bounty on her head. They encounter Millia near Dizzy’s location and fight. She murders Zato and dips, but Eddie reanimates his body to keep his host alive. At this point, his in-game name is no longer Zato: it’s Eddie.

Eddie travels around looking for another host as Zato’s body will eventually give out. Despite his attempts, he loses energy and dies. The Conclave collects Zato’s remains an, over the course of six years, resurrect both Zato and Eddie, confining them in a dimensional prison.

Now functioning as a cooperative unit, Zato and Eddie escape their prison and head to the Opera House and find Slayer there. They learn their revival was a test run for resurrecting Justice, but Faust shows up seeking answers and picks a fight with Zato. In search of his own truth, Zato spares Faust and tells him what he knows about the Conclave. Zato then relays the Conclave’s plans to Sol and Ky, helping them prevent Justice’s return.

Once Ariels is identified as the Universal Will, the Illyrian government hires the Assassin’s Guild to help. Zato and company help defend the Illyrian city on the ground during the final showdown as Sol, Ky, and Sin fight Ariels on a floating platform up above.

RAMLETHAL VALENTINE

Originally very robotic and anti-emotional, Ramlethal Valentine introduces herself to the world by declaring war on it. She is one of the four Valentine sisters alongside Elphelt, Jack-O’, and Valentine herself—all made from the remnants of Aria Hale. Each of them refers to Ariels as “Mother,” and they live to serve her. Ramlethal views herself as a tool to Mother. Nothing more. Unable to question the orders she’s given, Ramlethal’s declaration of war affords the Conclave the chance to obliterate the city of Babylon. As Sol, Ky, and company capture Ramlethal, the Cradle, a floating megastructure containing Justice’s body, suddenly appears above the city and wipes out everything around it.

With her job complete, Ramlethal attempts to blow herself up in order to take out Sol, Ky, and crew, but her sister Elphelt appears and restricts Ramlethal’s power, preventing her explosion. Once taken into custody, Ramlethal starts to bond with Elphelt and Ky’s son, Sin, as they try to unearth any humanity lying latent within her. Elphelt tries to convince her she’s more than just Mother’s tool.

One of the strongest emotions she feels is when trying a hamburger for the first time. Sin gives her the magehound puppy seen in Ramlethal’s cinematic win screen in Strive, helping Ramlethal loosen up. She tells everyone about the Conclave’s plan to resurrect Justice.

As Sol and company deny the Conclave’s attempts, Elphelt’s true programming gets triggered. Her orders from Mother fool everyone, including Elphelt herself, into thinking she was “good.” Mother’s programming assumes control of any personality Elphelt had, turning her into an emotional husk. She starts to teleport away, and an oddly emotional Ramlethal tries to break through to her sister before she vanishes completely. Ramlethal’s words reach Elphelt in the way only a sibling’s could. Before disappearing, Elphelt shakes out of it enough to remember herself pre-activation. Sol, realizing the connection Elphelt and Ramlethal both have to Justice and, therefore, Aria, vows to save Elphelt.

With the help of That Man, Ramlethal and Sol go out to retrieve Jack-O’ Valentine, the last remaining sister and the one who bears the most striking resemblance to Aria. A signal for Elphelt’s location appears soon after, and Ramlethal goes to investigate. It’s a trap—she gets caught in the self-destruction blast from a massive Gear. She almost makes it out, but sacrifices herself for the life of a crying child in the street. Ramlethal calls Sin to tell him goodbye. Then, boom. She’s reported dead, but Raven, accomplice to That Man and previously a playable character in the series, saves her.

Ramlethal shows up at the end of the battle against Ariels and helps Sol defeat her mother, ultimately merging Jack-O’ with Justice to revive Aria in full. With Elphelt freed, the sisters return alongside Sin to Ky’s royal chambers to stay indefinitely.

LEO WHITEFANG

Leo had an unfathomable talent in combat from a young age. With such a background, he joins the Sacred Order of Holy Knights during the Crusades. He’s the Order’s best swordsman before Ky arrives, but Leo feels more inspired by Ky than demoralized. They become good friends before Leo gets stationed in Australia. From there he leads the charge to secure a vital location’s borders during the Crusades. Thanks to Leo’s leadership, his unit survives a hopeless encounter with death, adding more credence to his reputation. After Sol defeats Justice and the war ends, Leo becomes the Second King of Illyria (after Ky).

Leo’s mostly consumed by paperwork and kingly duties until Ramlethal declares war on the world. As the battle with Ramlethal rages on, Leo oversees the Illyrian war room as the city of Babylon gets destroyed. The Cradle appears above the city and instantly wipes out everything around it. Leo orders an immediate evacuation.

The Cradle reappears about a week later, this time above the Black Sea. Leo orders his troops to retreat, but they disobey and attack the Cradle anyway. Leo sends the footage of their demise to Ky, working with Zepp to confirm the Conclave’s involvement from the tapes. Leo and Ky release Dr. Paradigm, a peaceful, studious Gear who knows about the Cradle, and he helps everyone form a plan to ambush it. Leo oversees the whole shebang. When Bedman, a mysterious meddler, starts destroying the beacons used to locate the Cradle, Leo teams up with Johnny, captain of the Jellyfish Pirates, to fight him. This gives Sol and That Man enough time to break the defensive barrier protecting the Cradle, but nothing more—it disappears once again.

Once Ramlethal tells the group about the Conclave’s plans to revive Justice, Leo and Ky order an evacuation of the city. Leo stays behind to help guard the capital. After Ariels teleports away with Justice’s body, it’s back to paperwork and kingly duties for Leo. It’s certainly stacked up while he was away—so much so that there’s now a third Illyrian King, Daryl, who sweeps up while Ky and Leo are away.

After investigating a disturbance in the Japanese Colony, Leo helps retrieve Jack-O’ Valentine from That Man. Once Ariels reveals herself, Leo mans the war room to oversee the battle as Sol dukes it out with her til the end. King Daryl plans to fire missiles at their location if they take too long to defeat Ariels, and Leo does everything he can to protect Sol from Daryl’s decision. He even tries to have Daryl removed from his position as the Third King—but Ky refuses. Sol survives anyways, Ariels is defeated, and Jack-O’ merges with Justice to form what appears to be a resurrected Aria Hale.

Leo returns home to tend to a mountain of paperwork. Last we see Leo, he receives a call saying That Man has turned himself in for his past crimes.

ANJI MITO

Anji’s quite the mysterious one. He’s an impulsive Japanese adventurer who values freedom above all. After Justice destroys Japan, the few survivors who remained gather together to form the Japanese colony. Anji didn’t mesh well with the confinement of the Colony, so one day, well, he just left. On his way out he stole the Zessen Windfans, one of the components for Sol’s Outrage weapon and the source of the magical barrier protecting the Japanese colony. Anji quickly and quietly travels around in search of That Man, looking for nothing more than to satisfy his own curiosity.

As Anji evades the authorities trying to send him back to the village, he eventually meets up with Axl Low. Anji encounters Axl having slipped through time, and the two come to rendezvous in London time and time again to exchange information. One time, however, Anji goes to meet Axl and walks into the middle of an altercation between Tyr, Mizuha, and Geena, three characters from the Guilty Gear Xtra manga, and helps settle the matter at hand. Alongside Potemkin, Anji ends up taking Mizuha to Zepp so she can seek knowledge about her newly acquired powers.

Once the bounty on Dizzy’s head goes up, Anji goes to investigate. He somehow knows about Sol’s true identity and seeks him out along the way, hoping it will lead him closer to That Man.

Anji finally meets That Man and agrees to help him track down I-No, who had been getting out of control. It’s revealed that Anji and Baiken, the Japanese swordswoman with one eye and one arm, have a history together, causing some inner turmoil when he retains secrets about That Man from her. Despite the mental dilemma, he contacts Baiken and asks her to return to the Colony. She rejects the proposition but sniffs out that Anji’s already met That Man. Anji keeps her advances at bay, however, and she ends up agreeing to take care of the Colony.

With Anji being almost entirely removed from the series since his playable version in Guilty Gear XX, his inclusion in Strive is awfully surprising. Who knows what he’s learned in his absence.

I-NO

Born inadvertently from the human will for survival, I-No is the embodiment of humanity’s hope. After the Crusades begin, people’s hope for a better tomorrow becomes so intense that the Backyard, an extra-dimensional space dense with information, thinks it’s an error and expells humanity’s excess hope into a single discarded entity named I-No. Ejected by the Backyard, I-No has one prerogative: to achieve a better tomorrow.

Despite her immense power (she was the final boss in Guilty Gear XX), nothing she does seems to prevent the bleak, grey future that she keeps seeing. As I-No glitches into existence, she somehow disrupts the integrity of Axl Low’s existence, sharing the same identity with him. She also shares his powers of time travel, but she has much more control over it.

I-No’s a master of manipulation and loves to play with her food. She pops up randomly throughout nearly everyone’s travels and easily escapes any repercussions thanks to time travel. As she causes a ruckus through various timelines, like knocking Dizzy off the Mayship and handing out fake bounties for funsies, That Man starts to intervene to keep her in check. I-No eventually runs into Axl Low, and after a quick altercation comes to find out he has a message for That Man from The Original—the person who first discovered the Backyard. I-No sends Axl through time to meet That Man and relay the message, clueing That Man in on the Conclave’s plans.

On That Man’s orders, I-No goes to wake up Jack-O’ Valentine, but Jack-O’ doesn’t listen to I-No at all and runs off. I-No bumps into Axl while tracking down Jack-O’ and denies his requests for her to send him back to his original timeline. Jack-O’ appears before them both and lets them know the truth about themselves. After I-No says her goodbyes to Axl, she continues to watch over Jack-O’ until Sol and company come to retrieve her.

I-No and Axl later meet up once again, and she helps him wrestle with the implications of his own power. This conversation helps Axl make the decision to stay in this timeline to help defeat Ariels—without Axl’s interference, Sol wouldn’t have had the time to prevent Justice’s revival.

I-No leaves That Man’s side once all the hubbub is over. She hasn’t been seen until her appearance in Strive.

MILLIA RAGE

Like so many others, Millia lost her parents to the Crusades. Unlike so many others, she’s taken in by the Assassin’s Guild and, against her will, forced to merge with the Forbidden Beast, Angra—a biological Anti-Gear weapon developed during the Crusades. It lives in Millia’s hair, providing her extraordinary abilities; however, they demand a sacrifice. What Millia gave up isn’t perfectly clear, but after fighting Testament in the first Guilty Gear game, it’s revealed that she has no soul. How sus’.

The guild trains her to use her hair as a weapon from a young age, and she hates every moment of it. After multiple failed suicide attempts, Millia ends up forming a romantic relationship with Zato=1 as he ascends to lead the Assassin’s Guild. During a mission to assassinate a duke, Millia meets Slayer, an otherworldly vampire and founder of the Assassin’s Guild, who gives her hope for a better future. As Millia’s mission ends, she’s caught and thrown into a magically-sealed prison, but Slayer shows up to free her.

Millia learns that Zato’s assassinating a two-year-old king, so she heads there to stop him. She stabs Zato, takes the child, and flees. Millia later reappears alongside Venom, another guild member, to save Zato and Slayer from an overwhelming fight, but the guild starts to go downhill afterward. Millia flees the guild, causing such a ruckus that their sloppiness gets them caught, resulting in Zato’s arrest and imprisonment.

Millia’s on the run in the first Guilty Gear game. One day she overhears that Zato escaped his dimensional prison and intends to participate in an upcoming tournament, so Millia decides to attend. She could use the tournament’s reward, a single wish to make anything come true, to end Zato’s life and put a stop to the guild forever. Millia fights Zato and defeats him, but doesn’t kill him. Once the tournament’s found to be fraudulent, Millia returns to her fugitive lifestyle.

Millia later tracks down a powerful Gear named Dizzy with a bounty on her head, but it’s not the bounty she’s after. Unable to rest until Zato is dead, Millia knows he’s out there seeking money. Sure enough, Millia encounters him at The Grove near Dizzy’s location, kills him, and leaves.

The Conclave gathers Zato’s remains and resurrects him. Word reaches Millia and Venom, so Millia heads to the Opera House to investigate. There she finds Zato, and he forgives her for killing him. He shares the Conclave’s plans to revive Justice, then she goes to Ky to relay the information. From here, Millia strives to become the leader of the guild as the group rebuilds its reputation and collective values. She wants to make sure it’s a welcoming place for those who have nowhere to go.

Once Ariels reveals herself, the Illyrian government hires Millia and the guild to help defend the city during the final showdown.

GIOVANNA

Giovanna is one of two new characters introduced to the series in Strive, so not much is known about her at all. Rei, the wolf spirit accompanying her, seems tied to her hip, and they fight elegantly together. Giovanna’s from Brazil, but she protects the American president as a special forces officer. Gameplay is all we have to extract narrative from, and Giovanna’s kit offers a few glimpses of insight into her background.

Rei possesses Giovanna to strengthen her acrobatic fighting skills and speeds her up as she gains Tension throughout a fight. There aren’t any crazy dog-throwing attacks or magic missiles—everything Rei does is to accentuate Giovanna’s innate prowess in hand-to-hand combat. While Giovanna relies mostly on her feet to do her damage, the range of her move set can be deceptive as Rei extends the length of her legs when they attack together.

There remain so many questions about Giovanna. The last we’ve seen of the American President, she was passing a law to remove governmental ties to the Assassin’s Guild with Chipp’s help. Is there a new President now? Who among the cast does Giovanna know? Is Rei a Forbidden Beast?

I think so. I have nothing but my gut to offer as justification, and if she sacrificed something for Rei’s companionship, it’s not evident from her visual design (like Zato=1’s blindness). But I believe it in my heart.

Could she be anything else? She could be from another dimension, like the Backyard or wherever Slayer and Nagoriyuki’s from, but that’s about all we have to speculate on until Strive releases.

NAGORIYUKI

Nagoriyuki is one of the two new characters introduced to the series in Strive, so not much is known about him at all. All we know is that Nago is a vampire samurai, making him the only other playable vampire in the series (alongside Slayer from previous games). With Slayer as the only model for how powerful vampires are in Guilty Gear, Nago shares many of the same otherworldly quirks.

When Nago gets knocked down, he doesn’t fall down—he chooses to lie down mid-fight. Resuming a standing position has him rise from the ground, cross-armed, as a plank would emerge from a coffin. Nago’s immortality and supreme power are echoed in his weapon, a bloodsucking Ådachi that reinforces his blood gauge mechanic. As Nago uses his special moves, his thirst for blood goes up. Certain moves, like his vampiric bite command grab, reduces the gauge’s build-up, but once it’s full, Nago uncontrollably removes his helmet and transforms. While superpowered in this state, his health constantly drains until he puts his helmet back on.

Nago’s from Nigeria, and his nobility is noteworthy. His big frame is supported by a health-conscious mindset as one of his taunts displays how much Nago knows about the nutrients of the rice ball he’s eating. Combined with the aesthetic of old Japanese paintings like The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Nago seems like a mindful, patient individual, but we won’t know anything more about him until Strive releases.