So first up is combos. A lot of people, be it because they're used to Street Fighter 4, have never played a game with chains before or only played Marvel vs Capcom have trouble wrapping their heads around what the basic rules and situations for combos are. So I'm going to break this down for you.
Combos in Guilty Gear basically stem from two situations:
1. You hit someone who was in a standing/crouching state. I'll call these grounded combos.
2. You hit someone who was airborne. I'll call these juggle combos.
Here's some examples of grounded combos using Sol, Ky and Slayer. Sol and Ky because they're Ken and Ryu respectively. Slayer because he's easy to pick up and works even more like a character from something without airdashing. I'll be mostly using footage from the second revision of XX, #Reload because these are the combos you're going to be building on in Xrd due to them having the most similar move properties.
In other words, a basic string into a sweep or a special move is what you get on a grounded opponent. You can hit jabs a couple of times to make sure you're actually hitting them before continuing on, or you can just opt to go through your normals and end with a special move or something that can be cancelled into a jump to stay safe. As you can see, you can use this to do things like throw a fireball that'll hit them on their wakeup to keep momentum going. You can also opt for special moves that'll give you things like frame advantage, better corner carry or a better knockdown. There's even characters who have links like good ol' Street Fighter.
So where do we go from here? In Street Fighter or older KOFs, the way to get more damage is to use meter. Traditionally by making sure you're hitting someone then comboing into some sort of EX move or super. You can do that in Guilty Gear. Let's see how it goes with our buddies Sol, Ky and Slayer again.
That's certainly more damage than before. Some supers even put the opponent airborne so you can keep hitting them after! There's even some that are designed to start combos and provide a boost to the damage for the whole thing. Jam has one of those, for example. In the early days of learning the game, there's no shame in comboing into super. You can't burst out of supers either, so they still have use even in high level play
When you hit someone who is in the air though, something magical happens. They will stay in an "oh crap I've been hit state" (or hitstun for those less familiar with fighting games) for however long the last move hit them dictates they will be. While you're in hitstun in the air in Guilty Gear, the other guy can hit you with whatever the they want. There's no rules about moves having specific juggle properties or limits. It's basically all dictated by "are they being hit in the air? Go nuts" and "has that orange bar below their health been depleted? Keep going if you can find a way." Here's some more examples with Sol, Ky and Slayer since they've got pretty obviously good normals for smacking people out of the air.
Look at the damage! Guilty Gear is a game with a lot of freedom of movement. As a result, they designed it so that jumping around like a fool all day will get you hurt. Juggle combos are where the big damage, best knockdowns and best corner carry come from. If you get juggled in the corner, even better damage can happen like with that Ky combo.
So as you can see, juggle combos are pretty much the superior way to get damage in Guilty Gear. Does this mean the game punishes understanding how to play a solid ground footsie game? Not at all! You see, here's the trick to Guilty Gear combos: finding ways to turn a grounded combo into a juggle.
How do we do that? There's several ways.
1. Use a move that launches, ground bounces, wallbounces or what have you.
Sol and Ky both have overheads that make you bounce off the ground. That means they've put you in the air when you weren't even jumping. Sol's forwards punch (6P if you use numberpad notation, which is the norm for Guilty Gear players) wall bounces, so if you simply chain into that in the corner you can get a juggle combo. Some characters even have normals that launch! For example, here's Milia's dreaded crouching heavy slash.(2H).
Airborne combos off of grounded hits? This character is cheap! Well, sure she can launch you, but she's not going to be getting in by running straight at you and doing something you can block both standing and crouching. She's got to land this after hitting you with her low-hitting crouching kick or off of jumping in with a normal. As a result, if she goes to mash punch or kick, she'll be pushed out too far to do it all the time. Thus, she has to chain to sweep quite often as well. How else can we turn grounded hits into airborne then?
Did I mention that Sol's command grab ground bounces? He gets juggle combos by throwing you. Goddamn.
When a move counterhits (hitting someone while they were in startup for a move or if you both hit each other), it'll have different properties to a regular hit. For a fair amount of moves this simply means there's more hitstun so you have more time to realise you landed a hit and go in. For a lot of other moves though, it means that they launch or ground bounce or what have you. And that means the big damage returns! Here's some examples with our buddies Sol, Ky and Slayer once again.
Once again we can see that this game rewards smart play and penalises doing predictable things. Counterhits can be absolutely lethal, especially if it's a move that brings you close to stun such as May's 6P.
Furthermore, there is a way to force counterhits to happen. You see that little orange bar below your health? That's called the guard bar. Whenever you block something, it increases. The higher it is, the more damage you can take and the longer a combo on you can go for. If it's flashing, then any hit you take in that time is automatically a counterhit. There's no guard breaks in Guilty Gear, but you need to be really damn careful once you've been blocking for a long time.
3. Use a super that puts them airborne.
Remember how Sol's punch super wallbounced? There's other supers that do that sort of thing too. If Ky is close enough, sweep will combo into Sacred Edge, his fireball super. That launches, so he can then do a juggle combo afterwards. Pretty neat!
There is, however, another way to use meter to get those precious juggle combos. It's a universal option as well. I'm of course talking about an iconic mechanic of the series. None other than the...
4. Roman Cancel
If you hit any three buttons that aren't Dust, then for the same price as a super you completely stop what you're doing. You ever notice how when you sweep someone the bounce up a bit before landing on the ground?
Are you starting to see the possibilities of this tool now? There are so many stray hits or wonky situations that can turn into big damage because of you being able to now smack them with some Heavy slashes into something. Here's another example with Sol.
You see? Bandit Revolver puts them at the right height that you can start Sol's iconic combo where he does nothing but jumping Dust a bunch of times then a shoryu. You see how a combo like that can come to exist in this system now?
Here's one final example with Slayer using both a counterhit to start a combo and Roman Cancel to extend the damage even further. Performed on Chipp so we can laugh at how he's made of wet paper.
A note on Roman Cancels in Xrd
In addition to what they do in XX, they also slow down time. This means there are even more options for creativity as you now have time to charge up moves, combo grounded normals into Dust or use aerial normals that greatly increase the hitstun on a juggled opponent to gain even better positioning, damage or knockdowns that you couldn't even get before!
So in conclusion:
1. If grounded and no meter, look for counterhits that give you juggles to do big damage.
2. Otherwise, chain to sweep and use that knock down to keep pressure on, do a crossup or what have you.
3. Make people suffer for jumping like an idiot.
4. Use roman cancels to turn grounded hits into juggles.
5. Be creative, but be smart!
Tune in next time when I will probably talk more in depth about Faultless Defense and Movement.