Testament is one of Guilty Gear's most infamous characters. Now, with their return in Strive, people want to know more about this character. I want to walk you through not only their most recent appearance in Plus R, but the rest of the franchise as well. Testament is one of the characters who changes the most between appearances in Guilty Gear, and as such each version can be thought of as independent and unique characters.
Let's Start From the Beginning
Long ago in the distant past of 1998, Testament formed a part of the original cast of Guilty Gear. They served as the first "boss battle" and the gate keeper before you could battle Justice. When you defeat them, Testament chooses to become the final blood sacrifice needed to revive Justice from her dimensional prison.
Now with all that lore stuff out of the way, let's talk about gameplay. For those who aren't aware, Missing Link is a very weird game. Testament is Daisuke's fittingly weird take on the zoner archetype. They start with the foundation of long range normals and projectiles that Street Fighter characters of the time, such as Sagat and Dhalsim, focused on and warped them considerably.
Missing Link Testament's kit lent itself to fighting at two ranges: far away, and further away. They were really designed to frustrate you and put stop signs in your face, acting as the philosophical antithesis to the rest of the game—combat which was focused on speed, aggression, and fluidity—a trait which I think is fitting of the first boss character a player faces. The first step to their plan was passive aggression. Phantom SoulGuardAllStartup18RecoveryAdvantage+3 was Testament's fireball with a twist, but probably not the twist that fans of newer titles might expect. Back in Missing Link, Curses and Stain State didn't exist. This fireball's gimmick was actually how it moved. Phantom Soul started out by moving horizontally at head height, much like a high Tiger Shot from Sagat, but after traveling some distance it would halt it's horizontal movement and instead bob up and down and persist on stage for a long time. Missing Link didn't have the concept of projectile limits either, so if you gave Testament space they were going to use it to put two or three of these down at once.
Next is their insurance policy. In truth, Phantom Soul kinda sucked, and as such they needed another layer to their projectile game. Enter Panzer CentipedeGuardUnblockableStartup95RecoveryN/AAdvantageN/A—an unblockable projectile that shoots out of the ground towards the sky after a moderate delay—and its friend Dimension ScytheGuardAllStartup24RecoveryAdvantage0, which prevents movement of characters hit by it. The idea here is that the Skulls, the aforementioned Phantom Soul, would clog up the ground space and encourage the opponent to jump, and Testament would sit on top of a Panzer Centipede in order to snipe people for trying. Once you hesitated approaching Testament could use Dimension Scythe to ensnare you from across the stage and either land free damage or re-establish their traps. The move sucked in practice, due to a quirk where the opponent could either block or become completely invulnerable during it, but the concept was there and that's cool.
Then we get to the funny part. Note that I wrote funny as opposed to fun—there's a good reason for that. In Missing Link, every character could spam their supers when they dropped below half health. Testament's original super, Nightmare CircularGuardAllStartup26RecoveryAdvantage-, should be immediately familiar to fans of ACPR. There's just one little detail that changes everything. The poison damage over time that it inflicted was lethal. Whereas ACPR Testament can only take you down to a single health point, Missing Link Testament could reliably count on poison super spam to be a win condition. Sure, Testament couldn't infinite you to death like most characters could, but they sure could make life miserable for you with this super.
The rest of their kit is honestly not all that interesting on its own. EXE BeastGuardAllStartup31RecoveryAdvantage- existed back then, but they didn't really do anything since they were minus on hit, incredibly slow, and left the opponent in grounded hit stun. Grave DiggerGuardMidStartup9Recovery25Advantage+1 was also around, but unlike the Force Break in Plus R, it was really only a combo ender for a character with combos consisting of two or three attacks per string. It wasn't until later installments that Daisuke and his team at Arc System Works really figured out a way to make this character exciting.
A Historical Footnote
Whereas Missing Link was the first Guilty Gear game, Guilty Gear X is the true progenitor of what we think of as Guilty Gear. Many of the core system mechanics such as Roman Cancel and Faultless Defense, the latter of which works completely differently in ML, were introduced here and stayed mostly unchanged all the way up to XRD. In this game, Testament is once again a boss character, but is fairly vanilla all things considered. This version of Testament essentially represents what tools they would define as the core up through Accent core. These moves being Grave Digger, EXE Beast, Phantom Soul, and Nightmare Circular.
The Forgotten Years
Between Guilty Gear X and Accent Core there are several iterations of Gear in which Testament appeared, though none of them are particularly well documented nor are their games particularly popular in the modern era. XX, XX Slash, XX #Reload, and the sub versions of each contain their own spins on Testament which can largely be thought of as a transition phase. Largely, these versions of Testament are similar in the broad strokes, and make a few steps to bring Testament into the modern age. For one, EXE beast began to resemble its current form by coming a projectile that scoots along the floor like a roomba. Phantom Soul was granted the role of applying the new curse mechanic and experimented with a few trajectories.
Panzer Centipede and Dimension Scythe where lost the annals of time, but in their place came the traps, and as such the biggest design shift Testament would see before strive. Both WebsGuardAllStartup11RecoveryTotal 29Advantage+2 and HITOMIGuardMidStartupSee notesRecoveryTotal 27Advantage- were gained to fill the void left by their predecessors. Testament's new hobby of gardening and hanging sticky decorations would become their defining trait for this series of Guilty Gear, and also help differentiate them from traditional zoners in a way that was more consistent and interesting than the old tools.
A War Criminal Phase
Testament's appearances in Accent Core and Plus R are especially notable not just because these were the versions people actually played but also because these games gave Testament their negative reputation.
Up until this point Testament historically was a middling character. They were solidly interesting and not terribly bad, but never really stood out compared to the rest of the cast. In Accent Core the developers chose violence. Testament had receive incremental improvements over time, but it all came together in this entry of the series. Let's run down some of the things that Testament excelled at, and some of their powerful tools.
First is our friend with many names. Some call them wan-chanJapanese nickname for a dog based on the sound they make, others the hungry hippo—Daisuke calls them Exe Beast. Remember that move we glossed over in Missing Link for being unremarkable? Now they have a score to settle. Compared to Slash Testament, who only had S beast, and Missing Link Testament, who had both beasts on the same button—this version of Testament can choose between the S Beast that appears behind the opponent and the H Beast which appears in front of Testament. H Beast in particular was incredibly strong; it had 16f startup, guaranteed to come out on frame 2, removes OTG, +12 on block, and had an FRC point to boot. Getting hit by H Beast was a near guarantee that you were in for a bad time.
The other felony Testament was tied to their newly introduced replacement for Grave DiggerGuardAllStartup14Recovery16+3 after landingAdvantage-8, BadlandsGuardAllStartup17Recovery13+15 after landingAdvantage-13. Namely, how this move introduced the Badlands loop. Fans of ACPR may remember this combo as one of the combos Testament players used to recommend players learn before the meta shifted to favor One-Hit BL and MoP Loops. This is not your Accent Core Badlands Loop. In Accent Core Testament could build tons of meter and shred your life bar with long Badlands Loops. Some old footage can be found showing players of yore, such as Shonen, lading eight reps against the opponent's jump at round start. Even by Accent Core standards, where damage was very high for most of the cast, Testament had incredible access to meter and damage which allowed them to maintain their advantage and abuse H Beast. This marked the first time that Testament would find a comfortable home in the top of most tier lists.
When the developers were tasked with addressing the top tier monster that they created in Accent Core, the genius minds at Arc System Works decided that they would rather sidegrade Testament than downgrade them. They would remain one of, if not the most, powerful characters in the game, but would become significantly more interesting with far more diversity of play built into their kit. Testament in this version of Gear is much like a luxury car. From the future. They have just about everything you could want ranging from wide open combo routing, varied set play options—both practical and funny, solid defense, and unique tools and gimmicks to manage and explore.
The first of these that I want to talk about is how Testament's combos became more interesting when Badlands Loops were deemphasized. Without access to eight reps of BL off of any hit to count on for their routing, Testament players were sent on a pilgrimage to the lab, and lab they did. Forgive me if these names come off as jargon, but I want to quickly rattle off some categories of combo routes that have become popular in the current meta of ACPR. These include ladder routes into One-Hit Badlands, MoP Loops, un-OTG routes, Curse routes, and the treefinite. If you want just a taste of this character's combo potential, I've linked to two of my favorite combo videos. Don't worry, you can watch them and come back—I don't mind.
ACPR Testament has just as much variety going on outside of combos as they do when they enemy is in hit stun. Rather than ask yourself "what types of move does Testament have" it's perhaps faster to instead ask "what types of move does Testament not have". Testament has Lucht WarrantGuardStartupRecoveryTotal 42Advantage- which is a teleport that allows you to pick whether Testament appears in front of or behind the opponent which pairs beautifully with EXE Beast for creating funny cross-ups. Then we have regular WarrantGuardStartupRecoveryTotal 52Advantage- which is actually a counter that leads into the teleport and then poisons the opponent on hit. Just in case you wanted the most evil defensive tool possible for your zoning and trap based character. ACPR also gave Testament the ability to perform delayed versions of Nightmare CircularGuardAllStartup0+226RecoveryTotal 21Advantage- and EXE Beasts. This might not sound like much, but then when you remember how scary these options are and realize that you can effectively get frame advantage just from making the opponent flinch at the threat of these. And of course, I am happy that this version of Testament brings back my old friends Grave Digger and 3HGuardMidStartup14Recovery17Advantage-5. The former came back as a force break, which means it was buffed to be very good in a pinch, and is famous for being a jump-scare "YOLO" move. The latter might seem like an innocuous normal, but it means a lot to me. Not only is it a long range normal that gives Testament even better neutral and conversions, but it's also a reference to the original game. This move was actually their original 5HGuardAllStartup11Recovery10Advantage+11 and I think it's very cute that they found a way to reincorporate the move back into their modern kit.
It's hard to sum up in a small number of words just all the ways that this character is cool, but I hope this section gave you a peak into that fact. Plus ACPR costs roughly $3.00 on sale so you could always try it out for yourself.
The Present Day
Now that Testament is done atoning for their sins, both literally and figuratively, Daisuke has brought them back in Strive. Their toolkit is completely overhauled and now somewhat resembles a hybrid of the original zoner concept and their more recent status as the wielder of an infinite bag of devious tricks. It's far too early to speak definitively about how they play or will play in Strive, but for now it can be fun to think about how their new tools relate to the old ones.
Strive splits their Curse gimmick into two parts, one applied by Grave ReaperGuardAllStartup16~22Recovery27Advantage-4 and the other applied by Unholy DiverGuardAllStartup21RecoveryTotal 39Advantage+1. The former Curse variant assumes the role of Testament's old Lucht Warrant. Now there's a precondition to be able to teleport, and instead of the teleport being relative to the characters the teleport is based on the location of the Curse. The offensive component of Testament's old Curses are now represented by the Stain State applied by Unholy Diver. Whereas before the Phantom Soul would apply the curse and then the crow would perform a series of attacks in a pattern, now the crow itself applies the curse and the attack is a simple hit dealt after a period of time. This takes away a lot of the crazy setups that the old curse provided, including unblockables, but hopefully gives Testament players fun and interesting ways to modify their pressure and combos in this new system.
EXE Beast went through the washing machine and came out rotated 90°. Instead of being projectiles which slide along the ground, they have been repurposed into Arbiter SignGuardHighStartup28Recovery26Advantage-12—a special that strikes the opponent low or overhead depending on the version. I think this shows that Arc Sys learned a lesson from Testament's old 6PGuardHighStartup17Recovery26Advantage-15. Now the high/low mixup has been shifted onto a special as opposed to a normal in order to expand how you get into it but consequently restrict what you can do after it. It's an interesting change in design philosophy. And of course, I would be remise to mention how this is basically a cooler version of Nine the Phantom's Navy PressureGuardHigh/AirStartup27RecoveryTotal 63Advantage-3.
As for Master of Puppets, Dolls, Grave Digger, Badlands, HITOMI, Webs, Phantom Soul, and Warrant—all of those are dead and gone. Most of these would not be a good fit for Strive, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't sad about the two Traps being gone. I felt like the invisible traps of the XX series were the most unique thing about Testament and really set them apart from conventional zoning characters. At a personal level, there's no real substitute for the joy of cheating someone with a cheeky web. Though, perhaps removing them was the right choice for the direction that Strive chooses to go in; only time will tell if that's the case.
I hope you enjoyed this walk through Testament over the two decades of Guilty Gear. I have to say that this character is pretty darn nifty, and I've enjoyed them at several points in time. They may not be cool enough to usurp my boy Venom, but I look forwards to trying them out in Strive and continuing to battle them daily in ACPR Netplay.