Tension (テンション, Tenshon?), which is said to be the characters' hostility, is a gameplay mechanic and an extremely important resource in the Guilty Gear series. It directly affects many of a character's offensive and defensive options during combat. The system's utilization, with its features and subtleties, can often be the deciding factor of a victory or a loss.
The system's origins lies in the Chaos Gauge (カオスゲージ, Kaosu Gēji?) from the original Guilty Gear, an initially-empty bar is located at the bottom of the screen below the character. Each time the character lands a hit, the bar is filled. At full, it allows the character to perform their one Chaos Move, called Overdrives in later entries, at the cost of depleting the gauge.
Tension was then introduced in Guilty Gear X. It is accumulated in the Tension Gauge (テンションゲージ, Tenshon Gēji?), abbreviated TG, with its placement being the same as that of the Chaos Gauge's. Its power increases whenever the character uses aggressive moves like moving forward, dashing, forward jumps, and attacks. As a general rule: the more aggressive the action against the opponent, the faster the gauge will fill up. It features different colors at certain percentage levels to show the player which options are available, and in the Xrd games, it is also divided into four sections, each representing 25% Tension.
The gauge has a Tension Pulse. A faster Pulse means that more Tension gained, thus altering the default base Tension gain of attacks. Taking defensive actions, like a back-dash, will slow down the Pulse. Different characters have different Pulse thresholds, among which Johnny and Zappa have the highest.
If an overdefensive playstyle is used, a Negative Penalty (ネガティヴペナルティ, Negativu Penaruti?) will be incurred. If in a given time interval, the character continues passive actions like failing to make an attack or retreating to either side of the screen, the Tension Gauge will drop to 0. It will also be temporarily harder to fill it up again, as it will have only 20% fill rate for 10 seconds.
Tension is related to the following mechanics:
- Connecting a Gold Psych Burst will complelety fill the Tension Gauge.
- Whenever Instant Kill Mode is activated, the Tension Gauge transforms into the Instant Kill Gauge at the same level as Tension was. Of note is that unleashing the Instant Kill disables the Tension Gauge for the rest of the round.
- Doing a Dead Angle Attack consumes 50% Tension.
- All Overdrive attacks require Tension; almost all require 50%, but some require 100%.
- Force Breaks from Guilty Gear XX Λ Core require 25% Tension to perform.
- Activating a Faultless Defense means that no health will be lost, but each hit taken consumes varying amounts of Tension—the amount being greater when blocking attacks. A Blitz Shield invariably uses up 25% Tension.
- Roman Cancels allow the player to cancel the ending lag of a majority of attacks so as to facilitate combos, but they will use up 50% or 25% Tension depending on the type used.
- Guilty Gear XX