Granblue Fantasy Versus is likely to be alot of gamers first exposure to the Granblue Fantasy series. Is this a tale worth diving into or is it just fantasy?
Granblue Fantasy is a giant Japanese franchise originally coming from an online browser/mobile gatcha game. Due to ex Final Fantasy minds, a legion of fans and mountains of cashola, Granblue eventually branched out into the world of anime and there is even a 3D action RPG in development, last but not least we also have Granblue Fantasy Versus or “The fighting game”.
I won’t pretend to know what I’m going on about in terms of Granblue lore, I’ve never seen the anime and this game is the reason I started to try the mobile game. The game does come with a full glossary for those of you that need to know the ins and outs from the get go and it’s in great detail too!.
Visually Granblue Fantasy Versus is an absolute joy to look at, much like previous Arc titles this game manages to look like an anime you control, every character model looks ripped out of the art work, the stages are all fantastic and the aesthetic of the game really shines throughout.
The start of matches has intros for every character, these interactions show how far we have come from the Ryu & Ken fist bump of Street Fighter Alpha and add so much to the game world. Even the victory screens just add so much identity to the game, one of them it transpires that the fight was just a theoretical conversation between bros at the tavern!.
The performance is also top notch, I didn’t notice a dropped frame throughout and it creates a buttery smooth experience to play and spectate.
The soundtrack for Granblue Fantasy Versus consists of some of the most varied and interesting work from Arc yet. Alot of the time I found myself staying in menus or replaying matches over again just to hear the music, there is some Guilty Gear level soundtrack going on here. A small note and one I seem to repeat again and again is that this is in full Japanese dub, no English.
The roster in Granblue Fantasy Versus is what really stood out to me, outside of the rather vanilla Gran and Katalina that is. Every character has something that makes them unique and draws you to want to know more about them. Even if the initial roster is quite small, DLC is coming and the character to start off with all have their own thing which makes them special and endearing.
The gameplay in Granblue Fantasy Versus manages to combine the world of anime fighting games with a more accessible approach. The pacing is so much slower than you would expect from an AFG and the damage output means matches aren’t around for too long.
There is a special move button for newcomers, traditional input also works and minimises your cool down on each move. Each character also has an ability button which can change up matches on the fly. Auto combo makes a return here as well.
If I had to liken the pace and why this plays, I would have to describe it as anime Samurai Shodown. It’s a much slower, footsie based, fundamental carrying beast and certainly the opposite of Arc’s previous licenced anime fighting game.
Content wise Granblue Fantasy Versus is fairly healthy in this aspect. You have the standard match, arcade mode with different paths, training and an in depth tutorial, online with built in training sessions to get you ready and the main event RPG Mode.
The only issues mode wise is the lack of survival, no character endings in the arcade & the fact you have to have several offline matches then a couple online before you can hit casual or ranked & private rooms, outside of those issues it’s genre standard.
RPG Mode is the main single player mode and will be the biggest draw for fans of the series. This mode answers the question of what do you get when you cross a mobile gatcha game with a 2D fighting game.
The narrative does a good job of showing off the main playable characters but kind of let’s you flounder when it comes to the bulk of the side cast. The main story is about standard for a fighting game, an unknown force is causing the main cast to forget everything they know and only want to fight the main hero Gran.
The RPG mode plays like a stripped down scrolling beat em up, usually consisting of 2 screens. All the moves from the main game are here and there is a tonne of customization here if you like it or don’t.
The bulk of the fights offer no challenge and are over before you’ve gotten invested in them, the raid boss battles on the other hand are brilliant, giant bosses to fight that take alot of skill and usually another character to come along. These feel as close to Raid battles from other genres as you can get and are the real shining star of this mode.
In RPG mode you’ll be equipping weapons, leveling up weapons and characters, drawing stuff from the Gatcha draw, hitting the shop and completing side objectives for extra currency. That’s right the bulk of the single player experience in Granblue Fantasy Versus is a mobile Gatcha game with a scrolling beat em up added onto it.
Overall I didn’t really mind too much about the RPG mode being a somewhat copy cat of its mobile inspiration, the only thing that irked me somewhat was that I felt like outside of the raid battles I was playing a mobile game with console game load times.
Granblue Fantasy Versus has quickly become one of my favourite current generation fighting games & maybe even slid into my top all time list. The completely unique roster, the match pacing, the sheer presentation of the product just got its hooks right into me and stays with me long after I turn it off. I’ve always enjoyed anime fighting games but very few actually stick with me, lately Arc can’t do any wrong with Blazblue Tag, Guilty Gear and now Granblue, playing online with others is a total joy and even spending time in the lab always yields results. As someone more accustomed to a slower pace style like Street Fighter II or the older GG games, Granblue finishes the job Mortal Kombat 11 started by showing, faster doesn’t always mean better, may the skies be eternal!.