Granblue Fantasy: Versus (Review)

I am very impressed with the accessibility of Granblue Fantasy: Versus. Cygames and Arc System Works should be proud of what they created. There is a balance that fighting games constantly struggle to maintain the game must both simultaneously feel great to play as a beginner and be engaging with the hardcore crowd. This difficult requirement tends to relegate most fighting games to a niche for one of these two opposing forces, but Granblue Fantasy: Versus is a rare exception that appeals to both sides. 

Learning curves are the hardest part of learning a new fighting game. Since the core of a fighting game involves making microdecisions based on both you and your opponent, the key to overcoming the initial learning curve is to understand your options based on the situation. Fighting games are often compared to a game of rock-paper-scissors, except the values of rock, paper, and scissors change drastically with each moment. In addition, the ability to execute your options consistently is also an obstacle for a new player. 

Granblue Fantasy: Versus has an impressive set of tools to teach new players, even if it is their first fighting game. Arc System Works titles have extensive tutorials, and this game provides another fine addition. Not only does each character on the current roster have individual tutorials to teach movesets, but the game also provides reasons why you would use some options over others. 

Granblue Fantasy: Versus uses the familiar button sequence of Light (L), Medium (M), and Heavy (H) and also includes a Unique attack (U) for each character. There is also a dedicated block button (B) and skill button (S). The skill button is nice because it allows the player to simultaneously execute one of their four skills based on the character’s movement (ex, left, right, down, no direction), which makes it easier for a new player to consistently execute their desired move. However, there still is a cost when the skill button is used, the ability goes through a brief cooldown and cannot be activated until it is ready again. This cooldown changes based on the strength of the attack used and occurs regardless if the technical or skill button input is used, so the system gradually teaches you to utilize both types of inputs to execute your abilities consistently. The guard system also offers roll and dodge options, which add to the number of strategies.

I’ve grown accustomed to Arc System Works titles and am always impressed by how they manage to consistently give a satisfying feeling of control and impact when playing. I’ve felt so spoiled from Arc System Works titles that I almost forget to appreciate the detail that goes into the 2D and 3D animations. The current cast presents a wide variety of playstyles, and there is  more to come. I’ve been enjoying Lancelot the most out of the Granblue Fantasy cast because he offers such a wide range of dashes and mixups. Currently, there are 11 characters with 2 separate waves of DLC coming. The first DLC wave has already been released, and the second wave is currently scheduled for Fall 2020.

The RPG mode offers the player a series of beat-em-up quests and unique boss fights. The story is standalone and can be enjoyed regardless if you have played the original Granblue Fantasy mobile game. There is a glossary that highlights important background information for those who are unfamiliar with the world. In RPG Mode, there is a dedicated inventory for powering up your characters, which uses a 9 weapon grid loadout. This loadout is taken directly from the original Granblue Fantasy mobile game and is used to power up your character’s attack, health, and passive elemental abilities. In addition, just like in the mobile game, you gradually collect weapons as quest rewards or by pulling random weapons using chance tickets. Items can be used to level up your weapon’s hp/attack values and skills while using additional copies of the same weapon allows you to level up beyond the normal level cap (up to 5 copies to maximize a weapon). Keep in mind that there are no microtransaction options in RPG mode, so you do not have to worry that the game is trying to nickel and dime you.

The boss fights and duels with the cast members were the best parts of the RPG mode because they were unique encounters that were more challenging than fighting hordes of mobs. RPG mode uses a much larger health bar than the standard gameplay and as a result, these encounters felt fast-paced and were filled with plenty of challenging moments and satisfying moves. The grid system felt a little tedious to me, but that is a personal preference since there is a ton of room for a player to optimize their character’s loadout, which will definitely appeal to some players. On normal difficulty, I find that you can get through most of the content even by having the game automatically optimize your loadout based on your current inventory, but harder difficulties definitely will require you to think more about your options. There is also a tower mode upon completion of the main storyline, so there is still an outlet to farm your character’s levels and loadouts. If you want to speed through the RPG mode, I would estimate it would take about six to eight hours total of game time.

I was impressed by the soundtrack and both the Japanese and English voice acting. I found myself switching back and forth between languages to compare. Both casts boast impressive names that anime fans should recognize such as:

Yuki Ono (Gran)
Miyuki Sawashiro (Katalina)
Rie Kugimiya (Vyrn)
Kana Hanazawa (Zeta)
Patrick Seitz (Ladiva) 
Kira Buckland (Lyria)
Richard Epcar (Eugen)
SungWon “ProZD” Cho (Vaseraga). 

On a closing note, it’s exciting to see that Granblue Fantasy: Versus will be featured as part of EVO’s lineup since the game just launched on Steam and PlayStation 4. I expect the interest to grow in the game’s future. The entire first wave of DLC has been announced (Beelzebub, Narmaya, Soriz, Djeeta, and Zooey), but the second wave has yet to be announced aside from Belial, so there is plenty of room for more characters to join the roster, including the possibility of some fan favorites that appeared during RPG mode. While I wait for the next characters to release, I still have a lot of Granblue Fantasy: Versus to enjoy.

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