Granblue Fantasy: Versus is a anime fighting game released for PC and Playstation 4 February 6th, 2020 in Asia and March 13th, 2020 in North America. Developed by Arc System Works, Granblue Fantasy: Versus has the company’s well-known explosive 2.5D anime graphic style.The original mobile game, Granblue Fantasy, is a roleplaying “gachapon” (spending virtual currency into order to randomly recieve characters or items) game where you play as either Gran (male) or Djeeta (female) as you go on adventures where you constantly recruit new party members from a large cast of unique characters. Granblue Fantasy: Verses takes some of that cast and puts them into a stunning semi 3D fighting game for players to go head to head with their favorite characters.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ RPG Mode is incredibly short, sitting at about 5-6 hours. The story is average, and is just a way to throw in the popular characters that serve as the game’s playable roster. Personally, I did enjoy some of the character interactions since I went into Versus having already played the mobile game. But, I don’t think there is enough personality shown in the characters for someone new to Granblue Fantasy to care much about them or the story. The story part does pay a lot of homage back to the mobile game, with the monsters you fight being common mobs from Granblue Fantasy.
It unfortunately also brings in the idea of the weapon grid and character leveling, which honestly, isn’t the most fitting thing. Because of the shortness of the story, most players won’t feel the need to dive very deep into the weapon grid and character leveling. These mechanics make the story mode feel like it’s trying to be a JRPG and a fighting game at the same time, and doesn’t really work. Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ RPG Mode does give players a good place to get used to the most basic game mechanics and practice with the variety of characters. That being said, it is an incredibly diluted version of play than what players will encounter going into online matches.
Before going into the game mechanics, it needs to be stated that I played this game as a fan of the mobile game, not as someone proficient in fighting games. When I booted up Granblue Fantasy: Versus for the first time, I immediately went to the tutorials to get a grasp on the gameplay. The tutorials start players off with complex moves and situations, which gave me a hard time at first. (I learned later that the RPG mode had more basic tutorials I needed for a beginner player.) For someone who has played a lot of fighting games, especially other Arc System Works titles, the gameplay wouldn’t be such a hard skill to grasp.
After getting comfortable with it, I realized how intricate the combat system is. In many situations, especially when playing online, timing to get a hit or block right can be a very, very small window. It does indeed take skill to out maneuver your opponents, and button mashing does you no good outside of RPG mode. The combat system is incredibly smooth and refined. Each character has their own unique move sets, as well as varying hit windows and range. For a game that takes its characters and content from a mobile gacha game, I was extremely impressed at how well it stands on its own as a fighting game.
There are a few controls that didn’t seem so smooth. Although you could use the d-pad and left joystick interchangeably for most combos, I could only get the dash to work on the d-pad. I also had a harder time getting my Skybound/Super Skybound arts to happen with the joystick, but it would activate sometimes.
I ended up playing a lot of Lancelot, a dual-swordsman who can move quickly around the screen and avoid most hits your opponent will try to throw at you. That is, assuming you get your timing right. While he is more mobile than most in Granblue Fantasy: Versus’ roster, it wouldn’t take many hits to down him if you weren’t careful. I enjoyed playing him the most, but it was fun to see the unique styles that each character had. Lowain, one of the more comedic characters, had a lot of his personality put in his moves. His Skybound art is of him having his two buddies carry him into battle to do boosted damage to the opponent.
Audio and Graphics
The soundtrack and design are what set Granblue Fantasy: Versus apart from any other fighting game. For fans of Granblue Fantasy, the soundtrack is going to be immediately recognizable. While the music isn’t what most would think of for a fighting game, I think it helps Versus feel like an extension of the mobile game. The music is stunning, classic RPG-esque tunes that enhance the fantasy theme. Versus is able to really take advantage of the large score of music available, even including the character themes for the playable cast.
Arc System Works is known for their anime fighting games, and Granblue Fantasy’s character design translates well into Arc’s beautiful 2.5-D style. Both the characters and backgrounds are bright, colorful, and stunning to look at. Hideo Minaba’s character art is also used to create aesthetically pleasing menu screens, and both the art and music can be viewed within the in-game gallery.
Although the game released with only a small cast of characters, each has a unique player model with no overlapping movements or poses. Everyone also has a unique short cutscene to go with their Super Skybound Arts, which really emphasizes the over-the-top anime fighting style that Arc is best at. I can’t think of a better title for Arc System Works to have worked with. Although the RPG mode cutscenes are very short, you get a hint of the flowing animation the game is capable of. All in all, I think the way Arc handled the animation style enhances the enjoyment players will get seeing the stunning graphics in motion.