As a long-time Granblue Fantasy fan, console entries like Granblue Fantasy: Versus is one of the games I went out to buy a Playstation 4 for. Cygames and ARC SYSTEM WORKS have come together in this entry to appeal to a broader market while getting people to try out different things, e.g.: Granblue mobile players to fighting games, and FGC players with no knowledge of Granblue into the fold. The game’s been announced to be a main stage title for EVO 2020, so eyes are on this game!
At once, the game looks quite gorgeous. With its bright colours welcoming you into the menu, it gives off the feeling of welcoming you into the skydoms. The submenus have their accompanying illustrations as well, some incredibly cute and all definitely quite pretty. The character models look pretty good, translating the drawn artwork into 3D models on a 2D plane. Transitions from opening banter to stage, to the alternate stage on matchpoint, is smooth.
All the visuals are accompanied by music by Stella Magna, rocking arrangements of various in-game music and character songs. The lobby is represented by characters on the deck of the Grandcypher, running around or matching up against one another seated at arcade cabinets. There’s a lobby book you can write messages in, too. If you’re feeling it, you can also use the in-game stickers to communicate.
It’s basically filled with things a regular Granblue player will recognize, and non-Granblue fans can appreciate the whole setup as well.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus has been plenty advertised to be accessible to beginners. Considering the most button mashing a typical Granblue player does is F5, the buttons are easy to grasp. Each character comes with four skills, which they can shortcut by pressing the associated directional key to execute. Manual inputs are also possible for those with more finesse and used to fighting games. You can bring up the command menu for the buttons, and they have also helpfully provided examples in motion.
The system is easy to pick up and hard to master. I’m definitely a stranger to fighting games, but after some time of play, I understood how and what to press and I could reasonably expect the correct action tied to my input. From observation though, it seems that it can be hard for the inputs to register on occasion in regards to the Specials (known as Super/Skybound Arts). Your mileage may vary, with possible differences comparing stick input to regular DualShock.
The game can feel slow depending on your idea of how an anime fighter should be. It does feel slow to me, alleviated somewhat by the dash. There’s dodging too, if you can get the hang of it.
The bread and butter of the game (it’s even in the name!). Granblue Fantasy: Versus uses a delay-based netcode. As such, you’ll very likely be hanging out in servers closest to your location to avoid the worst of the delay. There’s plenty of rooms for you to choose from, so there shouldn’t be too much issue there. Just find an empty seat at the pairs of arcade cabinets and wait for your opponent. Do note that you do need to unlock the online mode before you enter the online lobbies proper.
You can choose an avatar and their colour palettes to represent yourself on the deck of the Grandcypher. You don’t need to pick an avatar which is the same character as who you’re playing; there are non-playables available as avatars. You can pre-select the character – and their colour – you want to rank with before sitting at a cabinet, so online matchmaking is pretty simple all things considered. You can find replays of those on the leaderboard if they have saved it, so you can simply select their name and watch their match.
I understand that the starting roster of 11 can feel too small for some, which will expand with at least two character packs confirmed. The first has 5 DLC characters. Four characters of the first pass have been revealed, which you can see here.
Arguably the main draw for the typical Granblue fan, besides the in-game bonuses for the mobile game. RPG mode has you play through an alternate story in the Granblue verse. Both playable and non-playable characters will be making their appearance in the story. To benefit non-Granblue fans, there’s often a short introduction to the character with relevant keywords highlighted as well. There’s a glossary in-game that you can also check, some entries of which may have spoilers for the main game’s developments.
Depending on how you feel about it, RPG mode’s story is not exactly its strongest suit, but it’s unfair to compare this game’s story to the main game’s coming to 6 years of development. It’s a decent enough primer into the world if you’re interested to delve further, but it’s not where you should expect the deepest lore.
RPG mode leans into the systems of the main game: you can buy weapons to improve and slot them into “grids” to make your characters more powerful. Characters themselves also can be levelled up: they will automatically gain EXP at the end of quests. There is elemental advantage player-side only, so you will always deal more damage to the bosses. There is a pseudo-gacha system, which gives you weapons both usable in a grid and as weapon skins.
You can get a partner to play with you online, or have them CPU controlled. On quest completion, you’ll get one-off rewards based on rank and farmable items. To make things easier, you’d definitely want to work on those grids and levels, just like the main game. It’s not necessary if you’re good enough at the game.
If you’re in solely for the RPG mode to clear with a friend for the bonuses, I would say the game is pretty satisfactory in that regard if not exactly the story experience you might expect. It’s basically a fighting game after all, and I won’t be judging RPG mode as strictly as I would do with Relink. The game’s movement and controls would likely depend on how you prefer your anime-esque fighters but it works well enough for me. It’s a beefy enough introduction for FGC to Granblue and vice versa. Enjoy the art and the banter the characters have with each other.