Review – Granblue Fantasy: Versus

There are lots of cases in which companies decide to release small versions of AAA franchises for mobile phones, with examples like Fallout Shelter, Pokémon GO, and Injustice coming to mind. But you rarely, if ever, see someone trying to AAA-ify a franchise that was originally developed with phones in mind and then proceed to publish it for consoles. This is the herculean job that was given to Arc System Works, as they were given the task of transforming the gacha-focused F2P series Granblue Fantasy into a fully-fledged fighting game for PS4, Granblue Fantasy: Versus. What was surely a recipe for disaster ended up being the opposite, thankfully enough.

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This is no hyperbole. Ladiva is one of the greatest gaming divas I’ve ever seen.

First of all, a brief history lesson, because I’m pretty sure you, just like me, have no idea of what the heck Granblue Fantasy is. This franchise follows your typical gacha-infused turn-based gameplay that is present in a ton of mobile games out there. Although, there is one notable example being Raid: Shadow Legends, that one game we’re all sick and tired of hearing about whenever we decide to watch a video on YouTube. Granblue Fantasy is a massive hit in Japan, grossing hundreds of millions of dollars and even spawning an anime series.

One would expect for their first foray into console gaming to be a Switch port or a “premium” version of their F2P games, just like Gameloft did with Modern Combat. But nope, we ended up getting a fighting game developed by Arc System Works instead. It features the staple elements from said company: anime graphics created on Unreal 4, fast-paced battles, fantastic framerate, and the inability of just saying “Round 1, Fight!” before a match. I’m definitely not complaining.

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Whenever a word in yellow shows up during a dialogue section, you can access the glossary and understand who the hell they’re talking about.

The first thing I do whenever I boot up a fighting game for the first time is to jump straight to the training mode to get used to the controls and to check the game’s overall roster size. This is the moment in which I assumed I would despise Granblue Fantasy: Versus to the bitter end. The game features a whopping ELEVEN fighters in its roster. That was shocking, to say the least. I used to complain about Arc System Works’ BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle featuring only twenty characters, but that was in another level of absurdity. To make matters worse, there are very few solo arcade modes, so things were looking grim at first. Then I started playing the game’s RPG mode and everything changed. For the better, might I add.

Think about the largest and most expansive single-player mode you’ve ever played in a fighting game. It might be Super Smash Bros Brawl‘s Subspace Emissary. Ultimate‘s Adventure mode. Soul Calibur 2‘s Weapon Master mode. That expansive third-person adventure mode from Mortal Kombat Deception comes to mind. Granblue Fantasy: Versus cranks things up to eleven with its RPG mode. The game ain’t lying; this is a huge story mode that mixes the game’s overall fighting mechanics with side-scrolling beat ’em up and RPG elements. Aspects such as experience points, stats, gear, main quests and sidequests, dialogue trees, and a huge storyline.

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Ma’am, please, this is still rated T for Teen.

The plot is a bit overwhelming at first, as Granblue Fantasy: Versus throws you right into the middle of the party, with a lot going on right from the get-go. The game does a fantastic job by offering tons of character profiles and the option of accessing a glossary in the middle of a conversation. This lets you know who the hell is talking and what on Earth they’re talking about. Even though the plot is initially confusing, it’s easy to get invested in it. The pacing is decent, the soundtrack is fantastic, and the voice acting is surprisingly robust. The fact that everything is animated with Arc System Works’ traditional techniques, just like Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragon Ball FighterZ, makes things even more pleasant.

But wait! This is a fighting game, so we also need to talk about its controls and overall gameplay. Being a game from Arc System Works, you would assume that Granblue Fantasy: Versus would feature deep yet newcomer-unfriendly fighting mechanics, but it ended up being the opposite. The controls are very simple to grasp, with most special attacks being triggered by pressing a button with a desired direction on the d-pad, not unlike Super Smash Bros. That doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off some nonsensical combos with these simple controls, however. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is the epitome of “easy to learn, hard to master”. No wonder the game will already be part of EVO in its first year of existence.

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I can’t read or say the name “Lowain” without immediately reminding myself of the rapper…

This might be the first time in which a fighting game with such a horrendously small roster size hasn’t infuriated me to death. Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ single player campaign is so lengthy and enjoyable that it made me almost forget that there’s also an arcade mode in it. It felt more like a side-scrolling action RPG first with an arcade fighting mode added as a bonus, and I’m fine with that. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is yet another fantastic outing by Arc System Works, cementing the company as probably the best fighting game developer of our day and age.

 

Graphics: 9.5

Arc System Works has once again managed to deliver a visually outstanding game thanks to their skills with the Unreal 4 engine. The game runs like a dream, but it does feature some noticeable framerate drops during cutscenes.

Gameplay: 9.0

Unlike most Arc System Works games, this title features simple and straightforward mechanics that are ideal for newcomers. Although fighting game experts will also love the sheer amount of combos they’ll be able to come up with.

Sound: 9.0

Not only does Granblue Fantasy: Versus feature a pretty good soundtrack that ranges from classic to J-Rock, but it also features an impressive amount of voice acting. And it’s all in English!

Fun Factor: 8.0

Granblue Fantasy: Versus‘ lengthy and meaty story mode makes up for the pitiful roster and overall lack of meaningful arcade-oriented modes. It’s a great side-scrolling action RPG first, fighting game second.

Final Verdict: 8.5

Granblue Fantasy: Versus is available now on PS4.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of Granblue Fantasy: Versus was provided by the publisher.

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