Ever since they stepped into the scene, Arc System Works has established themselves as a powerhouse developer of 2D fighting games. Look no further than the likes of Guilty Gear, Blazblue, Persona 4 Arena, and Dragon Ball Fighter Z as prime examples of fighting games done right. Arc is basically an institution in the Fighting Game scene and most if not all of their titles are worthy of being part of the Evo annual lineup.
Adding to Arc’s already impressive lineup of titles is a new 2D fighting game based on a Japanese mobile phone RPG Granblue Fantasy called, well… Granblue Fantasy Versus. Granblue Fantasy is also a huge media franchise in Japan, with an anime adaptation and an upcoming console RPG on its way.
We won’t fault you for not being familiar with Granblue Fantasy as it isn’t exactly a mainstream franchise oustide of Japan, so it’s actually a surprise for Arc to make a fighting game based on a rather niche Japanese RPG and releasing it to both Japanese and Western audiences. Is this new entry to the fighting game genre a masterpiece in the making despite its not so mainstream source material? Here’s our review of Granblue Fantasy Versus.
Arc goes newbie friendly
Granblue Fantasy Versus (or GBFV) is a 2D Fighting Game with the Arc System Works touch of magic. That means the game has their trademark 2D looking 3D character models, a deep fighting system, stylish cinematic super moves, and an awesome soundtrack. At the same time, GBFV is also a bit of a departure from their usual efforts.
What players may still find familiar is the 3 attack button and 1 unique action setup that Arc has been known for. For example, one character has his Unique Action consume items to buff or heal and there’s one that buffs his attacks. There’s also still the usual hard hitting and stylish super moves, now called Super Skybound Arts.
The similarities end here, as one thing you’ll notice from GBFV is that while still having air blocks, gone are the usual mechanics like air dashes and the more technical ones like Guilty Gear’s Roman Cancels. What we got here is a more simple experience with one button combos, a slower pace, simpler move inputs, and average length combos.
You can block by pressing back or the R2 button, and that same R2 Button can be used to dodge or cross over an opponent. Special moves can be pulled off with a simple R1 button, either by itself or plus one direction except Up, which is just perfect for players who aren’t into memorizing traditional d-pad motions. On the other hand at least, veterans still have access to those same d-pad motions for pulling off character specials, and those looking for a deeper fighting experience will be happy that GBFV also features more technical things like high/low mix-ups and “Just blocking” (blocking at the last minute before an attack).
GBFV incorporates a cooldown system where a special moves will not be available for a short period after use, though the length for a cooldown is shorter when using the dpad motions as compared to the using the 1 button shortcuts. Having to wait for your special attacks before using them again does give off an RPG feel and it really feels fresh seeing it incorporated into a fighting game.
These mechanics may sound like Arc dumbing down the game, but it’s actually not the case. Using the easier inputs and 1 button special moves may give you an easier time but mechanics like the cooldown mentioned above make it a well balanced game overall. More importantly, opting to take the easier route doesn’t take away from a solidly fun experience of a great fighting game.
Waifu’s and Husbando’s, Granblue syle
The base roster for Granblue Fantasy Versus is 11, the current total being 13 with one unlockable and one DLC character already out for purchase, and even more coming soon. While the current roster may look scarce compared to most fighters, it’s not necessarily a bad thing since it also means being able to familiarize yourself with the characters better, with each possessing unique personality and appeal.
GBFV has assembled a wide and diverse roster of fighters from the Granblue Fantasy lore. These characters should already be known by fans of the RPG but newcomers are sure to find someone that looks appealing to them. Granblue Fantasy the RPG, and by extension Versus, has a wide fantasy world of floating islands and airships as well as a collection of awesome looking characters of different appearances and races. There’s bound to be a favorite you can find just from Versus alone.
If you fancy yourself a grappler, look no further than the massive Ladiva, with full motion moves ala Zangief. If you want to go standard, Gran and Katalina are pretty much the “Shotokan fighters” of the game, your Ryu and Ken if you will. Want a charger type like Guile? Then Charlotta may just be your fighter. There’s really something for everyone and rest assured, you’ll find someone that will suit your style of play within minutes.
Arc’s trademark graphics give everyone life, with flashy moves and a style that is so distinctly “Arc”. Simply viewing the intro and victory sequences and you’ll notice much effort was put into animating these characters. You could say it’s complete faithfulness to the source material and a big service to fighting game quality in general.
A fighting… RPG?
Interestingly, GBFV sports an RPG Mode that has you playing through an original story and in contrast to the usual fighting game campaigns, you play RPG mode just like a 2D brawler, with the option to go at these missions alone or with a partner.
If it wasn’t obvious enough, Gran is the lead character of the story but you’re free to use whoever you’ve unlocked as your playable character and AI partner. In contrast to versus mode, you’ll have to look left and right to fight enemies in these missions, but the direction you’re facing doesn’t get in the way of you performing your moves if you don’t prefer the shortcuts. If anything this, is better implemented than Arc’s Guilty Gear Isuka where one button is dedicated to changing the direction you’re facing. There are also boss missions called Raids where you fight a boss who has a bigger life bar and more powerful attacks. Fortunately, the game won’t let you tackle these missions unprepared.
Completing missions will net you weapons, experience, and money. Surprisingly, there’s actual progression in the RPG mode that will have you equip weapons, gain buffs, and much more. GBFV also draws from its mobage roots as you gain random weapons with different elements, as well as the ability to get to draw tickets where you get a chance to win a powerful weapon that you can equip. Most importantly, the RPG game mode doesn’t feel tacked on and it’s a fun playthrough, even though the whole campaign doesn’t take too long to complete.
On the flipside, it can get a bit too monotonous at times as the missions just involve beating up grunts and completing Raids. The storyline isn’t anything deep either, as it just gives an excuse for main character Gran and his crew a chance to meet up with the other characters in the game and fight a big baddie in the end. Newcomers to Granblue Fantasy may be a bit lost too in the narrative as nearly everyone have apparently met each other already so there’s a sense of familiarity when they talk to each other. This actually also reflects in the fights as many of them interact on a very personal level, and that actually makes it fun to sit through the intro and victory scenes even if you have the option to skip them.
You can’t talk about GBFV without mentioning the music, and this game’s soundtrack is simply amazing. Ark System Works have proven that they can make great game music too, and you can add GBFV to their already impressive resume, having music that fits the fantasy setting of the game beautifully while adding that upbeat flair. There’s bound to be a few tracks here that you’ll find memorable, with some being remixes of music from the RPG. Special mention has to go to Katalina’s theme and the end boss’s theme, to which we rocked to for quite a number of times.
It may seem very nitpicky, but one drawback is that newcomers may find the urge to steer clear largely because of their unfamiliarity with Granblue Fantasy. Give it a shot and a chance, and you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised. GBFV has a gallery that provides information on all of the terms, races, and different areas of Granblue Fantasy to familiarize yourself with, aside from housing all the media that you unlock. Interestingly, there’s also backstories to the NPCs you see and meet in the game, and while they are not yet part of the roster, it’s probably not wrong to think that they may join the fight in the future.
Overall, Arc has succeeded in making a fighting game that’s accessible to both experts and newcomers alike. The characters they’ve chosen to represent the Granblue Fantasy world are also so full of personality and their great designs make you want to know more about them. You can tell that great care was taken to animate each one (especially Lowain) and bring the world of Granblue Fantasy to life here. GBFV is a visual treat, with stunning backdrops and visual effects that make it stand out in a field of fighting game titles out there. Arc has done a great job of incorporating the world and mechanics of Granblue Fantasy into a fighting game, all while introducing the cooldown and shortcut system, as well as easters eggs like other Granblue Fantasy characters seen in the game’s different stages that fans of the RPG will surely recognize.
What we liked:
- Memorable characters
- Fantastic soundtrack
- Fighting mechanics that cater to newcomers and veterans
- Trademark Arc graphical and game design
What we didn’t like:
- RPG mode can be a bit repetitive
- Paltry roster
- Steep SRP
If you’re a fighting game enthusiast, GBFV is a great addition to your library for its fun fighting system and great character. Despite having to wait (and pay) for new fighters later on, the base roster is enough for the average player and won’t overwhelm you too much. The addition of an RPG mode is a unique mechanic that breaks the ice and is a welcome mode that adds great value to the package.
The world of Granblue Fantasy is vast but GBFV is a great introductory point to get to know the world, leading you to multiple properties spanning different mediums. There is a ton of content to be had here and while the SRP of this title is quite steep compared to the other fighting games, it can be easily justified because of its high production value paired with polished gameplay that fans and newcomers will appreciate.