Granblue Fantasy Versus PC Review – Fantastic Fun
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4
Developer: Arc System Works / CyGames
Publisher: XSEED Games (PC/NA) / Marvelous Europe (EU)
Release: 13th March 2020
Fighting games are a joy to play… at least good ones. And what better occasion is there to celebrate fighting games than with a new Arc System Works title. While their titles may cater strongly towards the anime or as cool kids call them “otaku”-crowd, let me emphasize just how good their games can be if they’re given a fitting property like Granblue Fantasy Versus.
First of all though, let’s talk about the obvious side dish: The RPG mode, marketed as a whole single player campaign with its own story, mechanics and presentation.
While that’s certainly part of it, the basic RPG mode is nothing more than 2D beat’em up, where you fight against dozens of mob enemies with the same mechanics and abilities known from the actual fighting game. In each of the 2-4 minutes long levels, you basically battle through the very few backgrounds, listen to some of the story and occasionally encounter a boss. While the story itself is mildly entertaining, the stiff presentation is problem that can be seen throughout the whole thing. From the very few enemy variations, to bosses being mostly known enemies but with a different set-up and a very tacked on upgrade system, everything feels like a big tutorial rather than anything able to stand its ground.
Either way, all this would have still worked as a nice tutorial and entertaining little 5 hours or so, especially in its online coop mode. Unfortunately, Granblue Fantasy Versus’ online systems aren’t… good. The RPG mode’s implementation in particular sticks out like a sore thumb considering you need to host each of the 5 minutes long levels individually. Individually. Select a level, set a password, wait for your friend to join, play 5 minutes, do it all again. Do you see the problem? As a result, I never managed to endure it online, a true shame since it would have worked so nicely.
The online mode as a whole seems thoroughly underdeveloped. While it boasts all the cute facettes of Arc System Works like the charming arcade, the chibi avatars you use when waiting in the physical lobbies and the abundance of stickers and emotes truly fill the whole thing with life. Unfortunately, having to readjust your map selection every time you start the game (as it resets to “auto” for some reason), needing 3 button presses to queue behind a machine (and 3 new ones everytime you are kicked from the sat) makes the whole thing a way more tedious step back from older games like Guilty Gear Xrd, which I still don’t get.
Either way, with all these setbacks out of the way, it’s time to truly appreciate Granblue Fantasy Versus for what it is: An approachable, comparably easy to learn, great fighting game. To ensure it’s as approachable as possible without sacrificing too much depth, Granblue Fantasy Versus decided to offer easy inputs for every character’s moves, instead of relying solely on the initially harder to learn combined quarter circles or Z-motions, though those are there too of course. In turn for relying on those easy inputs you may have to trade in a bit damage or cool down, since all special moves actually have a cooldown too now, but have a very easy entry into your toolset. Naturally, to truly become good at it, you will have to switch to the actual motions, which proves how it doesn’t really suffer from these new options. Additionally, due to the cooldown, Granblue Fantasy Versus also set itself apart from other more footsie based fighting games. Every special move has three stages, each with their own cooldowns, leading to an interesting new resource management component.
On the other hand, it’s still your pretty straightforward 4 button fighting game without lying a big focus on long combos like Guilty Gear to enhance its accessibility. So, instead of having 4 main attack buttons, one serves as an overhead one, which isn’t actually a shortcut but actually its own complete button. Similar to Guilty Gear’s Dust button, it’s a slow attack you can easily be hit out of and doesn’t really have any combo potential for anyone but makes one grab immune and well, grants easy access to an overhead. Naturally, it’s use is also highly limited and based on mind games with your opponent, which I already appreciated about the aforementioned Dust.
On top of that, every character either plays completely different to the rest of the cast or has at least a few quirks. While Gran, Katarina or the DLC character Djeeta feature your well-rounded set of moves, Granblue Fantasy Versus stays true to other ArkSys Games creativity. Lowain is an asshole with the best lines in the game, fighting with his bros and summoning a giant imaginary goddess when he’s low on health, while Charlotte has a super extensive moveset with dozens of mixup tools but lacks any sort of range, while Ferry is your hard-on zoner (especially powerful here). On top of that, the DLC characters seem to lack not a single bit behind with Zoris delivering some of the best hit feedback in the game and a really appealing “punching” combat. Only Djeeta seems somewhat odd, being a female Gran with a few tweaks I don’t quite see worth the asking price. On top of that, the maps also come with a price, making this fighting game costier than most of the competition.
Last but not least though, the presentation as a whole is once again stunning as well. Featuring beautiful animations that truly show why even 3D games should be hand-animated, with the goal of blending 2D animation techniques with the more efficient 3D approach. While not on par with the flashy entrances like Guilty Gear Xrd has, Arc System Works’ proven blend of the perfect anime rendering and experience in animating them to truly seem as expressive as their 2D counter parts crafts an experience truly out of this world. While Dragon Ball FighterZ has similar strength, Granblue Fantasy’s designs and expressive world are another factor playing into why Granblue Fantasy Versus looks like the most expressive and beautiful anime fighter besides Xrd Rev2 and before the visual behemoth Guilty Gear Strive will grace our screens (though that is another topic).
Granblue Fantasy Versus is a great fighting game. Yes, not only anime but in general. It features everything one could ask for, both in being approachable, in the depth and everything else you might want from this genre. Fueled by a great array of DLC characters and a style as stylish as not many others, it’s definitely a must play title, even for its comparably high asking price.
[A Review Code was provided by XSEED Games]