Fighting games have certainly exploded in popularity over the years and Arc System Works have been at the forefront of a new generation of high octane games.
Arc System Works have already taken existing franchises and transformed them into competitive fighters, Dragon Ball and the characters from RWBY have already been adapted.
Granblue Fantasy Versus is based on the incredibly popular Japanese mobile game created by Cygames in 2014.
The mobile game boasts more than 25 million players and it’s only been around for six years. Despite being only available in Japan, it has amassed a large English speaking fan base due to the simultaneous English localisation by the developers.
There’s also the popular anime (now into its second season) streaming on Netflix. Although fans and newcomers shouldn’t worry, Granblue Fantasy Versus serves as a new introduction to the series with an original story, so there’s no need to have played the previous game or even watched the anime.
Granblue Fantasy Versus is a fighter and RPG rolled into one so essentially players are getting two games. True to Arc System Works’ signature style the game looks amazing, each character animation is packed with depth and personality.
GFV’s welcoming aesthetic is filled with brilliant character interactions, captivating cutscenes and all eleven characters have sublime actions mirroring the anime. GFV is simply stunning players will want to perfect the Sky Arts specials just to watch them out of sheer respect.
GFV’s gameplay pulls some mechanics from the mobile phone game giving players a choice of executing special moves through either traditionally inputting commands, charge movements or inputting single-direction plus button commands. Using the simplified inputs is faster and can save players in tight situations.
All eleven characters have a Light, Medium, Heavy, and a Unique Action, that is different for each character. What makes Granblue Fantasy Versus a unique fighter is its ‘cooldown’ system which might seem like a weird feature. After one of four special moves are performed players will have to wait a period of time to use it again, powered up version or ‘Plus’ version of each skill will take longer to ‘cooldown’ but deal way more damage.
But all this will stop button mashers from spamming moves and place more emphasis on the normal attacks and fundamentals.
Another difference players will find about GFV fighting mechanics is that it steps away from the traditional combo system, players won’t be able to string the attack buttons together, no mixing light attacks into medium attacks or medium attacks into heavy attacks.
Instead each character has three auto combos, performed by pressing either the light, medium or heavy buttons. You can cancel a special move at any time during these auto combos.
There’s also a block button which is rare for 2-D fighting games. Players can still hold the back button to block but this easier option can save you from tight situations.
Each character comes with two super moves, a Sky Bound Art and a Super Sky Bound Art, which can only be executed when the player’s health is below 25%. Each Super Sky Bound Art is played out in a beautiful but chaotic cutscene showing off the game’s glorious graphics.
The RPG mode follows Gran or Djeeta depending on what gender you choose. The main character wants to travel to the last sky island where their father is.
In typical RPG fashion players will gather a large crew of adventurers who become entangled in defeating evil empires and battling fallen angels bent on destroying the world.
The overall story is nothing to shout about but engaging enough to serve as an introduction to the series.
Players will traverse the world of Granblue on a grid system, tackling the game’s various missions and completing the conditions for extra items. Each is a blend 2D fighter with a 2D beat-em-up, something like Street of Rage.
Using the core game mechniquies players will defeat various enemies, sometimes with an AI-controlled partner. Winning battles will give player access to new weapons, players can set around 6-7 weapons that can be swapped before each mission.
Each weapon carries a different element that once set, changes the player’s element, enemies will be weaker to different elements so being aware of this is important.
From the offset players will enjoy battering enemies working their way up to the main boss fight, however other than the upgrade system the RPG mode is very repetitive with dull enemies who offer little resistance.
Fights can seem pretty unfair as most mini-boss battles will turn into a 2-on-1 beating with your partner. Final boss offer a bit more of a challenge but once you learn the fight pattern they become pretty simple beyond that.
I would wholeheartedly welcome this RPG mode as a stand alone game like Streets of Rage or Final Fight. Arc System Works have worked on side-scrolling beat em ups in the past like Double Dragon and River City Girls, so I’m sure this could be another venue for the franchise.
Granblue Fantasy Versus is an amazing addition to the fighting game genre, already being announced at major gaming tournaments it’s already making its mark.
Arc System Works has stayed true to its creative identity bringing an action packed fighter with stunning graphics, hopefully we see them bring more franchises to the genre. And while the game does suffer from a dull RPG mode, which does well to introduce newcomers to the series but lacks depth, difficulty and becomes repetitive way too quickly.
The gaming system may be different from the norm, not what fighting may gamers may have been expecting, but they will definitely want to master this system as with the DLC and exposure it’s getting, Granblue Fantasy Versus is set to become a household name very soon.
Granblue Fantasy Versus will be released for PS4 and PC on March 27