Granblue Fantasy: Versus is a fun, flashy and easy to pick up 2.5D fighting game based on the mobile game Granblue Fantasy. Versus proves to be a worthy journey onto more powerful hardware.
Granblue Fantasy is set in the world of Sky Realm which consists of floating islands. The only way to get around is on airships. You follow Gran and his crew aboard the Grandcypher as they encounter a cosmic threat that they inevitably have to face. How do you do this? By thrashing any and everything that stands in your way throughout the main campaign.
Good Story, Bad Pacing
Versus tells its story through its RPG mode which segments the plot with battles against multiple enemies and larger boss battles. RPG mode is where some gameplay systems and mechanics from the mobile game are also carried over. Most notably the elemental system. The weapons one collects throughout the campaign are attributed elements which overcome one another. Water -> Fire -> Wind, etc. But honestly there wasn’t much in the way of visual representation in the elemental change between weapons. Nor was there any change in the weapon your character was holding based on what you had equipped. This would only change when selecting an alternate weapon skin. It just felt like a simple stat change with some useful passive weapon abilities. That made the system feel like busy-work at times, padding the time and difficulty by including recommended elements for each fight. Fortunately, though it did not feel as if the entire thing was inconsequential. By collecting, upgrading, and equipping gear, you could ensure the best possible loadout for each encounter.
RPG mode was not a bad inclusion by any means, it just lacked the gameplay impact I was expecting. It was a great way to get introduced to the cast of characters and the world. It was also a very good way of getting newcomers familiar with the mechanics of combat before jumping into arcade or online matches. However, it did fall short in its pacing of quests and story. At times it honestly felt like the game was scrounging for any possible excuse to get involved in a fight. There were a couple of these quests that could be beaten in about 30 seconds. It just made those situations feel pointless in terms of narrative.
In terms of gameplay, RPG mode is also not where the game truly shines. Combat gets to perform at its best in the versus and arcade modes. These are the classic modes that are any fighting game’s bread and butter. And in Versus its no different. Having the characters go up against one another, picks up the pace of battles considerably. Every move is a flashy display of deadly grace and ability. In these modes you can see your favourite fighters at their best, jumping around, slashing, punching and summoning insane ultimates.
Easy to Learn, Harder to Master
One of Versus’ greatest strengths lies in its accessibility. While characters don’t have a wide and varied move list between one another, they each have a unique playstyle that allows for the variety that is crucial to any fighting game. Take, for example a game like Tekken, where everyone on its roster has their own set of moves, combos and styles. This enables players to find a character that fits within their playstyle. Whether it is swift and frantic or brutal and measured. Sometimes the more difficult to play characters come with rewarding combos as a trade off. This makes Tekken an extremely versatile and deep game in its mechanics; and is a big reason why its a leader in its genre. Yet it does not make it particularly easy for a more casual player to get good at.
In Versus the accessibility lies in its simplicity, the buttons for enabling skills and auto combos are the same for all characters. As a result Granblue is a wonderfully easy fighting game to pick up for the newcomer. While simple, it is far from dumbed-down. Granblue may be easy to play, but it does take a bit to master. This is especially true when playing against real opponents either online or with local play.
What lends to this harder to master feel is the characters’ unique abilities and differences in skills.
Take Narmaya from character pass 1 for example. Her unique ability is to switch stances from the mid-range Dawnfly to the close-range Freeflutter . In each stance she has four main skills and when each has been used and the cooldowns engaged, the player can switch their stance with the unique ability button and gain access to the alternate set. One could even take it a step further and use her transient ability to switch stances mid combo. This dashes her forward and can be interrupted at any time with another skill move which automatically puts her in the alternate stance. This makes for a faster method of switching stances leaving you free to unleash your alternate set of skills on your unfortunate opponent. It’s a microcosm of a fairly simple system that can be used intuitively as players become familiar and confident in its systems.
That’s just one character. Each one has their own skillset and unique ability, some more straightforward than others. There’s Gran who has your straightforward, offensive based skills perfect for newcomers. Then you get more zany skills like Lowain’s which include a move where his two buddies assemble to carry him around like something out of Power Rangers.
Feast Your Eyes
Versus can be visually strong at many points, a little underwhelming in the dialogue scenes of the story mode at time. However, the greatest visual treats come from the battles themselves, especially in the late game RPG mode boss fights. The classic arcade and versus modes also provide a feast for the eyes with stylish animations, colours and well designed character models. I also have to say I love the artstyle in its character, and glossary illustrations. They all have that distinct fantasy feeling, with detail and care given to every aspect of design.
While not every song is especially memorable, there were a couple of decent standouts. The menu music was particularly soothing, with its adventurous theme which brought the image of ships sailing the oceans to mind; fitting for the game’s world of floating islands and airships. There are also a couple of really great hype songs, like the banger that plays when fighting Ferry.
Overall Granblue Fantasy: Versus provides a seriously enjoyable experience that allows itself to open up to new and more casual players without alienating fighting game veterans. It’s got some great depth and wonderfully satisfying visuals in combat.