It came out in the US a few weeks ago, but European gamers had to wait a little longer for Granblue Fantasy: Versus to arrive. Developed by Arc System Works, famous for games like BlazBlue and Guilty Gear, this was one we were looking out for. It’s being published by XSEED and Marvelous in the west, and it’s available for PlayStation 4 and PC – we tested the console version.
Of course the fact that this is Arc’s next fighting game is only half of the equation – the other half is that it’s based on Granblue Fantasy. My guess is that much of the appeal to gamers in the west has to do with Arc’s involvement, since Granblue Fantasy is a brand of mobile RPG games and anime shows that hasn’t really made it here in a big way (yet).
The end result of the two meeting is that Granblue Fantasy: Versus features an RPG mode which is quite heavy on the narratives and background for the various characters from the source material. While this is mostly fan service that is lost on those just wanting to play the latest Arc fighter, the RPG mode also brings a few novel ideas with it – battles aren’t just one on one but also play out as large scale brawls between multiple characters, which is interesting and fun. You also get to upgrade your weapons over time in a variety of ways, so if you look past the lore-heavy stuff there’s an entertaining game mode here.
Unfortunately, the game’s kind of thin on game modes other than that. There’s a traditional arcade mode, a versus mode and online multiplayer, and other than a few tutorials that’s about it. The roster of available fighters is also small, with less than a dozen fighters available at launch and five more fighters reserved as DLC that’s coming post-launch.
Luckily, what’s here is vintage Arc System Works. The anime style visuals are gorgeous and well animated, and will definitely strike a chord with fans of the likes of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue. This also extends to the character art you see outside of the battles, so in terms of presentation this title feels spot on – especially so if you’re already a fan of the source material (check out some of the anime footage and look at it side by side with the game to see what I mean).
And although the roster of fighters is small, all of the characters are distinct, they’re well balanced and they look great. It’s also one of those games that’s easy to learn, yet challenging to master. The move list for each character is relatively short, so you’re spending a lot of your time learning when to execute which attack or evasive move in order to be successful. Arc also implemented a gauge-based system for special moves in the game, and it’s easy to turn a blocking stance into an evade move, allowing you to counter. Excellent fighting mechanics all around, and it’s a game that’s fun from the start and just gets better from there.
The biggest thing that’s holding back Granblue Fantasy: Versus, however, is a lack of content. I’ve already mentioned the character roster and the gameplay modes, but the same is true for the number of locations you can fight in. There’s narrative content for fans of the source material, but if you’re mainly an Arc fan then this can feel light despite being a potentially excellent fighter.