I never had much knowledge of the Granblue universe before 2019. I had only heard about it in passing until Granblue Fantasy: Versus caught my eye during EVO 2019. I quickly discovered that this was a new fighting game from Arc System Works based on a popular mobile game that hasn’t made it to the states yet.
Having already grown tired of Dragon Ball FighterZ and its six different Gokus, I was excited to see what this developer of great fighting games had up their sleeves this time around. Then I didn’t hear much about the game again until its March 3rd release date was announced, telling me, “You need to play this!” Granblue Fantasy Versus turned out not only to be a great fighting game, but one that will stick with me for a long time.
Spiritual Content: Many of the characters utilize magical abilities to fight and are also able to summon powerful beings that they use for ultimate attacks. One of the characters in the game goes by the name of Beelzebub, which is an alternate for Satan. Players will be facing off against fantastical creatures in the RPG mode.
Violence: Players will take control of a character in either one-on-one combat or against a group of enemies. The characters utilize a variety of weapons and elemental abilities and slash, shoot, or stab one another. In one particular scene, a character is impaled and bleeds from the mouth.
Sexual Content: A few of the female characters are sporting some very revealing clothing that includes deep cleavage and partially exposed buttocks. During particular intros and victory scenes, the camera will focus on some of those revealing features. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that there is a transwoman in the roster of fighters who considers themselves to be of nonbinary gender.
Language: The word “a*s” is used.
Granblue Fantasy is an intellectual property that many have probably never heard of. However, I think Granblue Fantasy Versus will catch the eye of anyone who is a fan of Arc System Works, Dragon Ball Z thanks to FighterZ, and anime fans in general. Since the days of the original Guilty Gear, the developers have worked hard to reach a style of presentation that makes players forget they are playing a video game. With GB Versus, they have succeeded in doing that once again. Like their previous work, it looks so much like the anime series that can be found on Netflix.
The plot of the original mobile game and anime is centered around a girl named Lyria, who is being hunted down by a reigning empire. During her escape from being captured, she falls from an airship and is discovered by a boy named Gran. Gran joins forces with a former captain of the empire named Katalina, and the adventure starts from there. In GB Versus, the RPG Mode takes players through a story that acts as a sequel for these events. I can’t say whether that mode sets the stage well enough since watching a few episodes of the anime did that for me so well.
The gameplay modes that come in the package are what fighting game fans are accustomed to seeing, such as arcade, versus, and online options. The biggest exception is the RPG Mode, which is a much more unique offering with full voice acting and cutscenes. While I don’t think the more dedicated fighting game players will spend much time in the RPG mode, it may become a home for casual players to sink into. There is something here for all kinds of players, depending on how you want to spend your time with the game.
The fighting system of Granblue Versus brings some new and welcome ideas to the genre. Instead of operating solely on the use of meters that enable players to do enhanced special movies and super powerful finishers, this game utilizes a cooldown system. This system reminds me of the way cooldowns are used in a MOBA or RPG, which fits the origins of the franchise. You will still need to manage a meter to execute the enhanced special movies, the ultimate attack, and the big flashy desperation finishers. Still, the systems are simple enough to understand for players of all skill levels.
Speaking of various skill levels, the accessibility that Arc System Works has been putting into their games has returned. Each face button has its own auto combo that players can keep pushing to do the combo—pulling off the special moves and more significant attacks is very simple too, by using R1 and inputting a specific direction at the same time. Unlike Dragon Ball FighterZ, which eventually felt too simplified, there are manual input options for more experienced players. I applaud the developers for giving opportunities for both kinds of players and giving the less experienced audience a way to stand up against the veterans.
Another appreciation I have for the design of this fighting game is that the roster feels like it was built on the fundamentals of Street Fighter II, which works well for people that haven’t dabbled in this genre since those days. Much of the manual inputs for special movies are quarter circle and dragon punch motions, while another character’s abilities require some Guile-like charge inputs. Some of the characters in the roster are also more advanced, such as Ladiva, who is a grappling type like Zangief. Then we have Vaseraga, who utilizes armor like Juggernaut and Colossus from X-Men: Children of the Atom. The playstyles of the characters in this roster somehow manage to feel unique and familiar at the same time.
The roster included in the base game is only eleven characters. That may be a small amount, but each character feels lovingly crafted. The work that was put into these characters is much more meaningful than a roster of 50+ characters, with 25% of them being clones or repeats. The current character that I main is the stance-switching and Katana-wielding Narmaya. She is one of the characters in the first season pass that are available now, which increases your roster. If you have the extra funds for it, I recommend getting the character pass bundle, which will only cost you $15 more when buying the game instead of paying an additional $30 for it at a later date.
Is there a particular character you want to learn or get good with? Granblue Fantasy Versus has an extensive practice mode along with a mission training mode. The mission mode will not only teach you the basics, but allows you to learn how to use a character and their inputs too. If there is a particularly popular character online that keeps whipping your backside, there are also missions that help you learn how to defend against them. Training modes in fighting games have improved so much in the last few years, but what is offered here is more than anyone could ask for.
Most of my time with the game was spent playing online, whether I was facing off against randos or my brother. It was in the arcade mode where I’d get my feet wet and practice the basics of a character I wanted to learn. While the RPG mode is a fun concept, I felt that I was spending more time in the menus than I was in an actual fight. Though I did not desire to spend much time in the RPG mode, it’s where most of the character colors and weapon skins are unlocked—so I stuck around as long as I could.
In the RPG mode, you’ll play through the story and get introduced to the world and characters of Granblue Fantasy. My favorite aspect of this mode is that I fought hordes of monsters and henchmen that were not included in the roster. The boss fights were also the most challenging and intense encounters as there were mechanics involved that were unique to these kinds of battles. The RPG-ness comes from the ability to level up your characters and sift through menus full of weapons and upgrade them. There is also an option to have a local or online player join you on this quest in place of your AI party members.
Having minimal experience with the franchise, I feel the story puts us, American players, in a weird place. We’re getting the sequel to a story that we only get parts of in some flashbacks. Thankfully we have the anime, which is available on Netflix and gets the job done. For players like myself, I’d love to see Cygames give us more opportunities to get acquainted with this franchise, such as officially bringing over the mobile game that this is based upon, as its only current translation is an illegal and hard-to-run browser-based version.
While there are better ways to get introduced to this universe, Granblue Fantasy Versus is a significant improvement over its predecessor. It feels as though this game was made with quality at the forefront, while Dragon Ball carried the weight of trying to please fans. The four-hour sessions I spent fighting against my brother in this game are some of the most fun I’ve had with a fighting game in a long time. While I think the RPG Mode could have been done better, it does hold some value and is a new effort. Granblue Fantasy Versus is a fighting game that I can honestly recommend to a broader audience.
The Bottom Line
Granblue Fantasy Versus is some of the most fun I've had with a fighting game in a long time, and one I'd recommend players with varying skill levels.