For some genres of games, launching right as the world shuts down can be a benefit, especially if the title happens to focus around simple tasks in a colorful world. Not so much when the game happens to be a fighting game where competitive online play requires quick reflexes that are dulled from being sick and an awful netcode. Such was the case when Granblue Fantasy Versus released in March 2020 in the West, just as everything shut down. Despite having some solid mechanics and the weight of an incredibly popular franchise behind it, Granblue Fantasy Versus never really had a chance to reach the success it could have. Now Cygames has revitalized the fighting game with a “sequel” of sorts in the form of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. Bringing an impressively sized roster, numerous tweaks to its fighting mechanics, and finally rollback netcode, is this the true potential of the skyfarers?
In a rather interesting take, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising takes the original game’s storyline and keeps it almost entirely, though with some expanded content and plenty of trimming. Unlike the original release of the game, a lot of the RPG mechanics and various elements, including co-op capabilities, have been removed entirely from the story mode. Instead what is on offer is a more trimmed down and streamlined story presentation that still retains all of the same charm as the original release and a bit extra. Those who played the original game will find that only the final few chapters of the game’s story mode offer new content, and players will even be given the option to jump to that point if they so wish. That being said, there are extra chapters and bits of storyline that were added in as DLC to the original release that players will miss out on if they do this.
Instead, players can choose to simply play through the entire thing again from the beginning, enjoying the adventure once again as it tells the tale of Gran, Lyria, and the rest of the crew of the Grandcypher airship on their unique journey separate from the main storyline of the mobile game. This way, players will be able to easily enjoy any content that was added post-launch to the base game that they may have missed out on over the past few years, as this content focuses on the various DLC characters that were released over the last couple years such as Cagliostro, Yuel, and others. The brand new story content is handled fairly well, though it does feature far more dialogue compared to actual fighting and, as with all of the content, those who are familiar with Granblue Fantasy as a whole as well as its characters will get the most enjoyment here as it does little to explain certain relationships and events. It is also nice to note that the various character introductions and winning dialogues seem to have been improved quite a bit, with every character having unique lines depending on who they are facing off against.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising feels a bit faster paced than the original but still retains many of the simpler mechanics that made the fighting game easy for beginners to grasp but a depth of mechanics for most characters to give those wanting to really dig into the fighters a chance to master their various nuances. Players will still make use of light, middle, and heavy attacks as well as unique special attacks for every character with each character having auto-combos that players can string together with ease should they choose. This even includes the ability to unleash a fighter’s special moves with a tap of the button, often being able to extend combos or finish them off with a flourishing blow. In fact, this element has been expanded upon in Rising as players can now choose to spend meter with their special moves to unleash amplified versions that have short cooldowns but often provide extra damage or special effects during the fight.
Another new element that has been added into Rising are Bravery Points, or BP. These points offer a variety of unique elements during a fight as both fighters start out with the same amount and will spend BP to perform special attacks known as Raging Strikes and Brave Counters. Raging Strikes are unique attacks that are incredibly powerful and have a bit of a wind-up but can crush an opponent’s block and leave them vulnerable for punishment while Brave Counters will blow an attacking enemy away and give the user a chance to breathe. The interesting element of spending BP is, the less BP a fighter has, the more damage they end up taking. This means that frivolously wasting your BP will result in taking a lot of extra damage should your opponent land a blow, meaning players will need to balance saving their BP and utilizing it for certain moves.
One of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising’s biggest strengths is the fact that it is launching with a massive roster compared to the original release. Sporting twenty eight fighters compared to only eleven from before, the game now features a wide-array of characters that fit every playstyle and even nuanced versions of these styles as well. Accompanying this large roster of fighters is an expanded tutorial and training system that is quite frankly some of the best player’s will find in a fighting game. There are standard move tutorials and combo strings but also explanations and examples of where a player’s chosen character might be weaker against other types of fighters, such as a grappler being able to punish a rushdown fighter. This assistance is great to help open the game up more to newcomers wanting to avoid getting crushed online by allowing them to do a bit of extra research as well as learn more about their favorite fighter’s moveset and capabilities.
It is worth noting that the game’s story mode, as mentioned earlier, is far simpler than before. While all of the story content is the same, the mode has been gutted as far as complexity goes, with numerous RPG elements and factors such as the weapon grid removed in order to streamline the experience. This is good for those simply wanting to enjoy the story for the first time or diving back in to see the brand new story chapters added into the end of the game, but it is disappointing that the more complex elements have been removed.
Perhaps the biggest improvement that comes with the release of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is the fact that it now utilizes the much beloved rollback netcode for its online matches. Previously the original version of the game only offered delay-based netcode, a highly dated system that still appears in some fighting games despite the community largely embracing rollback, and it is clear as day when playing online now how much rollback improves the online matches. Online play is smooth as can be, even when playing against some less than stellar connected opponents. This allows for matches to flow well without any issues outside of a few times opponents quit out of a losing match.
The whole online lobby system has also undergone some nice improvements, as players can still roam around the lobby as their own chibi avatar of either a Granblue character or even Umamusume and take part in simple fights at arcade cabinets while they queue up for ranked or casual matches, play a crane game for collectables, or even take part in a soccer match using their chibi avatars in a cute little competition. Another interesting online activity players can take part in is called Grand Bruise. Rather than fighting other players directly, players will instead use their chibi avatars to compete against one another in Fall Guys-esque series of minigames and races to the finish with the last one standing being the winner. This little set of mini-games is spiced up by having weapon pick-ups that can be used on other players and is a fun little diversion, though some of the mini-games can run on a bit too long.
Audio & Visuals
Arc System Works has always impressed with their unique approach to creating gorgeous looking characters in fighting games and that remains true in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. Similar to the original release, Rising features incredibly detailed and gorgeous looking models for the now impressively sized twenty-eight character roster with all of the characters having plenty of flashy moves to unleash on enemies. It is also nice to note that the Skybound Arts now come with extra variations as well should players utilize their stronger, more limited, versions. The stages that players fight on are mostly the same as the original release and feature a solid collection of varied backgrounds to battle against, though it is a bit disappointing that not much has been done to improve these stages.
It appears that the English voice work from the first game has been re-used almost entirely for Rising, which works well enough as this was the first time that any of these Granblue characters were given dubwork in the first place. The new characters added to the roster as well as the new story content has also been given an English dub as well with the characters fitting in rather well, though it is worth noting that some of the sidekick characters that cheer on the player do not have an English dub and are only available with Japanese voice work. Players can freely swap to the Japanese voice track for all characters as well should they prefer that route. The soundtrack features great music that combines a mixture of new and old tracks to help keep things feeling fresh as players battle it out.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is billed as a sequel and while it may feature plenty of new mechanics as well as the much needed upgrade to rollback netcode, in many ways it feels like more of an enhanced re-release at times. By combining the entire released roster of the original with four new fighters at launch, and more paid DLC already announced, players will have a wide roster of fighters to choose from and enjoy the game’s easy to learn and challenging to master gameplay. Despite the rather odd feeling nature of this sequel, it truly does feel like Arc System Works has hit their stride here, offering a vibrant and fast-paced fighter featuring an impressive roster of favorite Granblue characters that anyone can pick up and play.
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