There is a lot of different kind of spin-offs. Sometimes companies rely on them as a way to increase the success of a project they have no faith in and other times it’s about reaching a new demographic. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is the latter type. With characters fans are familiar with, Arc System Works, the company behind BlazBlue, Guilty Gear and more, developing and a huge fanbase, it’s easy to see why fans are excited. However, with so many licensed games trying to capitalize on the idea, is this a bad fighter with well-known characters or another Dragon Ball FighterZ? Here’s our Granblue Fantasy: Versus Review.
Similar to the mobile game, there is a story in Granblue Fantasy: Versus. There isn’t a whole lot to it, basically, a mysterious force is corrupting your friends and places fans of the series will be familiar with and you need to stop them. Naturally, this is only the tip of the iceberg and you need to work together to overcome a greater threat or there will be massive consequences.
As you might have guessed, it really isn’t the most interesting story around. Fans of the series will likely enjoy seeing how a number of characters come into play but without the franchise background, you’ll likely be just as confused as the characters that no longer remember you. Still, it works as a decent introduction to the franchise and still offers plenty to do.
All of this takes place in a sperate online mode, where instead of fighting, it’s more of a side-scrolling beat ‘em up experience. That being said, it’s honestly one of the most hollow experiences around. There are weapons to collect, bosses to defeat and challenges to overcome but rarely offer a challenge. Most of the time, the only things that will give you a run for your money are bosses. These fights are more mechanic based and require dodging specific attacks or knowing where to stand, though most times it’s just three minutes of fighting a large character instead of 50 small ones.
Ironically, hard mode is a massive departure from the original experience. Not only does it require you to actually take the weapon and RPG side of things seriously, due to a staggering jump in stats, but the AI is also a lot different. On normal it’s a bit of a pushover, settling on juggernaut mechanics and a lot of health to catch players off guard. With hard, the AI is far more aggressive, with some of the fights having bosses that can devastate your health if given the chance. Still, the core experience is a bit hollow, not unlike Dynasty Warriors. Fight enemies, increase your stats, overwhelm bosses and enjoy. The ability to ask for help online also further reduces the difficulty, as I ran into Japanese players that were able to drop bosses that could easily defeat me in seconds.
For most enjoyment will come through the fighting game side of things. Granblue Fantasy: Versus’ greatest strength is that it’s a great introduction to fighting games. None of the controls, mechanics or elements are particularly difficult to understand. Most combos are performed by basic commands like forward punch or jumping kick, with every character having special attacks that have a cooldown. This prevents some players from relying too heavily on certain moves, though your success actually depends on how well you read your opponent.
As you’ll quickly learn online, games are won and lost based on reading and punishing your opponent. Good players will rely heavily on changeups, meaning they go from attacking two different positions you need to defend and waiting for openings. For a game with such simple commands, most windows are very small, a huge limiter for newcomers, but also the largest opportunity. Often times I would let opponents attack and then in the middle of their combo attack them. Even if you’re new, watching how opponents react to you will give you insight into how you’re supposed to handle any given situation. Maybe you grab, possibly you dodge, sometimes you’ll just use your special attack, all of which comes from trial and error.
If you don’t want to learn through story or losing online, there is always offline versus, arcade and training. While the first two are self-explanatory standard matches, training offers all kinds of different insight into play. In addition to offering a really simple overview of all the mechanics and giving each character combos, there are trials that help you overcome some annoying mechanics. The goal isn’t to highlight a play style that isn’t good and often frowned upon, as much as giving players an idea of how they’re supposed to overcome projectile spammers or other often complained about play styles. It won’t make you great, it won’t even make you good but it is a great first step to becoming competitive.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus Review – Verdict
While Arc System Works did a fantastic job bringing this RPG to the world of fighting games, it makes for a tricky title to recommend. For offline players, most of the content is behind RPG mode, which also has additional colors and weapon designs, that are more tedious than anything else. It goes from being too easy to oddly difficult. It isn’t something you can’t overcome, it just takes a while to be engaging and when it gets there it will likely be too much. Gameplay makes it easier for newcomers to get into, as the cost of veterans having a massive advantage. You need to know when and how to change momentum in your favor and without that you will absolutely lose every fight you’re in unless your opponent is as inexperienced as you. Still, if you love Granblue Fantasy or just fighting games in general, it’s a solid experience that will give you new characters and mechanics to play around with.
[Editor’s Note: Granblue Fantasy: Versus was reviewed on PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]