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By Nicholas Taylor 03rd Apr 2020 | 2,702 views
Granblue Fantasy, upon which Granblue Fantasy: Versus is based, is a mobile game that has taken Japan by storm and become one of the most popular intellectual properties domestically since it launched six years ago. With such fame and prosperity, it's inevitable that more games branching out from its world would appear sooner or later. One such game is Granblue Fantasy: Versus, which has had a staggered release across regions this spring, but is now finally available for purchase worldwide.
As a fighting game enthusiast I was already heavily invested in getting the game and spent the lead-up to its release becoming more familiar with the source material, in order to hopefully maximize my enjoyment of Granblue Fantasy: Versus once it arrived. Given what a stellar product it is, though, I feel in retrospect that I probably would've loved it just as much even if I hadn't gone the extra mile.
The first thing to comment on is that Granblue Fantasy: Versus is an absolutely gorgeous game. Developed by Arc System Works (backed with publisher Cygames' money), they've managed to enhance even further the gorgeous graphical style used in previous fighting games like Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragon Ball FighterZ. This brings both the colorful world and the interesting cast of characters from Granblue Fantasy to life in a brand new way; one that's sure to feel fresh even for fans of the source game.
Although I've been playing fighting games at a competitive level for many years, and thus know the intricacies of how they tend to work quite well, I can still clearly see that Granblue Fantasy: Versus offers a lot of options for players who may not be experts in the genre. There are things like easy inputs via a special button and autocombos that you can perform by repeatedly pressing the same button. These aren't things that will put you on a par with expert players, nor are they the only way to do things (you can still manually input your move commands), but they allow new players to learn the game without feeling overwhelmed, and at the same time more experienced fighting gamers don't have to feel like the game is dumbing itself down to its own detriment.
Speaking of players who may not be too keen on fighting games (at least not yet), Granblue Fantasy: Versus comes with an expansive RPG mode that can be played in local co-op with friends or family. It's similar to classical beat 'em up games like Final Fight or Double Dragon, but with the Granblue Fantasy: Versus engine, meaning that you have a vast variety of moves in your arsenal that you can perform to take down the enemies around you. There are also special boss battles throughout this mode, which are reminiscent of the original mobile game Granblue Fantasy, but they take place on a much larger scale. You'll need to learn the bosses patterns and take them down by exploiting their weaknesses by using the right equipment and striking at the right time, and it feels incredibly rewarding once you do.
If you're someone who isn't familiar with the original Granblue Fantasy title (and a lot of people outside of Japan aren't), the game also comes equipped with a gallery, character profiles, and general world information, which lets you read up on characters in the roster and the NPCs you encounter in RPG mode. There's even a fighting game glossary, which lists common terms competitive fighting game players and commentators tend to use, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the eSports side of things if you so wish.
The roster at launch hosts 11 different characters. This may sound fairly small compared to most of its current rivals on the market, but it's important to remember that many of those games are sequels to series which have existed for decades. If you compare it with those same series when they were in their infancy it doesn't fare as badly. Regardless, we all know it's about quality over quantity - and the quality in Granblue Fantasy: Versus is absolutely top notch. You have a close-ranged grappler who wants to be in her opponent's face with Ladiva; a wacky, jokey character called Lowain who uses his friends and strange gadgets to fight for him; a wind-magic using archer who's great at keeping her opponents at a distance in Metera; and typical all-rounder characters like Gran and Katalina who are solid across the board, without being too heavily specialized in a single area.
As with most modern fighting games, Granblue Fantasy: Versus features online play, in which you can either search for ranked matches, go into massive meeting lobbies with players from your general region, or create private rooms to invite your friends and play with them. Even in private rooms there's no need to sit in a queue and wait for others to finish, because there are four two-player set-ups available, allowing individuals within groups to play simultaneously.
The online play itself works fine for what it is. I'm personally extremely sensitive to lag in fighting games, so I don't enjoy the online play as much as the average user probably would, but even for a stickler like myself it's great when I hook up with a friend who lives relatively nearby and we can play stable matches that feel as close to offline as you're going to get over netplay. There's a gauge at the top which shows you how many frames of delay the lag is currently causing, and when I play against friends from my own country or neighboring ones it usually stays locked at just one frame of delay, which is perfect (note: I live in Sweden, others' mileage may vary).
The major drawback to Granblue Fantasy: Versus are the title's questionable DLC practices. Five additional characters were released within two months of the game's initial release in Japan, and due to the staggered release dates it means that both North America and Europe have ended up with paid DLC at launch. Given that the game's initial roster stands at just 11 characters, having five more fighters available at launch which cost you an additional sum on top of the regular price tag is likely to make any consumer feel a bit irked.
Overall, Granblue Fantasy: Versus is a fantastic experience for anyone who enjoys fighting games, and probably a great one even if you're not a big fan of the genre. There's plenty to keep you entertained and it just oozes personality from every single pore of its being. It's beautiful, charismatic, and beautifully recreates the expansive world and intricate character relationships from Granblue Fantasy in a new and exciting way. Unless fighting games are the worst thing imaginable to you, I'd give this a solid 'recommended' stamp every day of the week.