Arc System Works’ latest fighter is out soon – here’s everything you need to know.
March kicks off with a new contender in the fighting game genre, Cygames’ Granblue Fantasy: Versus. Having released in Japan and Asia and seen over 150,000 units in worldwide shipments and digital sales till now, it’s coming to North America on March 3rd for the PS4. It’ll also release for Steam on March 13th so without further ado, let’s take a look at 15 things you should know before taking the plunge.
Setting and Story
Granblue Fantasy: Versus is based off of Cygames’ popular mobile RPG series Granblue Fantasy. It’s set in a world of airships as protagonist Gran and dragon companion Vyrn meets Lyria, a young girl attempting to escape the Empire. Joined by Imperial Officer Katalina, the story sees the group traveling the skies. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is about Gran, Lyria and Vyrn traveling the world, meeting different characters with whom they have history and fighting to free and recruit them. Fairly simple, all in all, though a glossary system helps answer any questions that any new players will have.
Arc System Works is known for its sleek art-style, particularly in having detailed cel-shaded 3D characters with cinematic cutaways like in Dragon Ball FighterZ and Guilty Gear Xrd. Granblue Fantasy: Versus is much of the same, sporting 2.5D visuals powered by Unreal Engine 4. However, the art-style is courtesy of Final Fantasy series art director Hideo Minaba, giving a high fantasy JRPG feel to the character design and environments.
Roster of Fighters
Granblue Fantasy: Versus has 12 fighters in its base roster. These include Gran, the protagonist and captain; Katalina, a former Imperial Officer and Lyria’s bodyguard; Charlotta, who leads the Order of the Holy Knights; Lancelot, leader of the Order of the White Dragons; Lowain, a happy-go-lucky individual with a crush on Katalina; and many more odd characters. And in case 12 characters aren’t enough…
Thus far, five additional fighters have been confirmed as part of the first wave of DLC. These are Beelzebub, though he can also be earned by completing RPG Mode after his launch; Narmaya, a katana wielder who can switch stances for additional moves; Soriz, a hardened close combat expert; Djeeta, who’s an alternate protagonist choice in the mobile game; and Belial, the fallen angel. Beelzebub is the first DLC character, arriving on March 3rd for PS4, followed by Narmaya.
So with much of that out of the way, how are the actual mechanics? The available attack options include Light Attack, Medium Attack, Heavy Attack, Unique Action, Skill and Guard (with Throw and Overhead moves also available). Each fighter has their own unique play-style but like Dragon Ball FighterZ, there are easy combos for everyone to use. These combos can be executed by pressing the same button three times in a row. Be warned though: Simple combos will get you into the game but winning is a whole other challenge.
Skybound Arts are used to denote each fighter’s abilities, like projectiles and special moves. What makes these unique is that you only have to press the Skill button along with a corresponding direction to execute them (which is referred to as Easy Inputs). For new players, this makes it easy to jump into the game and not have to worry about complex inputs.
Easy Inputs vs. Standard Inputs
To fully maximize the potential of different abilities, you’ll want to learn the actual button combinations aka Standard Inputs. Easy Inputs are, well, easy but have longer cooldowns on Arts while Standard Inputs will have shorter cooldowns. Of course, again, for those who just want to hop in and have fun in local Versus with their friends, Easy Inputs should suffice.
EX Moves and Supers
Skybound Arts have EX Moves which won’t drain your meter but have longer cooldowns. The meter is actually reserved for Supers or, as they’re known here, Super Skybound Arts. They can only be performed when the player is at 30 percent health or less. It’s worth noting that the meter doesn’t carry over to the next round so don’t be afraid to rely on a Super when things are rough.
Coming back to the game’s story, it’s presented via RPG Mode. You essentially travel to different islands, battle enemies and bosses in side-scrolling beat ’em up fashion, and eventually free other characters. Different interactions between characters can occur – with full support for English and Japanese voice acting – and side quests provide some insight into playing any additional characters.
Co-op Support and Hard Mode
RPG Mode comes with local and online co-op support in case you want to invite a friend to grind through fights together. There’s also Hard Mode, which gives new attacks to bosses and makes them more challenging as a whole. In terms of overall playtime, expect RPG Mode to last a good 8 to 10 hours.
Weapons, Grids and Skills
What could extend one’s playtime significantly is the weapon grind. Weapons in RPG Mode can be obtained as battle rewards, from crafting and shops or through other means (which we’ll get into). Each character has different Weapon Grids which allow for inserting a main weapon and several off-hand weapons.
Weapons are divided into R, SR and SSR ratings with SSR being the best. There’s a Main Weapon Aura and one or more Skills for each weapon. The Main Weapon Aura will provide a damage boost if it’s in the Main Weapon slot of the Weapon Grid. Skills come into play when slotted into the off-hand weapon grids and can slightly boost certain types of attack damage, boost damage when on low health, etc. It may sound complicated but you can also have the game automatically optimize your weapon grids for some good results.
Of course, upgrading each weapon requires having duplicates of it, especially with the added RNG of them being SSR rating for the best results. To that end, you can spend in-game currency on the Gacha system in hopes of getting the best weapon drops but there are no microtransactions here. Again, if you’re just interested in the story, then you don’t need to invest heavily into crafting or the Gacha system (though unlocking some weapons does confer alternate weapon skins that can be used in multiplayer).
Tower Mode and Auto Battling
As with other fighting games, there’s a Tower Mode that allows for climbing a ladder of AI fights. You get better rewards as you climb higher but you can also choose to auto-battle, which lets the AI take control of your fighters. Unlike, say, Mortal Kombat 11, this is reportedly not the quickest way to farm rewards but if you’re really, really keen on grinding without actually grinding, then this is a nice option to have.
In a surprise announcement, Cygames announced that Granblue Fantasy: Versus would be coming to Steam on March 13th. The Steam version offers different graphical options along with gamepad and keyboard/mouse support. There’s no cross-platform play or cross-save support with the PS4 version and any codes to unlock bonus content in the mobile game are not included.
No Rollback Netcode
Unfortunately, those looking to invest heavily into the online multiplayer of Granblue Fantasy: Versus may run into some issues. Rollback netcode isn’t present and you’re effectively rolling the dice on whether matches will be smooth or stuttery messes. Feedback from the beta indicated a mix of both, and the frame delay counter is apparently slightly off at all times. There may be fixes and improvements post-launch but you’ve been warned.