Taking a mobile RPG series and turning it into a AAA fighting game for consoles should be an impossible task, but together with fighting game masterminds Arc System Works, that is exactly what Cygames have managed to do with Granblue Fantasy: Versus. In the time that it’s been out, it’s clear that it strikes a great balance between mechanical depth and accessibility, and bolstered by its value for money, beautiful visuals, and flashy combat, it’s clearly a great experiment for the series. Recently, we sent across some of our questions about the game to Cygames- you can read our conversation with creative director Tetsuya Fukuhara below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"Arc System Works was already knowledgeable of Persona 4 Arena‘s game mechanics, and the flow of feedback for that project helped this title’s development run more smoothly."
What was it about Granblue Fantasy in particular that drew you to it and to the idea of making a fighting game based on it?
First of all, we at Cygames didn’t think it was realistic to develop this game on our own. So, we reached out to Arc System Works (ASW), since they have developed many aspirational titles. They’ve also mastered unique shader and animation techniques while working on projects like Guilty Gear Xrd. We thought their high-profile skillset and Granblue Fantasy’s iconic art style would be a perfect match for Granblue Fantasy: Versus (GBVS).
Taking a property that’s firmly rooted in the RPG genre and turning it into a fighting game must be an interesting process, but Arc System Works did something similar with Persona 4 Arena as well. Did experience on that game and any ideas during its development help out with the development of Granblue Fantasy: Versus?
Arc System Works was already knowledgeable of Persona 4 Arena‘s game mechanics, and the flow of feedback for that project helped this title’s development run more smoothly. We even heard there were ASW staff members who had already been playing Granblue Fantasy (GBF) heavily, so from the beginning we knew we had a team with knowledge of GBF and passion for GBVS.
The competitive scene tends to be one of the first things most think about when it comes to fighting games, and games developed by Arc System Works generally tend to do that as well. What sort of an approach to competitive play are you taking with Granblue Fantasy: Versus?
Arc System Works identified several elements of the genre to be improved upon in Granblue Fantasy: Versus. That included agreeing not to make certain types of stages in GBVS, especially those that weren’t popular in previous ASW titles. In terms of the competitive scene, I feel like our focus on spectatorship is reflected in the game system itself. This title may not be as fast-paced as other ASW titles, but we believe that specific aspect makes it easier for audiences to follow the action. Even viewers who don’t understand the game mechanics can still enjoy watching the battles unfold.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus strikes an interesting balance between having accessible gameplay and having mechanical depth that can still take a while to master- what was behind the decision to go with a more beginner-friendly approach for this game?
Since this game is based on Granblue Fantasy, many mobile gamers were keeping their eyes on GBVS from the beginning, and we’re hoping to open up the door for new players to enter the fighting game arena. There are many younger users in Japan who’ve only played games on their smartphones before, so our priority was to deliver to those generations the feeling of fun that comes with having direct control over their characters’ actions. That’s the reason why we wanted to make commands as simple as possible while still keeping the satisfaction of executing traditional fighting game commands.
"Since this game is based on Granblue Fantasy, many mobile gamers were keeping their eyes on GBVS from the beginning, and we’re hoping to open up the door for new players to enter the fighting game arena."
Roughly how long is the story mode in Granblue Fantasy: Versus?
The RPG mode in GBVS takes approximately 10 hours to complete, without skipping. It could be shorter depending on how familiar players are with the action game mechanics.
How important was the pre-release beta period in terms of collecting feedback from players and making adjustments to the game based on that? Were there any elements in particular that were tweaked or changed significantly as a result of feedback?
This can get misunderstood quite often, but we ran the closed beta test (CBT) to check and measure the network connection and load, not to adjust the actual game balance. However, the CBT was also a perfect place to hear lots of valuable feedback, so we listened and implemented some of the feedback. The biggest change we made was to tweak the input for super skybound arts. It was surprising, though not entirely unexpected, to hear that the command “63214+R” was too difficult for many players. Our philosophical intent was that players should be taking a risk by pressing forward to activate the skill, but we took the plunge and changed it to “236,” which is same as a standard skybound art. Ultimately, we believe it was the right decision to make.
Do you have any plans to launch on the Switch or Xbox One?
We don’t have any plans for that at this time.
With next-gen approaching, have you given any thought to porting the game to PS5?
I’m interested in shorter loading times on the PS5. That said, I don’t see much room for a PS5 port of GBVS to significantly enhance the core experience, so I’m not really considering that right now. However, if we ever release GBVS2 in the future, then we may possibly consider a multiplatform launch on both PS4 and PS5.
Does the game feature PS4 Pro-specific enhancements? Is 4K/60 FPS on the cards?
GBVS runs at 60fps on both PS4 and PS4 Pro. On PS4 Pro, the game is compatible with 4K.
How is the game running on the original PS4, in terms of frame rate and resolution?
GBVS runs at 60fps/Full HD on the PS4.
There’s been a lot of talk of SSDs, which the PS5 is confirmed to feature. What’s the biggest impact it’s going to have on development, according to you?
I was actually quite happy to hear that the loading times for PS4 games will be even faster on the PS5, and having the majority of the PS4 titles available on the PS5 should greatly encourage players to make the jump to next-gen consoles, so I hope that fact will be known and promoted even more than it is now.
"If we ever release GBVS2 in the future, then we may possibly consider a multiplatform launch on both PS4 and PS5."
Speaking of next-gen hardware, something else that the PS5 is going to have is a Zen 2 CPU- how big of a leap is it over current-gen hardware in your view, and how is it going to help development?
To my knowledge, only a few developers in Japan can already develop PS5 games that utilize the technology well beyond what the PS4’s specs offer at this moment. I’m looking forward to some amazing games from Western developers, and we at Cygames plan on working hard to keep up with other studios.