For all the free-to-play gacha games that continue to thrive on mobile, very few have attempted to breach the console gaming space. TYPE-MOON’s Fate franchise has seen its share of titles – Fate Samura/Remnant being the latest – yet among those that made an impact, miHoYo’s Genshin Impact and Honkai: Star Rail have been the most significant. For several years, Cygames has tried to break through with its Granblue Fantasy franchise, suffering several delays with its action RPG Granblue Fantasy: Relink, but also unleashing Granblue Fantasy Versus, a fighting game.
Though developed by Arc System Works and showing promise, the lack of decent online netcode and an RPG Mode that was fairly rote with its constant beat ’em up battles made it difficult for both competitive and casual fans to jump in. Now we have Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising – a sequel that updates and expands on the original in new, creative ways. It may still lag behind Guilty Gear Strive, never mind competing with big names like Street Fighter 6, but it’s an enjoyable 2D fighter in its own right.
"Overall, it’s decent – not the greatest story mode in a fighting game and certainly not the longest in terms of actual fights, but it works."
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising includes the entire roster from the original game, including DLC characters. It also features all the content from RPG Mode but wrapped in the new Story Mode. Weapons are completely gone, and instead, players equip skills. You have passive effects like increased attack based on your health, improved critical hit rate and so on, but it’s also possible to heal and resurrect allies, boost their attack and summon raining arrows with active skills.
The dialogue scenes and cinematics from the original story are still fine – the voice acting holds up well, even if many conversations can get long-winded. However, the pacing can still feel slow, and the side-scrolling segments where you beat up swarms of soldiers and monsters still aren’t all that enticing, especially on the default difficulty. Crank things up for the boss fights, and you’ll face some challenging foes whose patterns you must properly learn. Some, like Charlotte, can be exceptionally cheap with their Super Armor though.
The new story arc is a step up, and experienced players can skip the first two arcs to jump right in. It sees Lucilius returning to the world to wreak havoc. Protagonists Gran and Djeeta are pretty much annihilated in their first fight, saved only by newcomer Grimnir, who preps them for the rematch. Meanwhile, other plotlines are playing out at the same time with Ferry, Metera, Yuel and others delving into the mystery of the Grandcypher crew’s doppelgangers and Lancelot and Percival on the hunt for Siegfried, their former teacher who’s gone AWOL.
There are no meaningless beat ’em up sections – only boss battles, which is nice. Still, story scenes are abundant, and if you’re not up to date on the current goings-on, it can get overwhelming. Overall, it’s decent – not the greatest story mode in a fighting game and certainly not the longest in terms of actual fights, but it works.
"As for the original cast, they still feel fun to play. I leaned towards Narmaya with her sheathed and unsheathed attacks but found Gran and Katalina to offer some uniquely aggressive options."
Two other characters join the mix alongside Grimnir and Siegfried – Nier and Anila. Nier utilizes the primal beast Death, which can remain on the field and inflict attacks but becomes useless if the former takes damage. It’s a unique playstyle from everything else, but some may prefer Anila, who can close the distance quickly. Siegfried is a heavier hitter with large sweeping attacks and feels more grounded and powerful.
Grimnir specializes in more mix-ups and quick attacks, and he’s also arguably the most fun personality in the game with his over-the-top mannerisms. As for the original cast, they still feel fun to play. I leaned towards Narmaya with her sheathed and unsheathed attacks but found Gran and Katalina to offer some uniquely aggressive options.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising’s fighting system still employs light, medium and heavy attacks, which can initiate combos. Each character also has a unique action, and by pressing the Skill Button with a direction, you can perform different Skills (though motion inputs combined with light, medium and heavy attacks are also possible). You also have Skybound Arts, powerful attacks to perform with a full SBA Gauge, and Super Skybound Arts available at 30 percent HP, which can offer a strong comeback while looking extra flashy.
While these options sounded good on paper, especially in the original, they could feel limiting over the long term. Versus: Rising adds several new mechanics, like Ultimate Skills – the strongest version of a Skill, which consumes some of the SBA Gauge for massive damage – and Raging moves, which consume Bravery Points. The latter include Raging Strikes, which can break an opponent’s guard, briefly stunning them and allowing for Raging Chain, a follow-up attack to combo into further strikes and Skills for more damage.
"It’s still very much a game of cornering your opponent and chaining combos to inflict as much damage as possible without letting them escape. However, all of this adds up to more strategic and fast-paced fights."
There’s also the Brave Counter, used when blocking regular attacks or after a Raging Strike, ensuring you don’t get boxed into a corner and create some distance between you and your opponent. Of course, you can’t just counter forever since Bravery Points aren’t passively regenerated, but they can help get out of a tight jam.
You also have Dash Attacks, which are great for following up after a Brave Counter and offer a much faster pace, and Triple Attacks, with simple combos now capable of adding a third hit, which can be an overhead or low attack. It’s still very much a game of cornering your opponent and chaining combos to inflict as much damage as possible without letting them escape. However, all of this adds up to more strategic and fast-paced fights, where you look to read your opponent and gain an opening to deal as much as possible. Of course, you don’t want to go all-in with your Raging Strikes and SBA Gauge, lest your defensive options are lacking.
Along with a Story Mode, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising also offers Arcade Mode, where you can tackle all manner of opponents, choosing higher or lower difficulties depending on your preference and earning a high score. Training Mode offers many options, from training in various scenarios to practicing combos and checking frame information for attacks.
You also have online modes, from casual and ranked matches to joining rooms to meet, spectate and battle other players in the guise of a chibi avatar. If you want to partake in some Crane Games and unlock alternate colors for characters, that’s also possible. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to try out Grand Bruise Legends, the battle royale-esque mini-games, due to the lack of players at the time.
"Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising doesn’t feel like a full-fledged sequel to the original as much as an extremely enhanced edition with loads of new content and features."
Of course, the real meat of the matter is rollback netcode. How is it? I’m happy to report that it’s good, even though it depends on the regions and lobbies joined. When matching casually, I faced little to no issues with my ping, and everything felt smooth. Things did get dicey when matching against opponents with 300 ms ping.
Nevertheless, the fights were still playable and didn’t have multiple lag spikes, and even around the 140 ms ping, things felt smooth. Again, your mileage may vary based on connection, location and whatnot, and while I may put this slightly behind Street Fighter 6’s rollback netcode, it’s still pretty well done.
In terms of unlockables, there’s an extensive gallery of cosmetics for all characters, from alternate colors and weapon skins to illustrations and avatars. You can unlock a sizable chunk by simply leveling up with a character or buying them immediately with Rupies, the in-game currency.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising doesn’t feel like a full-fledged sequel to the original as much as an extremely enhanced edition with loads of new content and features. Many of them successfully land, resulting in a deeper fighter with more exciting mechanics and cerebral fights. The addition of rollback netcode ensures a smoother experience online, and the already sleek-looking visuals have been further polished, right down to the expressions in dialogue scenes. If you were turned off from the original and hoped for something more, Rising is worth a look.
This game was reviewed on PS5.
Animated visuals look even better than the original. The four new characters are fun to play, while mechanics like Triple Attack and Raging Strike lend much more depth to matches. Rollback netcode feels solid, delivering some reliable matches even at 300 ms ping. New story arc is also decent and the sheer amount of unlockables is great.
Despite Story Mode's revamps, the first two arcs still suffer from boring beat 'em up battles. Conversations can also get long-winded, even in the new story arc (which isn't too long). You can't see connection quality before joining an online match.