If you’d told me a decade or two ago that we’d be seeing a massive glut of 2D fighters, I’m not sure I’d have believed you. I’d have then resumed beating you up in Soulcalibur. Turns out that’s absolutely what happened, though, and now we’ve got older classics like Guilty Gear receiving new installments along with fresh franchises like Under Night. One of the latest trends is stapling a franchise to a fighting game, as we saw with the recent hit Dragon Ball FighterZ, and since that one did well we shouldn’t be surprised with the recent development and localization of Granblue Fantasy: Versus. It’s based on the popular Granblue Fantasy mobile game, which hasn’t seen a Western release, but you don’t need to know what’s going on to mash some buttons and mash some faces…right?
In a world filled with airships, knights, witches and the like, warriors battle to to defeat an evil corrupting force. These are characters that you’re probably…well, not familiar with from the mobile game, since that didn’t come out here. That’s fine. We’re mostly concerned with Charlotta, a tiny knight with a tiny sword and a giant crown who’s easily the best character design in a game full of interesting character designs. Notably, there’s only eleven characters available at launch, so Charlotta’s basically our winner by default. She’s great.
You can learn a fair amount about these characters from Granblue Fantasy Versus’ RPG Quest mode, which is something of a cross between a brawler and fighting game. You can gain levels and collect gear to power up your characters. It’s interesting for what it is, but all things considered the RPG elements are a little tacked-on and you’re better off playing the more standard Arcade mode if you want to stand a chance. The actual fighting is what you’re here for, after all.
It’s great, by the way! Granblue’s a pretty straightforward fighter, especially by Arc System Works standards. It’s easy to play and learn, there aren’t too many bizarre systems going on and it follows the Persona Arena series’ tradition of reducing the importance of complex move execution.
You’ve got several sets of meters that represent your special moves, with these going on cooldown for varying periods based on whether you perform their inputs or use the shortcut button, as well as allowing for more powerful moves with a longer cooldown. You can perform basic combos, but the focus here is largely on landing strikes and hit confirms rather than memorizing long strings. Charlotta, for instance, is fantastic at slowly advancing on her opponent before cornering them with powerful combos. You should probably play as her!
It’s a pretty good time and it’s supported nicely by Granblue Fantasy Versus’ gorgeous presentation. Like the modern Guilty Gear Xrd games, Granblue looks like a playable anime, though the aesthetic here is a little closer to the slightly-choppy look of 90s anime. This is a touch that fits especially well with the slower pace of battle and it makes every fight look and play like a dream. As for the online and multiplayer modes, they’re present and accounted for, with online working as well as could be expected assuming you aren’t playing against someone on the other side of the planet.
The small roster and lesser-known franchise might make Granblue Fantasy: Versus seem like a questionable buy, but this is one of those cases where quality trumps quantity. It’s a great fighting game for newcomers and experienced players alike. Time will tell if Granblue is able to attract and maintain an audience like other anime fighters, but it’s certainly got the chops to keep up.