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Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising review — Small steps

Granblue Fantasy Versus was a fantastic step forward for fighting games. It almost entirely removed the genre’s biggest barrier to entry, complex inputs, and instead focused on the fundamentals and reading your opponent. It’s easily my favorite fighting game of recent years because it’s easy to pick up and play even without much experience in the genre. Unfortunately, its online scene died off pretty quickly for a variety of reasons, like not having rollback netcode. Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is here to remedy that while adding new characters, modes, and adding even more depth to battles.

First up, a refresher on how the game plays. This is a four button fighter with light, medium, heavy, and unique. Aside from unique, when you connect with an attack you can continue pressing buttons to perform a combo. Each character has access to at least four special moves shown just below their health bar. These have command inputs you can perform to use them, but you can also simply hold a direction and press R1. You can further modify these moves by pressing one of the attack buttons simultaneously with R1. The light and medium specials won’t cause that special to enter a cooldown phase, while the heavy and unique will on top of the latter consuming a portion of your Skybound Art gauge. The SBA gauge builds as you fight and, once it reaches 100%, you can press R1 and L1 together to use the whole bar for a super move. If you’re at critical health, you can also press the unique attack button at the same time for a Super Skybound Art.

There’s a bit more to the system, like pressing light and unique together to throw your opponent, but those are the basics. New to Rising is the aforementioned unique versions of each special as well as a guard break you can perform by pressing medium and heavy together. You can only do this three times per match as indicated by the pips above your health bar, but it’s a great way to stop your opponent from turtling. The changes to the system give you a lot more options in general and keep rounds moving. I especially appreciate all the new ways to spend meter as in the original it was almost a one trick pony.

Old characters have received some tweaking, Gran and Djeeta have more differences now, and new characters add some great variety to the roster. My main is still Narmaya (all DLC characters from the original game are included here), but I really enjoyed playing as Anila and Sigfried. Anila has a lot of combo potential and is able to keep up the pressure at a distance, while Sigfried can sacrifice his own HP for an attack boost then hammer away at an opponent with some very satisfyingly animated attacks. Nier is also very interesting as she’s essentially a puppet character, though that’s not the type of character I gravitate towards. This is a big roster, and I think everyone will find a few characters to like.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising Arcade Mode Gameplay - PS5 [GamingTrend]

As someone who enjoyed the RPG elements of the original’s story mode, however, it’s disappointing to see them completely removed here. It was annoying to grind for weapons and upgrades, but the system needed refining not removal. You do still have equipment of sorts, like a general modifier to boost certain stats and two guard spells which can restore health or fill the SBA gauge, but you’re basically playing the normal fighting game here. For those who missed out on the original, the story is included here but with the fat almost completely trimmed. This is both good and bad as the original had some uneven pacing, but some of those battles were nice changes of pace – particularly the fights against hordes of minor enemies instead of other playable characters. Again, I think Rising goes too far in the other direction here as there are long stretches of cutscenes between battles.

If you don’t feel like going through story mode to unlock things like characters or glossary entries, the game provides a few ways to skip it. For one, after connecting to the online, you can import your save from the first game to pick up right where you left off. You can also press R2 and L2 on whatever section of the story you want to skip (it’s divided into 3 parts, with part 1 being the original game’s story, part 2 covering that game’s DLC characters and patch, and part 3 being entirely new). I skipped past part 1 personally, and it’s great to have a way to unlock everything if you need to, for example, set up multiple consoles for a tournament.

The story does leave several important threads dangling to be resolved… eventually. Maybe Rising will receive a patch adding new story, or they’re saving it for Relink or another fighting game. What’s here is interesting if very hard to follow with how often words like Causality are thrown around. There is a glossary you can access to define any words in yellow, but those definitions usually pose more questions than they answer. Even so, the emotional beats still land despite not making much impact. No one really comes to fighting games for the story, but it’s always great to have and I’m interested to see where it goes.

Rounding out the single player modes are Arcade, Versus, and Training, all of which are self explanatory if you’ve ever played a fighting game before. Every character in arcade mode has two endings, one for the normal route and one for the true route which is unlocked by finishing 6 rounds with an SBA or SSBA. Versus is your normal local multiplayer mode, while training lets you practice with a character of your choosing. There are also some tutorials you can play through, though these jump from the absolute basics to much more advanced things like proper spacing. Compared to Street Fighter 6 or Skullgirls, this is a very lackluster tutorial mode for beginners or even those with a smaller amount of experience in fighting games.

We didn’t get much time with the online mode unfortunately, but from the few matches I played it’s incredibly stable and feels exactly like local matches. If you want to jump straight into a match you can select casual or ranked matchmaking, while the Lobby lets you walk around with a chibi avatar of your choosing (including characters from Uma Musume Pretty Derby for some reason). Here you can jump around, talk with other players, play soccer, and spend in-game currency at a crane game to unlock things like weapon skins, character colors, and items for the figure posing mode. I didn’t get to play it at all in the final game, but from the beta the Grand Bruise mode is a fun, Fall Guys-like side game if you want a bit of a break from battles.

The vastly improved online does come at the expense of the offline experience sadly. If you lose connection to the server for whatever reason you will be booted back to the main menu, even if you’re in story mode watching a cutscene. I had to redo a boss fight because of this, so because of my awful internet I chose to simply turn off my PS5’s wifi when playing solo. Not being connected also means you won’t be able to unlock anything aside from characters in story mode. That means character colors, weapons, and figures you can unlock by leveling up a character or purchasing in the in-game shop might as well not even be in the game. I can’t afford PlayStation Plus at the moment, and it’s super disappointing there’s no way to unlock any alternate weapons offline as that customization was a cool part of the original. PC is probably the way to go here as online play there isn’t tied to a subscription service.

Unless you’re a Granblue connoisseur, you might not notice the subtle changes to Versus’s visuals in Rising that look preferable in some areas and detestable in others. Cygames opted for deeper, richer colors in the characters’ clothes as well as greater contrast between highlights and shadows, making everything pop a little more. But it’s where they chose to distinguish certain highlights and shadows that don’t work as well in some cases.

If you haven’t played the original Versus in a while, you might miss the fact that Gran, and other characters, also look different. In Rising, Gran’s eyes are a lighter brown and they’re cloudier, giving him that anime possessed look. The subtle lines in his face aren’t as defined compared to the original, as well. Some are hidden behind the increased highlights. You may also notice his hair is slightly redesigned, too. It seems like Cygames wanted to return the characters back to their original design. Again, many changes you won’t notice, but the ones you do, you may not like them. I certainly feel like I could take it or leave it.

David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.

Podcast Editor | [email protected]

Anthony Shelton hosts and produces the Gaming Trend podcast and creates opinion videos occasionally on YouTube. He carries some of the strongest opinions among the staff and is generally harder to impress. But if impressed, he sings developers' praises just as loudly. He typically plays everything except horror and most RTS, but genres he gravitates towards are platformers, FPS, racing, roguelikes, fighting, and loot-based games. He has quit Twitter and uses Threads. Follow him at iamashelton.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising review — Small steps
90

Excellent

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

Review Guidelines

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a small step forward from the original, but all those tiny tweaks make it feel that much better. Online matches feel seamless, the new and changed characters have a lot of variety, and the story is a fun if incomprehensible ride. However, it takes a bit too much of the first game out including offline unlockables or even getting kicked back to the main menu in single player if you lose your connection. Still, its strengths outweigh its weaknesses by a wide margin and is an absolute blast to play.

David Flynn and Anthony Shelton

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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