Players familiar with Granblue Fantasy will likely think of its mobile JRPG, which is still wildly popular despite being almost 10 years old. Expanding into other platforms, Cygames collaborated with Arc System Works to branch into the fighting game genre with Granblue Fantasy Versus. Praised for its gameplay mechanics and simple controls, the game allowed newcomers to the genre to join the ring right from the beginning.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising takes a step further by building on Versus’s foundation, improving character attack combos, streamlining gameplay flow with crossplay, and adding useful Dash Attacks to a player’s strategic arsenal! The game’s online beta featured all the characters introduced in Versus, yet also allowed players to try out one of the promised additions to the roster with Siegfried. Check out this hands-on article which digs into Rising’s combat potential, and its improvements that set high expectations for this sequel once it debuts.
▍A Sequel that Flavours Newcomers
As the majority of content featured in Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising comes from its prequel, it’s not necessary for newcomers to complete GBF Versus. Most of Versus’s characters are locked behind DLC but are free to play in its sequel. Combat is also similar, but mechanics that can significantly impact inflicted damage like Overdrive and Rush are removed in Rising.
Unfortunately, the beta test did not allow players to try out the game’s story mode so any changes made in its plot cannot be verified at this time. Based on the available information surrounding Rising, there isn’t much that the prequel offers to players uninterested in the mobile version.
▍Street Fighter-esque Combat Focusing on Skill
Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising carries over most of its prequel’s mechanics, with a simple 3-hit combo, character skills, and a powerful Skybound Art as a finisher by filling the character’s Skybound Gauge. Character Skills are powerful for requiring only a few inputs to execute, as they can buff the character’s abilities, counter attacks, or even close the gap between the player and an unsuspecting opponent.
At first glance, these simple inputs can be disappointing to players used to more technical fighters that rely on complex inputs to defeat opponents. Combat in Rising lies on the mundane side in most cases, which stands out from other Arc System fighters such as Blazblue and Dragon Ball FigherZ. On closer inspection, Granblue Fantasy: Versus, and by extension, Rising takes cues from the Street Fighter series as trapping your opponent at the wall is the best strategy in a fight. Notably, the limited number of launches makes it difficult to juggle the opponent throughout the match without empowering your character’s skills with the light, medium, or heavy buttons.
While empowering a skill will enhance its power or change the skill’s properties, it also places the skill under a cooldown and prevents the player from using it again until it’s resolved! To make matters worse, the opponent can also see the cooldown on their screen and change their strategy with the new information.
Luckily, Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising solves this problem through its own set of complex inputs, countering the perceived “casualness” that Granblue Fantasy Versus and Rising have a reputation for. By inputting a complex input for an enhanced skill, the cooldown for that skill is significantly decreased compared to the same skill if used normally. These complex inputs may seem short compared to the lengthy combo strings that make Street Fighter so iconic, but this direction helps make Rising less punishing and emphasizes the player’s ability to string these together in succession; an excellent balance between accessibility and player skill.
▍Special Moves Are As Beautiful As Always
Just like its previous installment, Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising takes advantage of the Skybound Gauge, GBF’s version of Street Fighter’s V-Gauge, requiring the consumption of the bar from its mobile RPG to execute certain attacks. Filling over time by launching attacks, taking damage, and guarding just before an opponent’s attack lands, rewarding players who take an active approach in a fight. Consuming the entire Gauge allows a character to execute their Skybound Art from the RPG while consuming half of the Gauge can strengthen certain skills or release a Guard Break to start a combo.
The Skybound Arts is an enjoyable way to replicate the character’s own skills from the mobile RPG but also shares the RPG’s trait of being unreliable in battle. Using a Skybound Art won’t delay your next attack, but it can be blocked or dodged by opponents if they expect it; usually when there’s a gap between attacks.
The Skybound Gauge system is another gameplay mechanic that works well for both newcomers and veterans. For newcomers, the Skybound Arts is a vivid way to defeat opponents, especially when it’s evolved into a Super Skybound Art. Experienced players can track the resource, understanding what tools the opponent has access to at the moment and if they’re in range to unleash a Super Skybound Art!
▍The Legendary Dragon Slayer is Making Everything Exciting!
With all the new playable characters joining the roster of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, unfortunately, you can only try Siegfried in this beta. Borrowing his gimmicks from the RPG, Siegfried can consume some HP with his Manigance skill to strengthen his attacks while it’s active. His other attacks consist of clean, efficient swipes with his sword that make him well-rounded for any player.
Despite being a legendary dragon slayer, Siegfried only has a single projectile to work with and is at a disadvantage against opponents who can outrange him. The knight’s attack range is shorter than expected, and there were moments where either the opponent or I overestimated his hitboxes and got punished for it. Careless usage of his attack buff is a trap players will need to avoid, as it only resets the buff’s duration. However, there’s nothing stopping Siegfried players from activating it again to drain HP if they’re aiming to unleash his Super Skybound Art.
Siegfried’s Super Skybound Art tops off his debut in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, referencing an event in the mobile RPG as the man savagely cleaves through his opponent. Flashing back to his allies at the apex of the Ultimate not only highlights the man’s checkered history but is the perfect send-off to complete the match.
▍New Changes Are Exciting Shakeup
With how clean the combat system is in Granblue Fantasy: Versus, it’s a shame that the Dash Attacks introduced in Rising add fairly little to the overall combat strategy in comparison. Operating similarly to the Dash Attacks present in Under Night In-Birth, this new form of attack works best as a way to catch opponents off guard as it lacks super armor to power through attacks. Players who use it recklessly will leave themselves open to getting trapped in an opponent’s combo, or whittled down by projectiles.
The removal of the Overdrive status is an important change that brings focus back to the player’s skill, as the substantial buffs it provides removed most of the combat difficulty while it’s active. Playing GBF Versus: Rising also shows that the Rush attack would likely be too powerful with certain characters, as it quickly closes gaps and provides invincibility at the end of the animation. Any player with enough practice can take advantage of the control that Rush attacks create, and the only limitation to using it is 50% of the Skybound Gauge.
Based on the information surrounding Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, the decision to produce a sequel with similar mechanics is confusing. Most of the gameplay changes could be achieved through game updates, which are typically less costly than the development of an entirely new game. The fighter’s graphical demand isn’t very intensive either, so taking advantage of the PS5’s engine doesn’t seem to be the likely reason. It’s difficult to conclude the reason why Rising was developed when its prequel is extremely successful, but I can only speculate that balancing issues warranted Rising’s existence over improving Versus.
▍Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising Is a Welcome Improvement on a Masterpiece
The beta test of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising shows Arc System’s chops in the fighting game genre, as combat suffered almost no lag between opponents. Its performance has set a high bar, even though players cannot practice their characters outside of the queue and cannot spend time playing the promised lobby minigames between matches.
Playing against other players was an enjoyable learning experience, as each match provided a valuable learning experience regardless of the results. Granblue Fantasy: Versus Rising’s greatest strength lies in being able to see your skills improve between each match, and the game’s controls help encourage its players to experiment and learn from each action they take. Whether the player is new to the Granblue series, a veteran of the fighting game genre, or coming from this game’s prequel, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising has something for everyone and is worth checking out!
All screenshots and videos in this preview were taken from the game’s online beta test that runs between July 28 to July 30, which may change when it officially launches for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC on November 30