Granblue Fantasy: Relink and Rising interview: “It has been a really great experience”

by on September 12, 2023

I was lucky enough to attend a thrilling Cygames showcase recently where I got to interview some of the key names behind the two forthcoming Granblue Fantasy titles. “Fuelled by caffeine and anime” after travelling half way around the globe for the sake of their art, the amenable Tetsuya Fukuhara and Yasuyuki Kaji were on hand not only to deliver a presentation, but to answer a bunch of my nerdy questions.

As someone who is quite unfamiliar with the Granblue Fantasy RPG series, for my first questionin the interview, I asked how the guys would sell their new Relink game to someone who is brand new to the series, and what its main selling points were? As you will see from throughout the spellbinding interview, they had a lot to say. Yasuyuki Kaji, who has previously worked on classic PlatinumGames titles like Bayonetta 2 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, was the first to pipe up.

“I think for me, the biggest selling point would be the unique setting – it’s a world in the sky, and you don’t often see such bright and cheerful visuals that often – and also the scenarios found in Granblue Fantasy are quite unique, and accompanying those unique scenarios is our unique art style, which we have become a little bit renowned for, as well as our unique and enjoyable soundtrack. Granblue Fantasy also offers a bit for “traditional” RPG fans something that is kind of disappearing from console titles these days, so something that includes the roots of what makes an RPG an RPG, with those really good art and music features. For Relink specifically, it is an action RPG with those specific elements and traditional Granblue Fantasy feel in terms of art and music.”

Kaji-san then went on to delve into the world of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.

“Rising is a weapons-based fighter. Even though other fighters like Guilty Gear, BlazBlue and Soul Calibur have their own art styles and weapon-based fighting, we believe that this offers a unique game with unique characters and stories, and no matter whether you enter the universe from Rising, Relink or the core mobile title you will get to know the Granblue characters, feel the Granblue universe and will have a lot to explore now between the three titles.”

At this stage I pointed out that I was actually very familiar with the fighting game, having reviewed the first entry in the series and fallen deeply in love with it. The sequel feels bigger and better, and the new characters fit in beautifully. I asked Kaji-san how has it been working with legendary developer Arc System Works, and what do both sides bring to the table?

“So far as development goes, Cygames is mostly in charge of the Granblue Fantasy IP, the characters, settings, story and text is handled on our side, whereas Arc as you know are fighting game developers so they are in charge of the battle system, the balance of the game and programming. The GVBS development team actually has a large number of Granblue Fantasy fans within Arc so they have been really great partners to work with as they really understand what makes Granblue Fantasy such a special property to work with. So even without us having to explain what we would like to put into the game, they already understand on their end exactly why we want to do things a certain way – so it has been a really great experience. Both sides are working really hard to make something that fans will really love.”

I pointed out that the game has characters that are far from conventional in their design. There are “traditional” styles like charge-based, power types and all-rounders with orthodox quarter circle motions and the like, but there are some really radical characters with embellishments like controlling monsters, and things like Ferry’s crazy use of her whipping chains. From this, I decided to ask what their favourite characters to use in the game were.

Kaji-san it turns out, is a power guy. “I love all of the characters, but I suppose if you forced me to choose one, then I do like characters that are really big and powerful so Vaseraga would be my pick.”

As for Fukuhara, he said, “I like using charge characters in all kinds of fighting games!”

Moving back to Relink, and the art style in particular, I noted that the characters are very distinctive and could be drawn from Arthurian legend – something quite particular to Britain and its rich mythology. I wondered what kinds of influenced were at play when designing them?

“There is no one inspiration for how characters are created”, said Kaji. “We do explore certain motifs like Arthurian legend, with Lancelot and the four knights, and when we are deciding on those motifs we like to choose names, colour palates to invoke certain moods; however just picking the names and colours of legends of old is perhaps not the best approach so we also include more subtle elements to really make them come alive and respect the original material.”

As a composer who I have a great deal of respect for, and someone who has soundtracked my gaming life since I was a little boy, I had to ask in the Granblue Fantasy interview just what was it like working with the great Nobuo Uematsu? It must be incredible to work with someone who is such a bona fide legend!

“I feel the same way!”, Kaji-san stated gleefully. “The first day that we met in the studio I was like “Whoa, this is really happening!”

I pointed out that the feedback on the day for Relink was overwhelmingly positive from the collected journalists at hand. I asked what their expectations are for the game in Europe, being a relatively new IP? I felt that it has the potential to take off in the West and with the very inclusive way there are multiple modes to cater for different levels of gamer, it could prove a very popular release for both action role-playing fans and existing patrons of the 35-million strong mobile game fanbase.

Fukuhara acknowledged the differences between the territories immediately. “So compared to Asia and North America, we realise that GBF isn’t as well known in Europe so we would like this to be an introduction for European gamers to what the Granblue universe is so this is a great opportunity for us.”

Kaji-san noted, “we have been putting a lot of work into making Relink an amazing action RPG with pure unadulterated gameplay moments, so we hope that European gamers recognise that this isn’t just a collection of characters from a mobile game but a fully fledged RPG experience in itself.”

In terms of the demo I played, I was curious as to whether the game would stand up as a single player experience. I need not have worried, as Kaji explained during my Granblue Fantasy interview: “The single player story takes about 20 hours from start to credits. Though it’s an action RPG, the game is jam-packed with content—especially in the second half of the game, where we ramp up the density of experiences. To top it off, after the credits roll, there’s an additional dozen or so hours of post-game content for players to enjoy”.

Kaji also revealed his love for the soundtrack to the game, adding “We’ve put a lot of love and passion into every track. Some of the original Granblue songs were composed by Nobuo Uematsu, but all of the tracks found in Relink, with the exception of some arrangements, were composed by Tsutomu Narita”. Before my time ran out, I wanted to also know about the crossovers we could see, but Kaji was tight-lipped, saying only “We continuously consider crossovers with other games, so I won’t say there’s zero chance. But we can’t answer anything regarding Arc System Works’ plans”.

Sadly at this point my Granblue Fantasy interview slot drew to a close, but I could have happily sat and quizzed these two charming gentlemen for the rest of the day. As it was, I had to leave the plush theatre setting and make do with spending another few hours playing on Versus Rising and enjoying the hospitality on offer. It was a splendid afternoon playing two superb games, with my appetite well and truly whet for their forthcoming releases.