I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I know little about the Granblue franchise, but despite its characters and story being alien to me, I was instantly impressed by how easy it felt to start pulling off impressive combos regardless of the character. Arc System Works has managed to put out a great fighter for the casual fighting fan, yet those after layered combat systems are still going to find something they like in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. It may not grab you from a story point of view, but the beautiful visuals and satisfying fighting make it a welcoming entry point for the series.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a remix of the 2020 title, featuring more bells and whistles than before. While it doesn’t have much in the way of single player content outside of its story, the online gives you the option to fight with other players around the world, along with a Fall Guys-style mode called Grand Bruise Legends! that lets you take part in a bunch of minigames with others, such as obstacle courses, shooting down a bunch of golems, and more. It’s a nice change to the one-on-one fighting, and will hopefully become more popular as servers start to populate.
As for the fighting featured in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, the focus is more on mastering button inputs and the nuance of different combinations as opposed to remembering every moveset for each of the characters. This makes it easy to learn, where success is garnered by reading your opponents and initiating the right attack at the right moment. Light, medium, and heavy attacks are the standard, but there’s also a special attack that can be used by pressing R1 and a corresponding direction. Some characters have added abilities that riff off the standard moveset, but most are generally easy to get to grips with.
Each member of the roster has a difficulty rating so you know who might be the better fighter to start with, once more adding to the accessibility Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising offers everyone. When you’re in the thick of it, whether against a group of monsters or soldiers, or simply going against another fighter, you can also use an ability called Skybound Arts. These are beautifully animated, but also manage to do some impressive damage, however, learning when best to attack regardless of the move offers some risk and reward mechanics, as opponents can take advantage of your defence when using heavier attacks.
For those wanting to play alone, the story mode sees Gran and Lyria try and work out why their friends are turning against them. It might seem a little confusing at first, especially if you’re not familiar with the series, but there’re various glossary entries to bring you up to speed. It doesn’t flow particularly well, as there’re various stops and starts as it switches between its visual novel exposition, fights, and the menu screen, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the delicious anime art style and charming characters. After all, it’s the fighting where the game is at its best, and with various upgrades and buffs to be equipped as you play, it gets a lot better throughout the chapters.
There’s a ton of customisation for the characters, such as items for your online avatars, weapon skins, character colours, and more. There’s also a mode where you can create custom dioramas featuring different backgrounds and characters. There’s an Arcade mode that lets you play through a series of fighters’ stories, a Versus mode for quick set-up fights, and training that’ll help you learn the fundamentals and more advanced tactics. You’re given a fair amount of modes to play through on your own, all showing off how fun and accessible the fighting is, but they’re all pretty standard for the genre.
I’ve touched on the visuals a little bit already, but Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a seriously beautiful game. Character models in combat are gorgeous, crisp, and alive, and the different stages are all impeccably detailed. It’s anime style is always a joy to look at, whether in the middle of a heated fight or when enjoying the visual novel cutscenes that build the characters and the story. Every now and again, you get some animated cutscenes, and while few and far between, I was always happy to see these characters come to life in interesting ways.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a much-improved version of the 2020 release, with a decent story and plenty of opportunities to customise your characters and fight. The diorama feature is a nice addition, and the online functionality is strong thanks to the rollback netcode, but I didn’t get to see much of the Grand Bruise Legends! mode as few people seemed to be a part of it at the moment. When it gets to the combos and nuanced controls, Arc System Works has nailed the feel of simple battles that allow you to learn skillsets quickly, while at the same time providing you with more detailed mechanics the longer you spend with it.
Satisfying and welcoming combat
Plenty of modes
Story mode doesn't flow
Might be too simple for seasoned fighters