After having many years of success in Japan, the Granblue Fantasy game series is finally making its way to the west with the release of Granblue Fantasy Versus, a fighting game based within the world of the RPG franchise. Granblue Fantasy takes place in a kingdom of magic, following the adventures of The Captain whose encounter with the mysterious Lyria leads to their two souls being merged. The two set out for the island of Estalucia in order to escape the Erste Empire that wants to imprison Lyria and abuse her powerful abilities. On their quest, they are joined by The Captain’s friend Vyrn, a lizard-like creature who’s adamant he’s a dragon, and Katalina Alize, a former Erste Empire lieutenant who betrayed her country after learning what it wanted with Lyria.
During Anime Expo 2019, Granblue Fantasy creative director Tetsuya Fukuhara sat down with GameSpot to discuss the reasoning for Cygames introducing Granblue Fantasy games to English-speaking countries via a fighting game as opposed to the popular mobile RPG. “We have this assumption that in the western countries, there’s a very solid fanbase for fighting games,” Fukuhara said. He went on to explain that Granblue Fantasy has been around for over five years already, and throwing western players straight into that ongoing RPG narrative might have been too tricky to attract new players.
Granblue Fantasy: Versus – Closed Beta Test Gameplay: Daigo Vs. Fuudo!
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Versus is designed with a simple, fairly standalone story that introduces the main cast of characters and establishes their relationships with one another. The original Granblue Fantasy game–which is coming to the west after Versus as Granblue Fantasy Mobile–also didn’t seem like the right pick for a debut title given the smaller mobile market in western countries, Fukuhara explained. He said Versus, as a console game, made more sense.
As such, Granblue Fantasy Versus is designed with accessibility in mind. The game is developed by Arc System Works, the same studio behind 2018’s Dragon Ball FighterZ and BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and features a simplified version of those two games’ mechanics. “Dragon Ball FighterZ, BlazeBlue: Cross Tag Battle, and Granblue Fantasy Versus have a shared DNA with how combos activate,” Fukuhara said. “Those mechanics have a good reception within the fighting game community. That said, compared to FighterZ and Cross Tag Battle, we are designing Versus to be even more beginner-friendly and making a lot of the mechanics implemented in those two titles more simple to grasp. Versus has shorter combos, for example, and you’re able to activate special skills with one button,” Fukuhara continued.
“We don’t want Versus to be labeled as just a beginner’s fighting game, though. There is some depth for those seeking a higher level of competition. One feature that contributes to that is a cooldown timer for each skill, so you can’t spam the same special attack continuously. That’s a strategy that isn’t implemented in [FighterZ and Cross Tag Battle]: knowing that if one skill is in cooldown, you’ve limited your opponent’s next action.”
In designing Versus’ characters, the team picked the main fighting game archetypes from other popular franchises first and then tried to fit Granblue Fantasy’s most important characters into these types of fighters. “There are very typical fighting styles that you want to put into the initial roster,” Fukuhara said. “Like characters that grab and throw their opponent. Fast characters. Slashing characters. Characters that are good in mid-distance,” Fukuhara continued.
“We’re not too worried about implementing characters that wield the same weapon because we do have a clear concept for each character. For example, of the characters already announced to be in the game, there are four sword-wielding characters. However, Charlotta has a small figure and wields a huge sword. Lancelot has dual blades and each of them more closely resembles a dagger. Katalina has a rapier. Both in visuals and in the way they fight, there’s a clear distinction.”
With the game’s release approaching, the team is already looking ahead to post-launch content. After working on a mobile game for years, Fukuhara knows the importance of maintaining a player base after a title launch. “The original mobile game is already five years old and we haven’t lost any hype towards future updates,” he said. “We know what our fans love. We are confident that we can continuously give them this same hype for Versus through downloadable content. Not just adding characters, there’s a lot of things we can do. Versus is going to be an esport title as well.”
Despite feeling some pressure in ensuring Versus succeeds, Fukuhara is adamant that the game’s goal is to introduce western audiences to Granblue Fantasy. In that regard, everything special about the RPG has been implemented in some capacity. “The first thing we definitely needed to have in Versus was quality graphics, including detailed backgrounds,” Fukuhara said. “Also the music and the sound system. Those two aspects needed to be of the highest quality.” The aforementioned music is especially good. Some of it, Fukuhara explains, is from the mobile RPG, but new songs have been composed for Versus’ story, including character themes.
“There are also beloved characters from the original franchise,” Fukuhara continued. “There’s pre-battle banter for each character. Aside from that, being able to activate skills is something similar to what is done in the mobile RPG. Having that same feeling of activating skills but within a fighting game format is something that we wanted to do.”
As a final remark, Fukuhara teased, “Also, there’s something very, very important that gives that Granblue Fantasy feel to Versus, but the details will be announced in the future.” Those details, along with the release date for Versus, are expected to be revealed on August 3 during Granblue Fest.
Granblue Fantasy Versus is scheduled to launch on PlayStation 4 in 2019.