Fighting Review

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising – Review

Some things never change. War, the passage of time, and fighting games getting “upgraded” releases. Whether it be due to the pandemic or other outside factors, the first Granblue Fantasy Versus didn’t quite catch flight despite having a passionate fan base to support it. Well, it’s now round two. Much like a phoenix, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is flying through the flames and breathing new life into this franchise-based fighting game.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is technically a sequel of Granblue Fantasy Versus and not an upgrade. That said, whilst there are several tweaks, a new story, and enough new content to justify the sequel moniker, the base of this 2.5D fighting game feels very similar.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising - Story

Tales of Granblue

Cards on the table here, I’m pretty new to the lore of Granblue, despite enjoying the previous game. I only briefly tried the mobile game and skipped most of the dialogue in Granblue Fantasy Versus. Fortunately, for those of us who missed out on or need a refresher on the previous title, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising includes an “abridged” version of that game’s story to help catch up.

The story mode in this title comes in three parts. Part 1 covers the story of the previous game, and parts 2 and 3 are new content. If you completed the story in the original version and kept your save you can skip the retelling and go straight to the new stuff.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising commits a massive sin in my eyes by presenting its story mode as voiced text over stationary art models, it doesn’t engage or interest me and almost entices me to press “skip” on the get-go. Even worse, the presentation is painfully dated when compared to some of its peers. In recent years we have had Street Fighter 6 World Tour Mode, Mortal Kombat 1’s cinematic story, and closer to home, the story of Guilty Gear -Strive- where they drop fights and you watch a motion novel with in-engine cutscenes telling a story for a few hours.

In my opinion, fighting game stories are always a nice little extra when done right. There are only 2 franchises I play for the story, Blazblue and Guilty Gear. I come here for the battles, not the stories, so it wouldn’t be fair of me to knock Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising too much for this.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising - Character Select

Dash and Punch

When it comes to the flow of fighting, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising has a much slower pace than its fellow anime fighters, foregoing air dash mechanics and leaning much more on area control and counter-attacks. You can still pull off giant flashy combos but the characters feel a lot heavier than most fighters with how deliberate you have to be, especially when you factor in the ability to either block or dodge attacks.

The roster is very diverse, which was one of the strongest aspects of the original title. This game features everyone from that title, all the DLC for it, and 4 new characters in the form of Anila, Siegfried, Nier, and Grimnir, putting the roster at a healthy 30 characters. Each character has a distinct feel and set of moves too. No clone characters in this game!

In terms of what has been added to the core system of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising compared to the previous title, there is now a Dash Attack to help you get closer to your foe, tweaks have been made to the auto combo system, and simple press special moves have been added to make this easily more accessible than the original.

I would say this is as accessible as Street Fighter 6, as the developers have decided to negate the damage reduction for using the simple commands. Anyone who’s ever struggled to pull off a quarter circle punch motion can now just press R1 and a direction and still get the same result as someone who knows their way around a down-right fierce punch.

There are also “ultimate skills” that allow you to power up your special attacks, adding even more move options and maximizing damage output.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising - Belial VS Djeeta

Solo Fighter

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising includes the traditional arcade ladder without character endings, a story mode, a training mode, and a gallery. There’s also a figure studio where you can use in-game character models to produce pictures, which is grade-A meme material.

The arcade tower is your bog standard affair. Pick a character, pick your first opponent, and then beat opponents until you reach the boss fight. You can choose your opponent’s difficulty before each fight so you can tailor your ladder, but the lack of character endings is a curious design choice.

The story mode is the biggest change from the previous game. Instead of a rather impressive RPG-style mode with leveling up, equips, and other nods to the genre, now you just have static scenes and side missions to complete in battles such as “perform X amount of moves”, presented in a timeline chart. Yes, you can equip a few side abilities but it is a much more streamlined, skinnier meal than it was last time and I feel this could be the crux that some players will decide on.

Training has all the essential tools you would require to get your combos up to scratch, as well as an in-depth tutorial as you would expect from Arc System Works. I would heavily suggest you try this even with prior series knowledge, as Rising has a few more additions under its belt.

When it comes to modes, this feels like one step forward, two steps back for offline players when compared to Granblue Fantasy Versus. It’s lighter on offline modes offered, but instead offers a much stronger online experience.

Beating Up Your Friends

One of the main issues the fighting game community had with the original Granblue Fantasy Versus was the lack of “quality”, for want of a better word, of the online competitive section of the game. Arc System Works has taken that personally, and released one of the most esports, gacha-esque titles to date. At least this time it has Rollback Netcode, which was sorely missing from the first release.

You have the usual ranked and casual options for online play. There are also lobbies where you can walk around with your chosen avatar and use the digital arcade machines to show you are ready for a battle. It’s a smooth and pleasant experience when compared to some other fighters.

Ranked uses “skill-based matchmaking” systems so you won’t come across people who are much higher level than you are. Every character has a separate rank too, so there is no risk of you getting bodied while trying to learn a new character.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising - Ferry VS Lancelot

Along with Rollback Netcode providing a much smoother online experience, there is also cross-play between the PlayStation 4, 5, and PC versions of the game allowing for a larger player pool. Hopefully, this will keep the game alive outside of that first month unlike most “anime fighters” that tend to die off as quickly as they come along.

Finally, there is the “Grand Bruise” online multiplayer mode. This is a collection of party modes that you can play with your avatar, like racing to the top of a mountain or grabbing the most gold within a certain time while knocking your opponents over. These seem like fun little distractions compared to the more competitive nature of the main game, but sadly I haven’t had much luck in actually getting matches in this mode. Either it’s due to my region, or no one is playing it.

With the stripped-down single-player modes and the focus on “Online” content, the game leans heavily on the “gacha” elements similar to the Granblue mobile game. Many of the costumes and character colors for the games are locked behind the in-game currency or tickets which require you to grind at great lengths. Whilst not usually a problem, the random nature of unlocks married with the stripped-down single-player content means those who don’t fancy throwing down with the wider community aren’t going to have a great time trying to unlock all the character costumes and colors. On top of this, the game launched with a Battle Pass and Character Pass from the get-go with 2 characters already announced, one of which is 2B from Square-Enix masterpiece NieR Automata. It comes off as nickel and diming when the original title was so robust, and respected the time put in by players online and offline.

Outstanding Art, Masterful Music

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is easily the nicest-looking fighting game Arc System Works has ever released, even edging out their highpoint in Guilty Gear -Strive-. This is partly down to the strong art direction of the source material and the sheer mastery of the 2D fighter genre that Arc Sys has displayed time and time again.

The game runs incredibly fluidly and the colors provide vivid and effective feedback, but the stages are a little pedestrian and don’t offer too much in terms of interest. Character models have some of the best art the genre has seen, again standing toe-to-toe with some of the greats of the genre and beating out others with pure charm. The models are expressive to the point they give CyberConnect2 a run for their money, and more importantly provide you the essential feedback you need to be successful.

There is so much art for you to unlock and the artwork in this game is beautiful. I can imagine this is a big reason why the Granblue mobile game is such a global phenomenon. It does a great job of distracting you from the overwhelming menus at the start, which again screams mobile game in their presentation.

The game features a full English voice cast which I found bizarre as the actual mobile game still isn’t officially released over here. The voice work is fine when paired with the fantastically animated pre-fight scenes, the voice actor for Lowain being one of the absolute standouts in this department.

The music, the art, and the animation are all outstanding and paint this image of quality and care. It does an amazing job of melding the worlds of high fantasy and anime with the right mix of seriousness and comedy, and is an ideal advertisement for the franchise as you can’t help but be drawn in with the abundance of color and outstanding visual and aural treats on offer.


Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is the blueprint for how making the right tweaks in the right places can enhance a good experience to a great one, as long as you want to take that experience online that is.

Despite the gutting of single-player content and the overly grindy nature, the core game is still an absolute thrill to play, and shot it back up into my rotation of fighting games. Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a serious contender among fighting games and the leader of the anime fighting game faction.


Platforms:PlayStation 4|5, PC

If you would like to see more fighting games, you may be interested in our review of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: All-Star Battle R or our coverage of this Street Fighter documentary.

Many thanks go to Cygames for a PlayStation 5 review code for this title.

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