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Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising review - A second chance well earned

Since the initial release, fighting games have gone through a major shift. Granblue Fantasy Versus has too.

Granblu Fantasy Versus Rising review header
Image credit: VG247

Second chances are rare these days. In an age of yearly roadmaps, seasonal releases, and endless downloadable updates it can be hard to figure out when to jump into an ongoing game. Worse yet, it's impossible to avoid the feeling that you're already late. If you didn't jump in on the ground floor, then you're doomed to be stomped on by online warriors forever. With Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, the world has a second chance to get invested in one of the most interesting fighting games we've seen in some time.

It is, as you may have gathered, a major update for a fighting game that has already been released. Granblue Fantasy Versus. It's a fighting game I reviewed years ago for Eurogamer – one that I walked away from with mixed feelings. When we parted ways this gorgeous anime fighter seemingly went on a journey of self-improvement, as the package I've played recently has fixed many of the issues I had with the original.

This is a 2D fighting game, obviously. It's an anime fighter too, so not only do you have a distinct art style but also a certain speed and fluidity that's common among the subgenre. Developed as part of a collaboration between Cygames and Arc System Works, the latter being a company that has been putting out gold these past few years, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a smooth, loose, and vibrant video game. Vibrant both aesthetically, and at heart. It's honestly a joy to play.

What you get in this version of the game is the same solid foundation established in 2020, albeit with three whole years of updates, on top of the significant additions made with this standalone release. The game launched with a respectable 12 characters at launch back in the day, but jumping in now provides an ample 28. New mechanics have been added that provide additional depth, and fun little mini-games have been slotted into online lobbies as a fun distraction from the core gameplay. The original release was a solid package for Granblue and fighting game fans. Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is perfect for anyone with even a passing interest.

Even you, fighting game casuals. When Granblue was first released, we were at the start of an important era. The great age of accessibility. Some believed that fighting games were fine and needed no changes, just a good tutorial. Some believed the controls were too hard - a crowd eventually represented by Street Fighter 6's modern controls. But before SF6 could wow the world, Granblue helped clear a path thanks to easy special moves and MOBA-style cooldowns. It's an answer to the player base problem others have thought of before - notably the Rising Thunder team in 2015 - but given that those folks have since abandoned the idea since moving onto Project L, it's Arc System Works that remains the sole champion of the idea. Having played the game for some time, it's hard to shake my head at the concept. It allows for an incredibly smooth on-boarding process.

Forspoken mid-fight screenshot
I mean, see how clean this looks? Gorgeous. | Image credit: Cygames

It is not the only quirk to the game, but it is the aspect that breaks down the most barriers to new players. There are benefits to pulling off the actual special move inputs, but if you just wanna jump in and press some buttons you don't feel burdened by your inexperience. It's for these people that the mini-games have been added, let's be honest. Rising Royale - a Fall Guys mode with added Mario Kart style items you can grab - is a lot of fun. It's also something I don't see myself playing more than a few times. Not because it's bad, just because I'm the kind of player who'd rather sit in training mode and figure out combos. It's not meant for me, and that's good actually. I'm not who they're trying to win over.

There is a single player story mode which remains as engaging as it was back in the day. Rather than follow Mortal Kombat down the cinematic route, it opts for an RPG-esque experience that introduces you to the world and characters within it. The game remains gorgeous thanks to the Arc System Work specialty - a 2.5D animation style that allows each character to truly pop out from your screen. It's a known quantity by now - made somewhat famous thanks to Guilty Gear: Strive, but even if you've grown accustomed to the visual quality in Arc System Work's products, it's worth sitting back and appreciating the sheer decadence of it.

Perhaps the greatest triumph of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is its online experience. The heavy weight that kept Granblue Fantasy Versus down back in 2020 was subpar delay-based netcode. Its inclusion meant that shaky matches with other players ranged from frustrating to outright terrible at times. Playing the game now, it's a whole other story. Matches with those far away are largely issue free. There are occasional exceptions sure, moments where even the most talented of technical experts can't overcome the jail yard wifi a German Vaseraga relies on. But it's far and away an improvement. This change alone takes Granblue from a solid 3/5 to a 4.

The original Granblue Fantasy Versus was, frankly, bodied by Covid-19. At a time when online infrastructure was so important, it was found lacking. Now, it's perfect. It plays wonderfully. It's as if the original release was the first draft. An initial attempt that, while respectable, fell short in key spots. Rising feels like the revised version. A Pythagorean theorem for fighting game accessibility, that manages to balance a good entry level experience with competitive depth.

Character select screen in Granblue Fantasy Versus: rising
All these characters are distinct, and flavorful. A pick for every player. | Image credit: VG247

So taking into account that the game is brilliant, should you jump into it? It's actually not a simple answer! This isn't 2020 anymore, and many other companies have managed to pick up the pace and offer excellent fighting games that accommodate for all the scrubs out there. What I'd say is this: if you're a fan of art style and have any love for the Granblue IP at all then it's a no brainer. If you're a fighting game fan looking for a nice side game, it's a great product. If you're trying to encourage a group of friends to try a new fighting game out, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising may not be the most popular pick, but it is a damn good suggestion.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a bonefide cure-all for your fighting game ailments. A banger release, right at the end of the year. You can grab it right now on PC, PS5, and PS4.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising was reviewed using a code provided by the publisher. It was reviewed on PC via Steam.

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