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Brutality: Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising Falls From Grace

Fans of the original’s RPG mode need not apply to Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.

Three-and-a-half years ago, I celebrated Granblue Fantasy Versus for including a story mode that harkened back to the likes of Soul Caliber II: a feature-rich RPG that included equipment grids, leveling, exciting boss fights, and cooperative play.

I am disappointed to find that Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising has fallen in this regard.

The co-op is gone. The grids are gone. Everything that made it an RPG mode is gone. So while the first game was one of my top picks of 2020 for games of the year, the follow-up is in the running for top ten most disappointing sequels ever.

The stripping down of RPG elements isn’t a surprise, because Cygames did reveal that detail well before launch. But the missing co-op is even more aggravating because nowhere is such a loss strictly mentioned. Even the UI seems to imply that it was intended, but those intentions didn’t pan out. Your partner in story battles can either be NPC or…None.

The boss battles from the original game are still here, but your character selection pool has now been limited. In the prior game, any boss could be fought with any combination of characters. Now, you’ll only have who the story lets you have. Sometimes it’s a handful of options (nowhere near the full cast), and sometimes it’s just Gran/Djeeta. To make matters worse, there aren’t any new bosses on the same level as Colossus, Bahamut, or Grand Order. There’s…just another Bubz fight. But without your friend, and without your weapon grid.

In other words, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising has taken the original— a game that could be enjoyed by fans of single-player, co-op, RPGs, and 1v1 fighting games— and turned it exclusively into a 1v1 fighting game.

Oh, it does come with Grand Bruise, a Fall Guys-inspired run of minigames that even includes the Fall Guys dive. But as of now, you can’t actually lobby up with friends to play together. At best, it’s a harmless and inoffensive way to unlock more collectibles.

Of that, there are plenty: every character can grind to level 500. Instead of stats for the MIA RPG, there’s a suite of customization options to unlock. The highlights are the weapon skins, which will excite Granblue Fantasy players with everything from Illustrious weapons to old-school standard grid pieces. There are icons and trophy titles for player banners, fighter colors, and a few more additions as well, but Bahamut forgive anyone who plays with friends, for the growth rate is significantly reduced.

(I’d like to take a quick moment to beg every developer to stop treating people who play locally or in private lobbies like second-class citizens. Too many games prevent us from unlocking anything whatsoever when we buy these titles to clown around with friends. I understand you want to incentivize us to keep the online player base healthy so that everybody can find a match, but I’ve found a match. With my friends. Why do you have to cut our experience growth to the point where we’re effectively not engaging with these rewards at all? And I understand too that people will likely game private matches to climb their way through the rewards, but in a case like this where the rewards are purely cosmetic…let them? Ahem, back to our regularly scheduled programming…)

The Gacha system of the first game, in which players spent free tickets to buy random grid pieces (i.e. RPG equipment), now provides unique weapon skins for your Grand Bruise characters. It costs rupees to draw, and so far rupees seem to come only at a snail’s pace. Completing daily missions (use specific game mechanics two times, that kind of thing) rewards up to 150 rupees a day. It costs 500 to draw from the gacha system, so the money is better spent on illustrations, character colors, and weapon skins. Those can cost anywhere from 100 rupees to 3,500, making the slow gain tiresome.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

There are more rupees on character-level reward tracks, and in Grand Bruise, but the gain is slow enough that it doesn’t feel like much of a reward.

All of this is too darn bad, because the actual fighting game is as fun as it’s ever been, and only elevated by the rollback netcode. The new characters are packed with personality and having the whole DLC cast along for the ride is much appreciated. The title’s low skill floor, thanks to easy inputs for specials and auto-combos, means anybody who is entranced by the beautiful character animations and models can enjoy, while the ceiling provides dedicated fighting game players plenty of room to grow.

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

Good, because they’ll have all the time in the world if they commit to unlocking anything in the game’s grind.

I don’t mean to say that the original RPG mode was flawless. Beating your way through waves of tiny enemies honestly was a pain. But the RPG elements, exciting boss fights, and co-op added so much replayability. It truly felt like Granblue Fantasy Versus was Granblue Fantasy reimagined as a fighting game. It maintained draws, grid building, strategizing, long-term planning, and so much more. As a fan of the mobile game, I couldn’t have been happier.

Final Thoughts on Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

And now, as someone who poured almost a hundred hours into the original’s RPG mode, I couldn’t be more disappointed in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. The new story mode is a poor replacement for what came before. If you’re only looking for 1v1 fighting, then you may not mind what’s missing. I’m certainly still planning to get my money’s worth out of local bouts with my brother (at reduced experience gains…). But for anyone who enjoyed Grandblue Fantasy Versus for its co-op or RPG elements, you’ll feel sorely ignored in this update.

About Michael

Brutal Gamer's Nintendo Editor spends an endless amount of time on his Switch (when he isn't lost in the mountains), dreaming of the return of 1080, F-Zero, and Custom Robo.

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