Coming in with lots of promise and leaving us wanting more: Granblue Fantasy Versus closed beta impressions

We have another strong contender for 2019

Posted by Dakota 'DarkHorse' Hills • June 4, 2019 at 4:33 p.m. PDT

Granblue Fantasy Versus' closed beta left us as quickly as it came this past weekend, but it still gave us enough time to get a feel for the new Arc System Works developed fighting game and the five characters it came packing for its first venture out into the public.

EventHubs' own Nicholas 'MajinTenshinhan' Taylor and myself decided it would be fun to sit down with the upcoming title and put together our thoughts into a semi-cohesive piece of our early impressions of the beta's mechanics, fighters and hopes for the full release. Spoiler alert: we had fun.

The new Granblue spin-off title appears quite simple on the surface with four main attack buttons, a simple special button and a guard button, but it's clear that there's still plenty of depth to be found even after only spending a few hours apiece with it.

While many of the mechanics are universal, almost all of the characters feel very unique to play when compared to the rest of the cast outside of Gran and maybe Katalina where there was a nice mix of rush down and zoning / footsies that seemed pretty well balanced.

Graphically, this game may be ArcSys' prettiest title yet, as they've continued to master their crazy engine that makes 3D models appear like 2D anime come to life. Intros and outros have noticeably low frame rates, but hopefully that'll be at least slightly improved for the full release.

Versus' Net code felt consistently good for a beta without having a connection filter where only a few minor hiccups would rarely make an impact. It also uses a delay-based connection as per usual with ArcSys games instead of rollback which has ramped up in popularity of the past handful of years.

Overall, I'd say we both came off fairly impressed and eager to see what more the game has in store for us, but you can get our full thoughts and impressions about the closed beta for Granblue Fantasy Versus below. Also note that we each only spent a limited amount of time with the beta and certain characters, so our thoughts, knowledge and opinions will likely change when we get more time with it.

Game Mechanics Early Impressions – DarkHorse

Upon loading up Granblue for the first time, I initially found the game to be very easy to pick up and play — especially having recently come off of a similarly styled game like Blade Strangers.

The ability to switch between traditional inputs and simple specials was actually a bit refreshing and surprisingly added a layer of depth I was not expecting.

Specials are tied to something like an MMO skill cooldown that changes depending on the move and how you input it. Using the simple commands makes anti-airing with reversal uppercuts a breeze, but you can get rewarded more for using standard motions.

Attacks will recharge faster — so you can't simply spam charge attacks or fireballs — and using the motion with the heavy attack button will use an EX version of the skill. EXs in this game do not take up Super meter, but they do lock you out of using the special for a longer amount of time. You need to more carefully plan out when you want to use those more powerful moves.

The lack of command normals and chain combos only coming out at very close range does make things feel a little limited at a distance on top of slow walk speeds not having an air dash. This does put a greater emphasis on footsies and pokes until one player gets in; then the action really speeds up.

Switching between a guard button and directional blocking is also quite nice and fluid except for the fact that I'd try to do both at the same time and end up doing a spot dodge or evade dash accidentally — which generally worked out okay but did open me up to some combos I would have otherwise blocked.

I couldn't find much of a use to the Smash Bros-like spot dodge or evade dash due to their recoveries, but it could just be something I need to spend more time with.

Tick throws — especially online — seem like a strong option from the start, but it could be something players adjust to with the full release.

Game Mechanics Early Impressions – MajinTenshinhan

Before trying the game, I wasn't very excited about Granblue Fantasy Versus since I was under the impression that everything was done with simple inputs, though this turned out to be incorrect. While simple inputs are there, each special move has proper motions attached to them as well, and grants you greater rewards for doing them that way, meaning that the "easy way out" isn't quite as good as the more difficult one.

Although the game itself is fairly basic at first glance, there are a lot of interesting mechanics here that gave the game a sense of freshness and left me wanting to come back for more.

One of these is the cooldown system placed on specials, where if you use an EX Special it gets put on a cooldown and won't let you use even regular versions of that special move for a while, indicated by icons beneath your health bar.

This made for some interesting early play where you have to choose your opportunities carefully for reversals, not only because they can be punished if you guess wrong, but also because it'll be gone from your arsenal for a while if you use it. The same could be said of using fireballs, where sending out a more powerful one will stop you from being able to fire regular ones for a while, too.

I also thought it was interesting to have a spot dodge mechanic similar to the Super Smash Bros. series in a game like this. Functionally, it's similar to Videl's dodge from Dragon Ball FighterZ in that it avoids a move, only that every character has access to it, and it can be used to force telegraphed moves to whiff and punish them heavily.

Both of these aspects added a new layer to the defensive game which I enjoyed a lot. The combos themselves are simple at first glance, but since there are links outside of the chain combos as well, there's likely a lot of room for experimentation, and I'm feeling very positive looking forward. I recognize a lot of the parts I see in Granblue Fantasy Versus, but I haven't seen them put together in quite this way before which is invigorating.

Early Character Impressions – DarkHorse

Katalina is the character I spent the most time with during the beta, and she appears to kinda be the Ken of the game to Gran's Ryu. She has a fireball, uppercut and advancing special to cover distance, but her long blade allows her to stand at mid-range and out-poke / counter-poke fairly easily. For some reason, however, she was the only character in the beta to only have three specials available in the beta which was a bit disappointing. Her counter did essentially work like a fourth special in a way at least.

The other character I put some good time into was Lancelot. He plays fast and fluidly out of the gate, but it feels like you either need to put out a fireball or a deep fear into your opponent to not press a button. This is because it seems as though while he does have good approaches and mix ups with going above or behind opponents, they leave him open to attacks — so anyone mashing will stuff him before he gets in their face.

I only played a few games with Ferry, but she was actually a really fun zoner in a game where most others wanted to be in the opponents' faces. She can hit you from high or low from almost full screen, and her fireball works more like a bomb that she can toss out and lock down the enemy in block stun or extend her combos.

Charlotta and Gran are the fighters that I used the least during the period. Charlotta seems to have a tougher time getting in than most considering she doesn't have a fireball, but she's got good mixups and lock down when she finally does get someone cornered. Gran fits the main fighting game character archetype as I mentioned his specials before. He doesn't seem to be the best at anything, but he can cover almost every aspect of the gameplay.

Early Character Impressions – MajinTenshinhan

I spent my time with the demo at a friend's place together with a bunch of other people from the Swedish scene, and while I only touched two characters myself, we still managed to get some impressions for each character.

Lancelot seems like he has potential for some interesting mixup games, Gran looks to be the archetypal main character with a strong fireball game and strong general tools but not exceptionally strong in any area, while Charlotta gave the impression that getting in with her wasn't always easy, but once you did you had a lot of tools to pressure your opponent with, including her "Noble Strategy" which functions much the same as Akuma's Demon Flip from the Street Fighter series.

As for the characters I played, Katalina seemed to be fairly similar to Gran in that she has a bit of everything, but from my play time with her she also felt more focused on long-ranged confirms to shut your opponent down, and learning the range of her normals is key since she seems to out-range a fair few of her opponents in the right situations.

Ferry, the character I spent most of my time on, was an absolute blast to play, and felt like having a Belmont from Castlevania in a fighting game — so she evoked much of the same feelings I had when I played Richter in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate for the first time.

Not only does she use a whip, but she can keep you at bay with her "Geegee, Get 'Em!" move that functions similar to Holy Water from Castlevania and Smash, in that it leaves a fire on the ground which you can use to pressure your opponent, or if they happen to get caught in it, combo from.

While her ground movement isn't very strong, her Ghostswing and Spectral Dive moves in the air allow her to move in unpredictable ways and either get closer to her opponent or get her out of tough situations and build distance instead if that's more of your style.

Ferry seems pretty clearly oriented around zoning, but she has a lot of tools to keep opponents close as well if need be, making her a very interesting character to switch on and off with, which I had a ton of fun doing.

Overall, if Ferry hadn't been in the demo, I'd be a bit afraid of the roster feeling too samey, but she clearly shows that they're looking at incorporating a wide variety of playstyles and approaches in the game, which makes me excited for the final product.

Hopes and Wishes for Final Release – DarkHorse

Granblue's user interface was pretty much entirely tied to the top of the screen which actually did make it a bit distracting needing to look up to see which of mine and my opponent's skills were available to use at any given time. A simple fix for this would be to just most the special cooldown icons to the bottom portion of the screen, so we no longer need to take our eyes off of the action.

On top of that since ArcSys and Cygames are going with a skill-based approach typically found in other genres, I'd like to see them add in swappable specials that can be changed around as needed — and can give Katalina a fourth special at least.

The game feels good to play most of the time, but I do think that movement and defensive options still need to be fine tuned a bit more. Jumps feel slow and vulnerable plus I'm not quite sure how viable the spot dodge mechanic will be as it is now — though my thought on this could change after actually going into training mode which the beta lacked.

Some more options for normals / command normals would also be nice. I don't see that happening though after seeing the direction ArcSys is trying to take the game and the aspects they put emphasis on.

All in all, I'm much more interested in this game and series much more than I was before actually getting my hands on it. At the moment, I don't think this will be the next huge thing for fighting game, but I think it gives us a bridge to some directions I think the scene is going in the future.

Hopes and Wishes for Final Release – MajinTenshinhan

Honestly, the game ended up being so much more fun than I ever would have expected, so the only real hope I have right now is that we see more interesting, unique playstyles to further add flavor to the game, and that I can have it in my hands sooner rather than later, since I'm already feeling withdrawal from not being able to play it.

While the game felt fairly basic at the level I played it, I'm also fully aware there was a ton of stuff in there I hadn't even begun to explore yet, so I'm not too concerned about the game's depth since it was obvious there was more to offer than the parts I experienced.

Since I've already found two characters I enjoyed a great deal, I'm not too concerned with who else joins the roster – especially since I'm already super excited about Lowain, who wasn't part of the beta.

However, I'll admit that after dipping my toes into the vast world which is Shadoweverse and Granblue Fantasy, I do have one character I'm hoping to see, which is the Ravishing Designer herself, Korwa. She has a fun personality and design, and I'd be very interested in seeing how they made a moveset for her which fit to her skills.

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