Gematsu recently sat down with Granblue Fantasy general director Tetsuya Fukuhara and Granblue Fantasy: Relink director Yasuyuki Kaji to discuss action RPG Granblue Fantasy: Relink and fighting game Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising as Cygames kicks off promotional activities for its console and PC games.
Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is due out for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam on November 30, 2023, and Granblue Fantasy: Relink is due out for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC via Steam on February 1, 2024.
Read the interview below.
Gematsu: Granblue Fantasy: Relink was announced in 2016 and faced numerous delays, even switching developers from PlatinumGames to Cygames Osaka. Can you guys talk a little bit about that long period of development and what it was like taking over full development from PlatinumGames?
Tetsuya Fukuhara, Granblue Fantasy General Director: “As far as working in PlatinumGames in the beginning, there were organizational things that needed to be reconstructed, so the fact that we stopped development with PlatinumGames was not negative at all. There was no falling out or anything of the sort. It was more scheduling that was the issue. As the game began to expand, and the volume of content that we started to put into the game became more and more, we decided that’s an amount that Cygames should be handling on its own, as PlatinumGames had other games on their docket to start preparing for. So with their schedule in mind, we took over development at Cygames Osaka. And originally, the team at Cygames Osaka didn’t have enough organizational strength or numbers to really support a game of this level, so we really had to start from the beginning—getting the necessary structure together to really get the development of a game like this off of the ground.”
Considering it’s been such a long time coming, do you guys feel any pressure to live up to expectations? You know, delivering a game that fans would think, “this was worth the seven-year wait”?
Fukuhara: “Pressure is something we’re very used to. Speaking as the director of the original mobile game, I can say that when we decided we wanted to do the anime, which came out two years after we announced it, as well as Versus, which also came out two years after the announcement, I always feel the pressure of announcing something—because in the world of mobile games, we don’t actually know how long something is going to take after it’s been announced. Especially when you talk about mobile game spin-offs. So, I’m very familiar with the pressure of this.”
I know there has been feedback from the community regarding some of the changes in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising—particularly its simplified control scheme. Street Fighter 6‘s Modern control scheme was very well received, so I was curious if that had anything to do with the changes in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.
Fukuhara: “Street Fighter 6‘s Modern controls weren’t really a factor in our decision to change how simple inputs work in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising. I also personally think it’s been interesting to monitor the feedback between fans from Japan and overseas regarding this change.”
How has the feedback differed between Japan and overseas?
Fukuhara: “For overseas players it seems like we got a lot of feedback regarding the simple inputs, and about how the actual process of learning the more technical controls is part of the fun, whereas the Japanese response has been kind of the opposite, where practice is not really the fun part of getting better at the game, rather the actual strategy and gameplay itself. So with Street Fighter 6, you would see some even high-level players using Modern controls. If you saw EVO, I think some of them were using Modern controls—whereas some overseas players, or I guess non-Japanese players, were using classic controls even though they were complete beginners at finding them. So that was really interesting to see and discover.”
One of the announcements that took a lot of people by surprise was the decision to offer a free edition. The original game didn’t offer a free edition, so I’m wondering why you decided to do that now with Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.
Fukuhara: “Releasing a free edition was actually something we wanted to do with the previous title, but we weren’t able to do it for a whole variety of reasons, unfortunately. And so this time with Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, we definitely wanted to, as we mentioned earlier, level up the game in every aspect that we possibly could. And that included doing things that we couldn’t do previously, such as releasing a free edition of the game. And that’s not something you often see within the fighting game genre, and so Cygames as a company wanted to challenge this and see where it goes.”
“Grand Bruise Legends” is a new mode that’s not very fighting game-oriented. Are you hoping to entice new players through this mode? For example, players looking for a more cutesy Fall Guys-kind of experience, who may end up checking out the fighting game through that?
Fukuhara: “Fall Guys wasn’t really a part of the equation in the discussion to create ‘Grand Bruise Legends.’ Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a spin-off of the original mobile game, so there will of course be plenty of players who perhaps aren’t as familiar with fighting games. When it comes to fighting games, there are always going to be some people who keep on winning, but there will also be some people who lose most of their matches, and so we didn’t want to create a completely negative experience for those jumping into this as a Granblue Fantasy fan just trying to experience the Granblue Fantasy universe in a spin-off game. One thing that was particularly well received in the previous game was the avatars that you could use in the online lobbies, and a lot of the players thought they were really cute, so we thought maybe we should do something with that. And that kind of was a catalyst to create what we now know as ‘Grand Bruise Legends.’ So it was just something we wanted to provide as some form of stress relief for people wanting to enjoy Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising as a spin-off game.”
Jumping back to Relink, you guys have previously said that post-launch content is planned—I think it was at Anime Expo. Given that you guys just announced a release date and the Digital Deluxe Edition, and we didn’t see any paid downloadable content as part of that, can you talk about what kind of post-launch content is planned? Will it be free?
Fukuhara: “We’re still quite a bit away from the release date, so we don’t have anything to announce at the moment.”
Something else you guys discussed at Anime Expo, as well as today, was the general game flow—going from the hub town, riding aboard the Grandcyhper, progressing through stages, etc. Can you talk a bit about how the story progresses? Are there any sort of in-between stage areas that you visit? Or other hub towns in addition to the main one we’ve seen?
Yasuyuki Kaji, Granblue Fantasy: Relink Director: “As far as other hubs to travel from, I think the trailers perhaps suggest that there might be more there, but I don’t want to spoil anything yet. As far as progressing through the scenario, rather than it being a quest or mission-based progression, there’s more of a campaign mode where, as you progress through the story, more and more things will continue to happen. So rather than going back-and-forth and back-and-forth and back-and-forth, you can just continuously progress through the scenario. But while you’re progressing through the scenario, you can return to your base at any time to mix in some multiplayer quests or whatever while you’re playing.”
Can any of the story quests be played in multiplayer?
Kaji: “The main story is single-player only, but the quests are playable by up to four players.”
Can you guys talk a little bit about the game’s RPG elements? Gear, equipment, leveling up, learning new skills—Do you learn new skills as you level up? Do you earn points that can be allotted to learn skills?
Kaji: “Among the stuff that we’ve already announced, characters do have levels, and as you level up, their base stats will increase. In addition to levels, each character has their own upgrade path. As you unlock nodes in this upgrade path, you can increase their basic parameters, and that’s where they also learn skills. In addition to that, you can customize the build of your character by equipping weapons and sigils. We have more to share in the future, but for now, that’s how you can customize your character with the RPG elements. Also, another really important element is that you’ll be able to upgrade your weapon. And that provides another avenue for RPG elements inclusion.”
The Granblue Fantasy mobile game promotional codes that are included with Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising are limited to the PlayStation versions. Is there any reason those codes aren’t also included with the Steam version?
Cygames Representative: “So we can’t actually answer that. Sorry.”
Are you guys ever going to release the mobile game on the App Store in the west?
Fukuhara: “So we don’t currently have plans to release it on the App Store, but you can play the game on a browser from your smartphone or on a PC. So it’s not like the gameplay would change if we released it on the App Store. So for those who are interested in the game, we recommend going to a browser.”