Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising review: Something old, something new

Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising is a polished, if slightly too familiar, fighting game for newcomers and skilled players.


Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising is an odd prospect. On one hand, it fixes two of its predecessor’s biggest problems – a small roster and shoddy online play. On the other, that’s about the only thing it does differently. Rising is a more polished fighting game that still achieves exceptional balance between simplicity and depth. It’s just a bit too familiar.

Time to save your friends. Again.

Two anime characters use their special attacks and fill the screen with black, blue, and red light effects.

Versus Rising isn’t a massive step forward compared to plain Versus, but it does make some welcome changes and a few slightly confusing ones. The biggest difference is meant to be story mode, which replaces RPG mode from Versus. “Replaces” is a bit strong for what story mode is, though, as Rising handles it a bit strangely. The first part condenses the rather bland story from Granblue Fantasy Versus, where Gran and Lyria meet, fight, and recruit warped versions of their old comrades. It’s a bit like old Smash Bros. story modes in that respect, so don’t expect the narrative depth you might be used to from mainline Granblue Fantasy.

This abridged version of Versus’ narrative leads into a broader tale, which avoids some of the original’s pitfalls – namely, feeling forced and tacked on – and ends up as a solid, if not exactly necessary, new chapter in the Granblue saga. Will you know what’s going on in that saga or who any of these characters are? Probably not, unless you’ve kept up with the Granblue anime adaptation or played the JP-only gacha game. Versus Rising does a decent job of quickly introducing each character and giving you a broad rundown of their narrative significance, but it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing something here – because you are.

A large boss character faces down Gran and Katalina in a lava-filled cavern.

Story mode streamlines Versus’ presentation in a way I’m not too fond of. In place of the lush backgrounds and detailed character models on the mission preparation screen, you get a mostly blank background and a basic menu. Otherwise, it plays out pretty much the same. Each chapter features visual novel-style segments and some easy fights against basic enemies before culminating in a much more interesting battle against a boss character. 

These boss fights play out similar to some of the tougher encounters in Arcade Mode. Your foes here take advantage of powerful attacks that fill the screen and force you to make full use of your specials, dodging, and equipped items. They’re easily the most exciting part of story mode, and I only wish the other battles tried a little harder to be as complex.

Fights for everyone

An anime woman with light brown hair leaps forward, sword in hand, to attack her foe on the right side of the screen.

The actual fighting is as brilliant in Rising as it was in Versus, though it’s also not much different than it was in Versus. Cygames kept the newcomer-friendly approach to fighting games and distilled the genre’s usual challenging inputs into something much more manageable for people like me, who struggle when things move too quickly. You have four directional inputs, a basic fast attack, and two heavy attacks. Rising lets you tie these three attack types together for combos, amd while you can vary your combo inputs and string them into special attacks with one additional input, that’s about as complex as it gets.

Every attack fills your special meter, which, when full, lets you unleash a powerful attack that’s balanced just right. It won’t always turn the battle in your favor, but it will help give you a momentary advantage.

Rising might be too simple for diehard fighting game veterans, but there’s a surprising amount of variety in how you can use these attacks. Rising does an excellent job of easing you into its mechanics as well. You begin with Gran in story mode, a basic, no-frills fighter with simple-but-effective moves, but each new character adds something a little different – a special attack that doubles as a counter, for example, or a more effective ranged attack. 

An anime man with shining blue hair is depicted with light gleaming from his body.

Or you could dive right into Arcade Mode, a gauntlet of several battles against increasingly difficult foes that lets you pick from Rising’s entire roster before each round begins. Rising’s roster includes more than double the number of fighters available in Versus, and each fight starts and ends with small bit of narrative context and character development, where the opponents banter with each other based on their history together. It’s a nice touch that makes each battle feel a little more alive, even if I really had no idea what was going on in these characters’ relationships.

An expanded roster and rollback netcode for online fights are pretty much the only things Rising does differently from Versus. Sure, you’ve got Grand Bruise Legends, a cute, but short-lived battle royale that borrows from Fall Guys. There’s also a robust training mode, and it’s hard to overexaggerate just how much better online play is thanks to rollback netcode. Online matches have hardly any lag, even when I played on my Asus ROG Ally - which Rising is technically not optimized for. Battles play out much more smoothly than they did in Versus, and while that sounds like a simple idea, it’s hard to overstate how substantial the effect is for online play. 

However, it’s hard to feel like that alone, plus an expanded roster, justify Versus Rising’s existence, especially if you played Versus for any length of time. If you missed the original Versus, though, then that doesn’t really matter. Rising is an excellent fighting game, even when the narrative context flies over your head. 

This review is based on a Steam copy of Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising that the publisher provided. Granblue Fantasy Versus Rising launches for PC via Steam, PS4, and PS5 on Dec. 14, 2023.

Contributing Editor

Josh is a freelance writer and reporter who specializes in guides, reviews, and whatever else he can convince someone to commission. You may have seen him on NPR, IGN, Polygon, or VG 24/7 or on Twitter, shouting about Trails. When he isn’t working, you’ll likely find him outside with his Belgian Malinois and Australian Shepherd or curled up with an RPG of some description.

  • Excellent balance between simplicity and depth
  • Rollback netcode for smoother online play
  • Striking art style
  • Few meaningful changes compared to the first Versus
  • Stilted story
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