Granblue Fantasy has been Cygames’ marquee IP for a decade, landing in the West with an anime adaptation, a fighting game developed by Arc System Works, manga, and more. Ironically, the original mobile RPG game has never been officially released outside of Japan for any platform. The series has caught on here despite that, and Granblue Fantasy: Relink, a new action RPG that’s been in the works for a few years, is the latest volley.
"Yeah, it started as a gacha game, but..."
Utilizing its gacha-enforced capital powers for good, Cygames has released a meaty, polished, fun, exciting, and overall excellent gaming adventure without any notable BS. There’s clearly much more to Granblue Fantasy’s world than pulling character draws in a digital slot machine, and Relink is the ambitious proof in the digital pudding. I blasted through this game in just over a weekend, and all I can think about is getting back in there to run some more quests, forge some new weapons, and fill out more skill trees.
That sounds grindy and yeah, it is. Granblue Fantasy: Relink has a lot of systems that work together with you and your controller to make hella numbers go up. But while some games stumble over themselves and bog players down, Relink zips around with you like a rollercoaster car on a track that gives you candy every time you take a turn. It’s so much fun to play this game it got me all hyped up to try the source material again. Spoiler: it’s still a gacha RPG from when the genre was getting its feet wet. Oh well!
Wait, who are these people?
If you don’t know what the heck Granblue Fantasy is, you still won’t really know here. Relink’s story is set well after the original game’s first story arc concludes, and doesn’t really bother onboarding you. If you actually want to know what’s up with Gran, Lyria, and the rest of the crew, you probably need at least a Crunchyroll subscription. The codex/journal stuff isn’t good enough.
Luckily, the vibes are solid. One of Granblue Fantasy’s greatest strengths is its style, which is a deadly mix of Final Fantasy Tactics (thanks to Cygames’ lead art director being Akihiko Yoshida himself), Skies of Arcadia, and One Piece. It’s a grand ol’ adventure in the big, blue sea of the skies, and damn near every member of the cast is just happy to be there making new friends. Even when things get hard, you can count on this crew to have your back and tell you it’s gonna be alright. That’s the tone here, and clearly it works.
Relink is definitely a character-oriented action game, and rather than go hard on depth or difficulty, the game focuses more on identity. The controls are relatively simple compared to a Devil May Cry for example, but each character has their own kit and bespoke rules to follow. Gran passively powers up his skills with regular attacks, asking you to choose between speed and big damage. Ferry has little variety in her whip attacks, but can summon a crew of ghost doggies with myriad skill combinations to choose from. Katalina has an array of quick strikes and support skills, and Rackam has lots of bullets. Those are just a few examples of a roster comprising at least 20 characters.
Each character feels unique in battle and is fun to use in their own right. Which is why it’s kind of a bummer Gran takes up a mandatory party slot until the post-game, but it is what it is. It’s also kind of a bummer that beyond the main crew, additional character unlocks don’t participate much in the campaign. They chip in one-liners on occasion but otherwise the story doesn’t know they exist. Everyone has a series of “Fate Episodes” though, which are visual novel-like substories Cygames is famous for employing in many of its games.
Dragalia... found, in spirit
Speaking of Cygames’ other works, Granblue Fantasy: Relink really brought me back to my time with Dragalia Lost. Dragalia’s combination of voluminous character-driven storytelling and action RPG/MMO gameplay mechanics was a blast, and I wish it had kept going longer than a few years. It's a real bummer it's gone, but if Dragalia Lost was a full-fledged console game, I believe it would be a lot like Granblue Fantasy: Relink. Especially when it comes to certain aspects of combat design.
Combat is hectic and full of small details, as you have to dance around enemy attacks in order to pull off your own tricks. Then, boss fights go full Final Fantasy XIV, having you navigate massive, screen-filling attacks represented by kaleidoscopic AoE patterns and other scripted moments and bespoke mechanics. There’s also a level of escalating bombast to big fights that, while never providing extra challenge or some special degree of nuance, are directed with a pedal to the metal, all killer no filler energy that’s (once again) so much fun to engage with.
Even if your character’s kit is simple, there’s more than enough going on around you to keep your blood boiling and mind engaged. There’s no phoning it in here, even if it’s pretty hard to actually hit a fail state on the default difficulty. Cygames wants you to have a good time after all, and offers additional accessibility tools to make sure the door is open for anyone who wants to play, not just hardcore action-heads.
That sense of welcoming, like a friendly hand extended to you in encouragement, goes a long way here. There’s so much to do and there’s so much emphasis on just having a good time, it’s infectious. I didn’t have much of a chance to try co-op, but even playing the non-story missions on my own was a blast. The AI group still feels like a squad, and pulling off big chain abilities like clockwork with near-perfect timing was always on the table. Imagining the classic Cygames sticker spam once the servers get populated had me dying to get back into it. And there’s so much stuff I haven’t unlocked, despite finishing the story, I’m excited to see how deep the rabbit hole of weapon upgrades and skill pools actually goes.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink doesn’t have a particularly engrossing storyline, nor does it rewrite the book when it comes to anime-styled character-action games. But it doesn’t want, or even need, to do either. It doesn't even seem to care much if you don't know what Granblue is in the first place. What Cygames brings to the table is polish and energy; there’s a liveliness to this game that makes every minute you spend with it a joy. Rock-solid performance (on PS5/performance mode), unique character mechanics, a massive soundtrack, and even a great dub (Ferry baby-talking her poltergeist pooches sends me) are all a part of that feeling. If you've missed out on Granblue Fantasy so far because of regional barriers or not being into fighting games, here’s your chance to see what it’s all about in a way that couldn’t be friendlier.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink is available on February 1, 2024 for the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Steam. A PS5 code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink
- Strong sense of identity throughout
- Excellent performance and production value
- Tons of post-game content to dive into alone or with others
- Combat reminded me of Dragalia Lost
- Unlockable characters feel closed off from the story
- Bare minimum onboarding for series newcomers
- Made me sad about Dragalia Lost
Lucas White posted a new article, Granblue Fantasy: Relink review: The power of friendship and a sick airship
Awesome https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-BkrwO_Dck , my body is ready!!! I have had an eye on Granblue Fantasy: Relink for a long time -> https://store.steampowered.com/app/881020/Granblue_Fantasy_Relink/
From the gameplay vids it looks like a combo of : Tales of Arise X BOTW(visuals + open world) X Xenoblade X RPG mega!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is even better the game launches on Steam in 9 hours -> OMG!!!! I think consoles are on Feb 1st unless that is a typo.
Today is going to be a good day, also don't forget the PlayStation State of Play is at 2pm PT -> https://www.shacknews.com/article/138544/watch-playstation-state-of-play-january-2024
"He's heating up!" "He's on Fire!" \m/ :) \m/
Cygames impressed me with Dragalia Lost being the first not-shitty gacha I ever played. I may have to pick this up!
Been keeping tabs on this game for a long time. Going to have to finish my current game before picking this up.