Game Finished In 2024 #10:

I have a love/hate relationship with fighting games. I love fighting games, fighting games hate me. This puts me in a tricky spot, as although I really like games like Blazblue, King of Fighters, and Persona 4 Arena, I often find myself chafing against them on even a fundamental mechanical level. The path to improvement, even to a baseline competency, is confusing and I sometimes feel genuinely incapable of doing it, as even with hundreds of hours across the genre these struggles never get easier. There have been a couple games that I've been able to click with better, like Guilty Gear Strive, DNF Duel, Cross Tag, and SamSho, but even among those Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is on another level.

The original Granblue Fantasy Versus was a flawed gem, or a great first step. The game had great potential, which was never capitalized on despite two seasons of DLC, because it launched without functioning netcode. Two months before a global pandemic. The roster launched in a very sorry state too, with a paltry 12 characters, requiring those two seasons to even start approaching a state that could be called "complete". It was patently obvious to everyone that this game could easily be given a new lease on life by getting that netcode fixed. I had resolved to hold off on picking the game up until they did. Unfortunately, development issues meant they had to make an entirely new game, Fortunately, Rising is the game that Versus should have launched as.

The improvements Rising made are evident on every level of the production. In addition to finally fixing the netcode, the game launched with a truly full roster, with every DLC character folded into the base game, and functionally a pass worth of additional characters right off the bat. Mechanical improvements have been added too, with both small and big tweaks. Versus took a unique spin on the traditional fighting game format by adding cooldowns to special moves in exchange for allowing you to input them with simply a direction and a button, like Smash. Motion inputs are a touchy subject among fighting game fans, and while I sympathize with the idea of motions having the potential to add depth to a game, and with fears of long running games abandoning their legacy mechanics, but I feel like a new game like Versus is the perfect opportunity to try more experimental input styles in a fighting game, with no prior baggage. Unfortunately, the original Versus tried to have it both ways, with cooldowns being shorter if you used a traditional input to perform them. This functionally made simple inputs pointless, as it was always better to just use the traditional input unless you were in a situation where the difference was irrelevant. Rising all but removes the distinction, and now traditional inputs only have a marginal advantage, so minor you can turn off traditional inputs altogether. Many games have tried to simplify inputs, but Rising is the first game that feels brave enough to fully commit to this simplicity. This commitment pays dividends, as each character feels approachable due to all sharing the same basic control scheme, and over time my stable of characters I play has widened due to how easy and enjoyable it is to pick up new characters.

The game makes sure you know how each character works, as well, with built in guides to show you what a character can do. It won't completely replace Dustloop, obviously, but this in-game consideration is important nonetheless. Despite the simplified movesets, each character still feels unique, and cooldown management combines with meter management to make for compelling decision making, especially with the addition of Ultimate moves, which cost 50% meter to use, giving meter much more functionality than in Versus.

There is also a concentrated effort to expand the options outside of just ranked ladder. Grand Bruise, a completely separate game mode, is a Fall Guys-like minigame compilation that exists as a lower stakes alternative to fighting. There is also a story mode, which is a bit rudimentary but was overall enjoyable, and gave me a way to log this game.

It is not all perfect, most notably the existence of a paid battle pass with FOMO content. The experience of actually grinding the pass is quite pleasant, and I look forward to each one, because they give me an excuse to play more of the game, but it is unfortunate for latecomers who miss out on the exclusives, including one of the few times an Arcsys game has done costumes.

It's pretty safe to say Rising is my favorite fighting game. Perhaps in an ideal world where I am better at the genre, there are others I would like more, but for where I'm at this one meets me there in a way very few ever have. This also makes it easy to recommend, even to people who don't know a lot about the genre.

Reviewed on Apr 02, 2024