This week, Dengeki PlayStation magazine included a 4-page feature on Granblue Fantasy Versus (GBVS). They sat down with game director Fukuhara Tetsuya (FKHR) to interview him about the game, including impressions from the closed beta and how RPG Mode will work.
The unbridled success of the closed beta test and playable demos!
Dengeki: Let’s start by talking about the features of GBVS that you’re most focused on.
FKHR: We just announced RPG Mode, but at its heart GBVS is a fighting game, so I’m intent on making it a high-quality fighting game first and foremost. So when you talk about focus, we’re focusing on the parts that will make fans of Granblue Fantasy happy. We have put a lot of work and passion into the character modeling and the background art. Arc System Works’ animation methods let us go frame by frame and edit the characters’ expressions. Compared to 2D work, 3D images are supposed to be easier to complete, but this is so labor-intensive that we sometimes wonder “why are we even doing this in 3D?!” But it’s worth it.
Dengeki: How was the response to the Closed Beta Test in May?
FKHR: One of the purposes of the closed beta test was to test the network load, so we only enabled online versus mode. I was pretty worried about that. There are a lot of veteran fighting game players who love GBF, but would people who’ve never played a fighting game before be able to enjoy the game? If the latter group went on a losing streak, would they think the game wasn’t fun? That was on my mind the whole time.
Dengeki: There was no way to tell who was a beginner and who was a veteran, and no way to avoid those matchups.
FKHR: But when we actually opened the lid of Pandora’s Box, people really liked the game. Even people who don’t play fighting games told us “It’s really fun to control the characters!” and “I can do Supers now! That’s awesome!” Seeing so much of that kind of feedback eased my worries a lot.
Dengeki: Our editorial team also participated in the closed beta, and were surprised by how many people were online.
FKHR: Arc System Works told us that this was the biggest load test they’ve ever seen! Thanks to everyone who participated.
Dengeki: We really liked the lobby avatars and the stickers used for communication. What is the plan for adding more for use?
FKHR: Avatars of all the playable characters will be available from the start, and there will be additional avatars that you can earn from playing the game. More avatars will be added as the first season pass’ characters are added. As for the stickers, those are needed for communication, so all of them will be unlocked from the start. With DLC characters, we might find some extras that we can sneak in.
Dengeki: Granblue Fantasy Extra Fest 2019 had demo stations for GBVS – what was the reception like there?
FKHR: When I went to look at the demo stations, I was surprised by how many female players were enjoying the game – there were far more than I expected. They were playing as Percival and Lancelot, they were taking pictures, and they were having fun just watching the animations. I saw a lot of GBF fans having fun because they were able to take control of their favorite characters.
Dengeki: GBVS gives off the impression that it was made to be very simple; what were your design concepts going into it?
FKHR: I think being compared to other Arc System Works titles makes it look very simple. But we left a lot of concepts on the cutting room floor to get the game to this point.
Dengeki: Like what?
FKHR: The main one I can think of is how to use CA meter. Our first idea for meter usage had Ability+, which would use 50% meter to perform a strengthened version of a move. But we didn’t want people to stop using Skybound Arts, and wanted to avoid situations where they would accidentally use an Ability+ and lose the meter they’d worked so hard to earn. So, now the CA meter can only be used on Skybound Arts.
Dengeki: If you’re new to fighting games, having multiple ways to use meter would be pretty complicated.
FKHR: If there are multiple ways to use meter, it adds more decisions for the player to think about, and adds more complexity for spectators. We had “simplicity” in mind when we were designing the game; we wanted it to be the kind of game where people could watch and understand things like “When you land that Skybound Art, it decides the match”. So we kept the number of system mechanics low. Evade and Cross Over might be a bit harder to understand as defensive mechanics, but beginners don’t have to use them against each other to play the game, and advanced players will use them pretty well, and that’s why those two were left in the game.
Dengeki: What went into the process for choosing what members of the cast would be playable?
FKHR: Since GBVS is our first venture into the console market, one of the considerations was popularity in GBF. We also wanted to make sure that certain archetypes for fighting games were filled – characters whose game plans involved close combat, or throw-heavy characters, etc. Those were the two main considerations – a well-known character who fits an archetype that we wanted. There’s a character in the initial roster who is not yet announced, but they will specialize in long-range attacks.
Dengeki: This may be too early to ask, but will there be more character passes?
FKHR: We’re already looking into Character Pass 2, and some of the characters in it have already been picked. The closed beta survey had a question about what characters people wanted to see in the game, and we have that feedback to consider now.
Dengeki: Are there already plans for official GBVS tournaments?
FKHR: None for this year, but we’re trying to see how we can get a tournament together for Granblue Fest 2020. We’d love to see GBVS as a featured game at EVO too, but that isn’t entirely up to us.
Dengeki: Could you talk about how the game will connect to the original GBF?
FKHR: You will be able to redeem one in-game GBF item per account. But this is a first – no one has made a PlayStation game with a bonus code for a mobile game. In the packaged version of the game, the included code will not be redeemable immediately in GBF. You will have to launch GBVS, and get the code there. For verification purposes, you will also need to connect to PlayStation Plus. We’re thinking about adding more bonuses after the game’s release, too; as long as you keep GBVS around even after you’re done playing it, you’ll get rewards.
RPG Mode, with a full story and plenty of content
Dengeki: You recently announced RPG Mode in GBVS – could you tell us about how that mode plays?
FKHR: Basically, you will accept quests, and watch the story play out. When it gets to the action parts, you’ll pick your favorite character, then play through the battles with them.
Dengeki: Will the story of RPG Mode be based on the story of GBF?
FKHR: It’s an original story, unique to GBVS. It will start from around the part of the main story where Katalina and Rackam have joined up. We’ve written it so that people will be able to pick up the character relationships and the setting very easily, so people who haven’t read or watched the original will still be able to enjoy it. All of the currently announced playable characters will be involved in the story, too.
Dengeki: Will the battles be side-scrolling action?
FKHR: It would be more accurate to call it more of a horde mode, where the enemies come at you in waves. I think it’s a more familiar pace for GBF. Depending on the stage, the objective might not just be to defeat all the enemies – some will require you to defeat a specific enemy, or survive for a certain amount of time, for example.
Dengeki: Will the RPG mode controls change much from the normal game?
FKHR: The basic controls won’t change. You can still use all of their moves as normal. However, there will be a lot going on – a lot of enemies will be charging at you, firing projectiles at you, and it’ll provide a different experience. It’ll feel really good to beat back hordes of foes.
Dengeki: What kind of things will you only be able to experience because of RPG Mode?
FKHR: Personally, I want people to have a lot of fun with the really epic boss battles. Colossus and Yggdrasil aren’t playable characters, but in GBF, they’re really emblematic. We’ve put a lot of work into their patterns and animations, so I hope that GBF fans will really enjoy them when they see them. We put almost as much work into their big moves as we did on the playable characters, so I hope people really have fun with them.
Dengeki: How difficult will the boss battles be?
FKHR: RPG Mode will have two difficulty modes, Normal and Hard. On your first playthrough, you’ll fight them on Normal. We’ve tuned Normal to be beatable by people who aren’t very good at action games. The bosses will have weak points, so you can keep aiming for those spots to make things a bit easier for yourself as well. For example, Proto Bahamut’s head is his weakness.
Dengeki: Will this mode be playable with friends?
FKHR: RPG Mode will always have two characters, yours and a friend. You can look online for a player to join you, or you can use another character you’ve built up and have the CPU control them. You’ll be able to play offline with two players, as well.
Dengeki: About how much content is there in the mode?
FKHR: If you don’t skip the story and watch the whole thing, your first play-through should take about 10 hours.
Building characters through a reworked weapon grid system
Dengeki: Could you tell us more about how to build up your character in RPG mode?
FKHR: You’ll be able to build up your character through gaining levels, raising weapon skills, and learning support actions. GBF players are already used to this, but you equip 10 weapons, and their combined stats and skills will add to your total strength. In GBF this is also supplemented with a summon grid, but in GBVS we won’t have summons. Instead, some weapons will have unique characteristics that will function very much like summon auras in GBF.
Dengeki: GBF has so many types of weapon skills that make you stronger; will these all be in GBVS?
FKHR: Just like GBF, we’ll have the three different skill types – Normal, Omega, and EX. However, their roles and the optimal numbers of each you should equip will be different from how they work in GBF. The system may be inherited from GBF, but we don’t think people will have much fun if it works the same way as it does in the base game. We’ve focused on making this weapon grid as easy to understand and fun to use as possible.
If you’re bad at action games, you can level your weapons to raise your HP and attack power and make the battles easier for yourself. We also tuned the fights in a way that does not require you to have all of your weapons maxed out to beat them.
Dengeki: How will you earn new weapons?
FKHR: There are multiple ways. You can find them as drops, and buy them in the shop. There will be some item drops that you can trade in for weapons, too. Some weapons will come as rewards from sub-quests that pop up during the action portions, like “Use an Ability X times!” I think the strongest weapons will come from the shop, though.
Dengeki: Could you tell us more about how you will level up your weapons?
FKHR: Weapon levels will be raised by Rupees, the game’s basic currency. Weapon skills will be raised by specialized items like Fury Pebbles and Fury Stones, which GBF fans are familiar with. In order to raise the level cap on your weapons, you’ll need to consume another copy of the weapon. These have all been tweaked a bit from what you’re used to in GBF.
Dengeki: How many different kinds of weapon skills will there be?
FKHR: Most of the weapons in the game will have Attack Up or HP Up. Others will give your attacks a chance to crit, and Enmity, which raises your attack power more the lower your health goes, will be in the game too.
Dengeki: Do you think most people will end up with the same weapon grid in the end?
FKHR: Good question. I think if people are playing carefully and only using generically strong weapons, then the grids will look pretty similar to each other. But if you equip a support action like Conjunction to reduce your HP to 1, your grid will look different from everyone else’s since you’ll be using Enmity and speedrunning the bosses.
Dengeki: Will GBF‘s elemental weaknesses be part of the game?
FKHR: The elements themselves are intact in the game. So, for example, if you take on the fire-element Colossus with your Water weapon grid, it will be a lot easier. However, if you take Wind weapons to Colossus, you’ll be a little disadvantaged, but things won’t become impossible. If you’re really good at action games, you’ll be able to go into these fights without a single weapon equipped and beat them, so the system is more of a way to make the game easier for people who aren’t good at action than a requirement.
Dengeki: Will characters be restricted to certain main hand weapon types?
FKHR: Gran can already equip anything, but even sword-specialty Lancelot and dagger-specialty Ferry can equip every weapon in the game. We’re not limiting you to weapons or elements, so you can do things in RPG Mode that you can’t do in GBF, like make a Fire Charlotta.
Dengeki: It’s… probably too much to ask to make a different Gran for every weapon, huh? Like depending on his main hand weapon, he could be a Fighter, or a Mechanic, or…
FKHR: We don’t have any way to change Gran’s job based on his main hand weapon. If we had the time to do that, we’d rather just add more characters. (laughs)
Dengeki: How will you unlock more Support Actions?
FKHR: Some will be unlocked by advancing the story, and others will be purchased in the shop.
Dengeki: Will you be able to take the character you’ve built and play them in online Versus Mode?
FKHR: They won’t be playable in Versus Mode. However, RPG Mode will unlock new weapon skins and colors, so there will be bonuses to RPG mode for people who play Online Versus.
Dengeki: Do you have any final messages for the readers who are looking forward to GBVS?
FKHR: I think that we’ve made a game that will make the mobile GBF players happy, making the characters breathe in a way that you can’t get in the mobile game will still keeping that GBF feel. For those who have never played GBF before, you’ll see a PS4 version of what makes GBF a great game: the art, the music and sound, and the story. We’re proud of the quality that we bring to the fantasy genre, bringing it to a level that is rare in past and present fantasy games.
I’m confident that Arc System Works’ knowledge and skill, combined with our newer approach to fighting games, we’ll be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with the major titles in the genre. We’ve given our all to make this game the best possible fighting game and the best possible action game, so we would love for you to play it and enjoy it. And if your time in the game raises your interest in GBF, I would love for you to play both GBF and GBVS at the same time.