Interview with Tetsuya Fukuhara on Granblue Fantasy Console Titles

We had a chance to interview Granblue Fantasy creative director Tetsuya Fukuhara (FKHR) about the upcoming console tites in the Granblue Fantasy universe, Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising and Granblue Fantasy Relink!

Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

Granblue_en: When did work on Rising begin?

FKHR: We worked on Rising while we were still actively updating GBVS, so I can’t give you an exact date.

But before we began developing the game in earnest, we created the 3D models for the new characters ahead of time, and that work started in January 2021.

Granblue_en: How much of the new features and updates in Rising were suggested from Arcsys, versus Cygames?

FKHR: Cygames and Arc System Works held a lot of discussions about what to do with Rising, and we agreed on the following points, which made the development process smooth:

  • Don’t change design philosophy of providing an approachable game for beginners
  • Don’t increase the speed of the game
  • Increase the number of ways that the Skybound Art gauge can be used, without overcomplicating game systems

Both companies were similarly aligned with regards to the original GBVS‘s design philosophies, so I feel like we’ve built a great rapport.

Granblue_en: Will there be any benefits to those who have purchased the original GBVS?

FKHR: If you remain on the same platform, then you can carry over previously acquired tournament trophies, EX colors, battle pass colors, and battle pass colors and weapon skins. In addition, Rising contains the entire story mode from GBVS, which is a lot of content, so we’ve made it possible to carry over story progress as well. Switching gears here, for players who haven’t played GBVS but would like to jump ahead to the new story, we’ve made it possible to skip the previous scenario.

Katalina and Gran take on Colossus in GBVS story mode
Story mode carries over from GBVS, with updates and the ability to skip old story

Granblue_en: How did the idea of Grand Bruise come about?

FKHR: Across game genres, playing against other people online tends to require a vast amount of knowledge and skill, so we wanted to have a more casual game for people to enjoy alongside the main course. Not to mention we received a lot of praise for the online avatars from GBVS, and we wanted to find more ways to utilize them. So, we put those two concepts together and started developing a full-blown party game.

With that said, beating another player at a fighting game requires a lot of practice and commitment—an achievement which mirrors the amount of time it would take to reach end game content in other genres. Playing games at a high level is fulfilling and extremely enjoyable, and we want as many players as possible to experience this feeling of accomplishment. While Grand Bruise is a different genre from its parent game of Rising, we hope that the players of the two games will mingle, leading Grand Bruise players to take an interest in fighting games.

Granblue_en: Is Grand Bruise considered a bonus mini-game, or will it be a complete mode that will be updated post-launch?

FKHR: You’ll be able to play Grand Bruise whenever you like. I think some players would have a great time ignoring the fighting modes in favor of Grand Bruise. If it turns out to be popular, I could see us releasing more Grand Bruise games in future updates.

Bubs chucking bombs
Bomb Survival mode from Grand Bruise

Granblue_en: With the updated RPG mode, Grand Bruise, Casual Match mode, and Ranked mode all available as ways to play Rising multiplayer, are there any concerns about spreading the players too thin over all the modes?

FKHR: We put a lot of thought into this, but in the end we decided it wouldn’t be a problem. One proposed solution was to make ranked matches a rotating thing, similar to Blitz Mode, but all modes will be available from the moment you start the game.

This might end up being a post-release update, but we’re also planning to allow players to queue for ranked and casual matches directly from online lobbies.

Granblue_en: One of the qualities of the original GBVS you have talked about before is the ability for spectators to easily see what’s going on in a fight. How easy will it be for spectators to understand the new mechanics?

FKHR: When we discussed GBVS being easy for spectators to understand, we were referring to viewers who may not know the ins and outs of the game systems. We made the game so those viewers would think, “oh, the screen darkened, so something crazy is about to happen” or “uh-oh, they pushed them to the wall, so they’re about to do mega damage.” Easy to digest visuals.

While there are new mechanics in Rising—Ultimate Abilities, Raging Strikes, improved counter hit markers, etc.—they’re all simple things that viewers can easily connect to visual and audio cues. Game legibility hasn’t changed all that much from vanilla Versus, so I think players and spectators alike will still enjoy a familiar viewing experience.

Anila using the new Raging Chain mechanic
Anila making use of the new Raging Chain mechanic in GBVS

Granblue_en: Anila is the first character to be announced for Rising. Can you talk a little bit about why she was chosen?

FKHR: The Twelve Divine Generals are very popular, so we chose her to be their representative.

Granblue_en: Approximately how many new characters can we expect on launch? Are there any specific goals in mind with the new roster, like filling in more archetypes, representing specific groups in Granblue, etc?

FKHR: At launch, Rising will feature four new characters: Anila, Siegfried, Nier, and Grimnir, who we announced at EVO 2023. Later down the line, we’ll add six additional characters with Character Pass Part 1.

It’s quite the lineup… Stay tuned.

Granblue Fantasy Relink

Granblue_en: It has been many years since the first Relink trailer was shown at GBF Fes. With the game finally due out at the beginning of 2024 and the goal in sight, how are you feeling about Relink right now?

FKHR: It’s been a long road.

We’re very sorry that we’ve made everyone wait for so long, but it was a huge accomplishment for Cygames to develop such a mammoth project in-house, and I gained a lot of experience myself. We’ve all invested a lot of ourselves in this game, as you might imagine, so we can’t wait for our fans to get their hands on it.

Though Relink started as our first in-house title, Shadowverse: Champion’s Battle, actually beat us to release… But it’s a great game too, so I think you should check it out!

Granblue_en: What do you think were some of the biggest changes between Relink when it was first announced to now?

FKHR: This is from a very long time ago, but we’ve since changed protagonists from the original announcement. We actually touched on this during Granblue Fest 2020, which you can check out here:

Slides from Fes 2020 that show the original design for Blue, the original protagonist of Relink

As for the game’s core design, nothing has changed from the planning stages.

Yasuyuki Kaji, the development director, has been part of the project from the original kickoff discussion. He was working at Platinum Games as director then, and he’s been in communication with us since the game’s inception. He’s been leading the development effort until the bitter end with a clear concept in mind.

In addition to myself and Kaji, there’s one other director from Cygames involved in the project, Sanshiro Hidaka. I believe it’s very significant that all three directors have remained on the project from start to finish.

Granblue_en: Since a similar system exists in GBVS, the idea of an Assist Mode was somewhat expected, but the existence of Full Assist Mode was surprising. What made you think of this?

FKHR: We had all types of gamers try out the in-house builds. This included people who are skilled action gamers, those who like action games but aren’t great at them, those who don’t normally play action games because they aren’t skilled at them, and people who enjoy unique gameplay experiences (like optimizing stats or self-imposing restrictions).

We wanted to make an action game that’s fun for every type of player, and we wanted to accomplish this by providing an experience for less skilled players that comes as close as possible to the experience of a veteran action gamer. Also, similarly to GBVS, we wanted to make sure smartphone gamers who aren’t really accustomed to console games could have a good time with the game.

Cygames' explanation of Full Assist Mode
Full Assist Mode, as presented at Fes 2022-2023

Granblue_en: We saw the option for different weapons in the most recent demo. How much of an effect will weapons have on the gameplay? Will players be expected to grind for levels and equipment?

FKHR: Weapons differ based on their passive traits and stats, and we’ve divided them into categories such as “Stingers” (weapons that boost crits) or “Defenders” (weapons that boost defensive stats). I imagine players will equip weapons based on their individual playstyles or to fit a certain role in their party.

Adding on, players will gain bonus stats just by collecting more weapons, so while you’ll equip only one at a time, you’ll still get stronger by adding to your arsenal. This is an homage to the weapon system of the mobile game.

And on top of all that, you can swap your weapon skin to whatever you’d like.

Granblue_en: Mobile game players only knew about the different places in Granblue via 2D static backgrounds. Can you talk about what it was like expanding these into explorable areas for Relink?

FKHR: The 2D backgrounds in mobile Granblue were drawn using extremely artistic and unique techniques, so it took a long time to render them in 3D.

Sotaro Hori, from CyDesignation and who drew almost all of the original Granblue backgrounds by himself, came onto Relink as an art director and helped us get all of the explorable areas looking great.

These days photorealistic backgrounds and maps are the norm, but I think Relink‘s environments have a powerful, creative visuals that really stand out among the crowd.

Granblue_en: The announcement of Yodarha as a playable character was surprising. How are you deciding the character selection for Relink?

FKHR: When deciding on which characters to include, we take into account the uniqueness and depth of their potential playstyles, all while trying to avoid bias. Yodarha’s moveset focuses on agile moves, so he’s fun to make zoom around!

Granblue_en: Will there be a gacha component in Relink?

FKHR: There won’t be a gacha system.

Unlike the gacha system in mobile Granblue Fantasy, which is used to obtain new characters and weapons, you’ll unlock new characters as you progress through the story in Relink. Furthermore, you can decide to unlock characters in whatever order you’d like.

Weapons, on the other hand, can be obtained in treasure chests or crafted after gathering materials.

Granblue_en: Will multiplayer be limited to specific parts of the game?

FKHR: The main story is exclusively single player, but quest mode can be played either solo or with others. When playing solo, the CPU will control your allies, just like in the main story. Quests found in the quest mode have many different objectives, such as exploration, fighting bosses, or defending areas; and with over 100 quests to play, there’s a ton of content to sink your teeth into.

Granblue_en: Can you talk about post-launch content? Should we expect something along the lines of mission packs, or something similar to the monthly story events in GBF mobile?

FKHR: We currently plan to release additional challenging content for players who have exhausted the main content of the game.

Relink‘s story is self-contained and wraps up at the end. Due to the sheer volume of assets we would need to create, it’s unrealistic to add story events at the same pace we release them for the mobile game, nor do I think this is something a console title needs to be a fun experience. For a plethora of varied scenarios, I recommend hopping into the mobile game!

Granblue_en: Please give a message to all of the Granblue Fantasy fans overseas.

FKHR: First, it took us a long time, but we were finally able to reveal Relink‘s release date. We’re very sorry to make all of our fans wait so long. But I believe it’s become a title packed full of our trademark Cygames quality, and it represents a bold step for Cygames’ future in the console market. I would love for you all to play the game and let us know what you think!

Second, GBVSR (November 30th, 2023) and Relink (February 1, 2024) will be releasing within three months of each other, which is a highly unusual situation for two titles from the same IP. But I believe if you play both of them, you’ll grow to love the world of Granblue Fantasy even more.

Lastly, next year will be the 10th anniversary of the mobile game, so it’s heating up to be a great year for all three titles! Expect big things from Granblue!