The Granblue Fantasy series is absolutely huge in Japan, highlighted by a massively successful mobile game that has made millions of dollars. While nowhere near as big stateside, especially with just a couple fighting games and an anime to its name, Cygames hopes to capitalize with Granblue Fantasy: Relink, an action RPG that the developer hopes to be a noteworthy introduction to the series and characters.Read more: “Granblue Fantasy: Relink” Review
Granblue Fantasy: Relink puts you in the role of the captain (Gran as a male, or Djeeta as a female, or a character of your chosen name) of a crew making their way through the Sky Realm in the Zegagrande Skydom. As is commonplace in JRPGs, disaster happens which causes the ship to crash separating the captain from his crew and it’s here where you’re introduced to the game’s intuitive battle system.
Directed by Yasuyuki Kaji of PlatinumGames fame, Granblue Fantasy: Relink features a robust battle system that feels very similar to Final Fantasy XVI‘s, which comes as no surprise given the PlatinumGames connection. On PlayStation, the square button is your basic attack, triangle is your strong attack or combo ender, X is jump, and circle is used to link attacks with the members of your party. You can dodge with R2, and you can use hold R1 to use spells with the same face buttons. Before long, you’ll also be able to use limit break-style attacks to do massive damage to the enemies you see on the screen.
What really separates Granblue Fantasy: Relink from a game like Final Fantasy XVI is you aren’t limited just your main character. The game features over 18 playable characters, and each of them handle differently despite the controls pretty much being the same. While the game’s main story is easy enough to blow past with just the main protagonist, it’s actually better to keep trying other characters out because it’s both more fun and the thrill and challenge of finding the best character combinations is a big part of the game’s meta.
If you’re someone that doesn’t care about all these systems, you can also toggle to the Assist or Full Assist mode so all you have to do is button mash and have your character use the most optimal actions based the combat situation, making the more accessible especially to fans of the series coming from the mobile game.
As enjoyable as it is to engage in combat with the game’s roster of colorful characters, as far as the story goes, almost every character lacks personality. For one, the main story is really short for a JRPG–I rolled credits in around 12 hours. I don’t think the short length is a bad thing (heck, we need shorter games), but the lack of time to flesh out the personality with all playable characters is a curious choice. Sure, you’ll come across “Fate Episodes” that give you more background on every character, but they’re all just spoken and written monologues on top of a JPEG. There’s just nothing appealing about that, especially when the game’s cutscenes boast incredible production value. The voice acting is fine too, but again, it’s hard to care about any characters not named Lyria, Rolan, or the captain.
In addition to Final Fantasy, another title that Granblue Fantasy: Relink should draw comparisons to is Monster Hunter. While it’s an action RPG through and through, the Skydom is not an open world. Every chapter in the game is a straightforward level with your objective clearly marked on the map. It’s not all that different from a fancy dungeon crawler like Kingdom Hearts. In between each chapter you’ll be in sort of a hub village or city where you take on more quests, do simple sidequests, buy gear, or prepare your loadout. I was more down on this method of play when I previewed the game months ago, but the end result was far more interesting than I thought it would be, especially once you get to the point where you can play the game online, collecting loot much like you would in Monster Hunter. I won’t go too much into it, but after you finish the main story, you’ll have a dearth of quests at your disposal, and it’s here where you’ll definitely wanna try the game online. I only had around two sessions, as the feature opened up late into the review period, but it worked for what it was.
It’s a little tough to recommend Granblue Fantasy: Relink at full price just because it comes out at a really crowded time, especially where JRPGs are concerned. Like A Dragon: Infinite Wealth came out last week, Persona 3 Reload comes out in a few days, and Final Fantasy VII Rebirth comes out at the end of next month, so as a JRPG enthusiast–I totally get it. All that said, Granblue Fantasy: Relink features a really short story that you can finish in a few days, and the post-game could potentially keep people playing for a while especially when taking its superb combat system online. The lack of real depth and effort explaining the lore is a real problem though, so I’d be wary of that before committing to whatever investment you put into this one.