Granblue Fantasy Versus is a game that’s been continually growing over 2020. In the first half of the year, we saw it launch on the PlayStation 4 and PC and add characters like Beelzebub, Djeeta, and Zooey to its roster. Now, it’s closing out 2020 with a second Character Pass adding people like Belial and Cagliostro. To learn more about what went into this unique fighter, Siliconera got in touch with Cygames Creative Director Tetsuya Fukuhara, Cygames Producer Yuito Kimura, and Arc System Works Development Manager Hideyuki Ambe about the creative process.
Lucas White, formerly of Siliconera: What sort of metrics or processes determined Granblue Fantasy Versus’ roster? In a character-oriented gacha game, that seems like quite a task beyond the main story’s crew.
Tetsuya Fukuhara, Cygames Creative Director: We have two criteria for picking characters. The first is that they’re a well-known and representative character from Granblue Fantasy. Secondly, we believe there’s a standard for the kinds of battle styles that have to be in fighting games, so we adapt characters to fulfill those styles–all-rounders, speed-focused, grapplers, etc–while making sure we keep a healthy balance of fighters to choose from.
Aside from that, we also want to take advantage of the fact the game is set in a world with a variety of different races in it by including them, along with making sure we take into account a balance of male and female characters. Picking 11 characters for the base roster was no easy task.
Was Cygames involved in the creative process for developing fighting game movesets for the characters, or was that all original work on ArcSys’ part?
Fukuhara: We leave designing the movesets all to Arc System Works. We do make certain requests, such as including certain abilities and attack movements, or to ensuring skybound arts are faithful to how they look in the original game.
Granblue Fantasy certainly has a fanbase in North America, but the original game is not readily available. Were there concerns about launching the game here, despite the original not being easily accessible?
Fukuhara: When I visited Los Angeles for Anime Expo, all the passionate fans I saw there made me feel confident there was an audience for this despite the original not being easily available. (This is an issue with the platform and has been something I’ve always wanted to address.) I was really happy for all the support we received from them. Everyone seemed excited for Relink too, so I’m hoping that this will lead to even more enthusiasm for Granblue in North America.
Yuito Kimura, Cygames Producer: Granblue never had a proper launch in North America, with the anime being the only real official release in that territory. That’s why Granblue Fantasy Versus ended up being the first “proper” game release for Granblue in North America, with the full intent of trying to spread Granblue’s popularity there as well.
Was the RPG Mode part of the game from the outset, or were there other ideas being tossed around? Either way, it’s fascinating to me how many gacha/mobage elements are present there. How did that come to be the framework for that mode?
Fukuhara: The planning for [its] RPG mode didn’t really get moving until after development had started, actually. That said, it was around the time two or three characters had been finished, so it was still fairly early on in the process.
The idea for it came from us wanting to enhance the single-player mode with as much content as we could. After talking it over with Arc System Works, they came back with a proposal for how we should handle it. It was developed using limited resources, but I think it’s turned into something that players will look forward to being expanded upon in the future.
The most intriguing mechanic in Granblue Fantasy Versus, to me, is the cooldown on special moves. What’s the gameplay philosophy behind that choice?
Fukuhara: This is something that came about from us trying to reproduce–or reimagine, I guess you could say–elements from the original Granblue. Not only that, but it was also a way to balance the “one-button special moves” concept we had going on.
I was worried at first whether or not the mechanic would translate well to a fighting game, but in fact it adds a lot of depth, and I think it has become accepted as a new mechanic that could be revisited in the future.
Arc System Works has a long history of working with IP, and the variety of source material is impressive! Can we have some insight into how these kinds of partnerships can be established?
Hideyuki Ambe, Arc System Works Development Manager: I would say the main reason why we receive these partnerships is because of our handling of the Blazblue and Guilty Gear series, and the positive reputation we’ve garnered because of it. We’ve earned a reputation of treating the IPs entrusted to us with care and respect, which is why I believe our partners come to us with offers to develop games using their IPs.
It feels like Arc System Works has had way more output than usual these past couple of years. How is the vibe at the office? Is everyone having a good time being more popular?
Ambe: The greatest motivation for our development staff is all the positive feedback for the games we make, and the fans we’ve gained because of it. We’re giving it our all right now to make sure that Season 2 of Granblue Fantasy: Versus is an experience that goes above and beyond the expectations of the players.
A “for fun” question: Let’s say the stars have aligned, and Arc System Works suddenly gets an unlimited budget and free reign over any single IP to make a new fighting game. The problem is everyone has to agree on one. Which properties might be argued over the most?
Ambe: Every once in a while the staff ends up getting into discussions about which IP they’d like to make into a fighting game, but since everyone is so widely versed in games, anime, movies and the like (i.e., they’re all nerds), they all end up with their own opinions about what they would go after, so having everyone decide on just one would be no easy task.
With that said though, we’ve found plenty of fans in our own company of the IPs we’ve been allowed to work on, and there’s no greater motivation to work on something as a developer than that.
I believe the love the production staff has for the IPs we’ve handled is why we’ve been able to deliver such high-quality products to the players until now.