Granblue Fantasy (2014/2016)


Granblue Fantasy (2014/2016)

Publisher: Mobage
Developer: Cygames
Director: Tetsuya Fukuhara
Platform: Android/iOS

Note: Because I play the Japanese version exclusively, some of the terminology may be different in the English release. Also, being an online game, there are going to be constant changes, but that shouldn't affect the core experience, which is the focus of this review.

With his dragon companion, a young adventurer sets out in search of his missing father while protecting a mysterious girl from the forces of the Erste Empire.

Basic combat operates as a fairly standard turn-based JRPG. You have four members of your active party plus two in reserve. Both characters and weapons are aligned with one of six elements which influence strengths and weaknesses. Besides standard physical attacks, the characters have a maximum of two to four abilities for attack, buff/debuff and healing, each with a set cooldown. The relative strength and number of abilities available depend on the rarity class of the character (R, SR, SSR), as does their maximum level. Besides the inherent strength of the character, your attack power and HP is determined by your selection of ten weapons and five summons.

There is a job system for the main character with ten job classes per four main job tiers (though, as of the time of this review, only six of Class IV jobs have been made available) plus an extra tier of seven jobs with special requirements. Across the main tiers, the abilities and attributes of the job are similar (ex. Fighter -> Warrior -> Weapon Master -> Berserk represent successive upgrades of a physical offense-based class). You can acquire new jobs by meeting requirements and having the necessary amount of JP. While you only retain an individual job's stat bonuses while you are in the job, mastery bonuses for reaching Level 20 are persistent. Also, your fourth ability slot can be filled by any ability you have previously learned, giving you a measure of flexibility with your loadout.

Single player quests consist of the main story, free quests, and boss quests, each with a given AP value to access. Story quests consist of four sub-missions per chapter. Among the free quests are Grablue Channel quests which provide humorous scenarios involving various characters (including some not currently in your party). The boss quests are multi-battle events with a limited number of accesses per day that are good for farming materials. Speaking of multi-battles, you can access the multi-battles of other players by clicking the "Multi-Battle" button and spending a set value of BP. Participation in multi-battles is often essential until the higher levels. (And speaking of higher levels, there are HL multi-battle events that become accessible once you reach Level 101.) There are also co-op quests that consist of simple boss fights with parties of up to four players.

Extra quests have limited availability and are particularly useful for farming. Availability varies by quest type. Some are only available for an hour, others for a day or two. Event quests are divided into story events, which are six-chapter stories plus boss battles and a couple free quests; guild war events, and special boss battles. Scenario events typically have at least one SR character available only for the duration of the event. While there is a guild wars event pretty much every month, a given scenario event may be repeated once per year at best.

The gacha feature is used to acquire characters, weapons and summons. You can draw for free using crystals and rupis or use Mobacoins. I personally don't recommend putting down money unless it's something like a Surprise Gacha that also includes a ticket where you can pick the exact character you want (good for limited characters). I've seen Youtube videos of players putting down over 100K yen and still not getting that character they want. Don't do that. Drop rates improve during certain times, such as the end of the month Legend Fes, and when new characters are introduced, they have an improved drop rate. Saving your crystals to do ten draws at a time rather than single draws seem to be more effective from my experience, but I have gotten some good single draws on occasion.

There is also a casino with poker, slot machines and bingo to earn tokens for various rewards.

I've played MMORPGs in the past, but it's never lasted long because I play RPGs for the story and the characters and MMOs tend to be lacking on those fronts. This game, however, has a proper story and a rather good one at that. The overarching plot is fairly standard for a JPRG, but the characters are what really sell it. As there are currently over 200 individual characters (many of the characters in the cast list are variations of the same characters), the ones outside the main story get most of their characterization in the Fate Episodes when you first get them and for any subsequent upgrades. The scenario events also serve to give certain characters a little more time in the spotlight. Some of the scenario events are just fluff, but others are surprisingly well-written. (I particularly like the original Robomi quest.)

There is also a 4-koma series. The humor rarely works for me, but it's another way characters get featured. Usually when a new character is introduced, they'll get one or two 4-koma, which can be nice.

This is a very nice looking game. Character designs by Hideo Minaba are outstanding. During battle, the characters are rendered as cute little SD versions of themselves, while the enemies are typically just the illustrations with limited animation. (You won't mind the limited animation given how elaborate the art is.) Because dialog sections use the standard character portrait with variations of facial expressions, it can sometimes look a bit awkward (such as Io's summer version with her rear sticking out no matter the situation) but it's nothing too seriously complain about.

The game features full voice acting in story quests and at least partial voice clips elsewhere, using a number of notable voice actors. Also, Nobuo Uematsu is among the composers, which should make any JRPG fan sit up and take notice. The tracks are quite good, but a few of the voices might grate, depending on your tastes. (Personally, I find Bi and Siero to be annoying, which is unfortunate because they're two of the most omnipresent characters in the game.)

While I tend to have a low opinion of free-to-play games that lure you in with the promise of a free game and then nail you with microtransactions, it's not that hard to play for free. Cygames tends to be pretty generous with elixirs and crystals during special events and as an apology for any downtime. So long as you have the willpower, you can do rather well without breaking the bank. Now, if you want to indulge in a Surprise Gacha or two, that should be fine. Also, there are occasional campaigns where things like AP and BP consumption are halved for things like story quests or co-op. These are good times to get your grinding in.

If you're in Japan or you have a good import venue, there are a number of rewards you can get by purchasing various licensed goods. Also, there are collaboration events with other games, so if you link your accounts, you can gain from there as well (though it takes extra legwork for a non-Japanese phone).

For those of you who don't like playing on a cell phone, there is a Chrome app version of the game, which is what I prefer. However, there is some functionality you miss out on such as the aforementioned collaborations.

I'm not typically a fan of MMOs or mobile games, but this one managed to change my mind with its appealing art, full-fledged story and deep gameplay. Having a PC option really goes a long way toward winning me over, too. It can suck up a lot of your time (and money if you're not careful), I'm quite pleased with it and would recommend it to just about any JRPG fan.

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