At Granblue Fes 2018, Cygames surprised many by not only re-revealing Granblue Fantasy Relink but also announcing Granblue Fantasy Versus. This means that the popular mobile game Granblue Fantasy won’t just have one, but two console games coming.
Yet, there is still a lot we don’t know about the two titles. In order to learn more, Twinfinite interviewed Director Tetsuya Fukuhara, who is taking care of both games at Cygames’ headquarters in Shibuya, Tokyo.
Giuseppe: Granblue Fantasy has been a successful mobile title for a while, but it’s rare for mobile IPs to be released on consoles. Getting two console games almost at the same time is unique. What prompted the decision to expand the IP in such a radical way?
Tetsuya Fukuhara: First of all, as a company, we always had a strong desire to energize the whole gaming market in Japan.
While it’s continuing to expand as a whole, the console market has declined from its size during its golden age.
Many people who play mobile games haven’t had much experience with console gaming. First of all, we want to introduce the younger generation to how enjoyable console games can be. Secondly, we also want to introduce Granblue fantasy to those who are not familiar with the mobile game. It goes both ways.
Thanks to the power of the Granblue IP we’re confident that this can be achieved.
G: With Granblue Fantasy having been a gacha game for so long, you have a pool of established and beloved characters that is truly massive. This is certainly an asset but it could be a challenge because it’s probably impossible to have them all appear in the game, which might upset some of the fans of specific characters that are going to be left out. What approach are you taking to balance this?
TF: As you mentioned, it’s indeed impossible to implement all of our characters into each title, so there are different criteria for each game since their systems are completely different.
Starting with Relink, it’s going to be a story-driven RPG, so we want to make sure that the characters are our most iconic. That includes Gran, Katalina, and the characters who appear in the main story. This is to give a good introduction to the IP.
Versus is going to be a more character-driven game, and since it’s a fighting game the method for choosing is different. For instance, an important factor is how people would enjoy fighting with each character. There is much more room for introducing more unique characters or some who aren’t as relevant to the main story of Granblue but do have a strong fanbase.
G: Could additional characters be released via DLC for both Relink and Versus? After all, Dead or Alive 5 received seven season passes, and Final Fantasy XV is getting DLC over two years after release, so it’s not something fighting game and RPG fans haven’t seen before.
TF: Of course that is included in our plans. We can’t really disclose many details about it at this point, but we definitely know that our fans want more characters to appear in the console games, so that is definitely something that we are considering.
G: When you announced Relink a while ago, you released some screenshots including characters that weren’t present in the latest reveal. I remember Lancelot, Charlotta, Percival, and Metera. Are they still in the game, or maybe those were simply early screenshot and not representative of the final cast?
TF: The recent reveal focuses more on the main characters who appear in the main story, but characters like Lancelot and Charlotta, Percival and many more are simply hiding behind the scene and will appear in the game. We haven’t removed them.
G: High frame rate is something that appears very important especially for a fighting game and possibly for an action-driven RPG. Are both Relink and Versus targeting 60 FPS on PS4?
TF: First of all, for Versus, we’re definitely going to have 60 FPS. As a fighting game, we believe that’s a must. For Relink, at this point 60 FPS is our goal, but depending the final visuals, if we decide that 30 FPS will the best solution overall, it’s possible that we’ll choose 30 FPS.
That being said, as mentioned, our goal, for now, is to have it running at 60 FPS.
G: What kind of interaction are you planning between the Granblue console games and the mobile game, if any?
TF: Of course, that is planned, but details are still to be finalized from now on. That being said, when we have those ideas implemented, it’ll probably be the first time that this kind of attempt is successful.
We’re going to provide a very unique experience that was never done before even for console games that have smartphone versions.
G: What are your ambitions for Granblue Fantasy Versus in the world of eSports? Cygames is deeply involved in esports as a sponsor, so I’m guessing you’re planning to go all out?
TF: The project wouldn’t have even started without the idea of eSports. It’s a very important aspect, so we’re going all-in. Since our partner is Arc System Works, they have considerable expertise in the field of eSports, and as Cygames we have our own know-how derived from Shadowverse.
The game will be released simultaneously across the world, so we’re hoping to hold Granblue Versus fighting game events outside of Japan as well.
G: So you’re hoping to see Granblue Fantasy Versus at EVO?
G: Versus appears to embrace a philosophy of accessibility to appeal to fighting game novices. What are you doing to ensure that it’s still challenging to master to appeal to competitive gamers?
TF: first of all, as you mentioned, we have built the game on the idea of accessibility for gamers unfamiliar with fighting games. That is achieved by having special moves activated by one button, and the game not being so much combo-oriented. One strike has meaning even without being chained into a massive combo.
The game system merges Arc System Works’ ideas and our own, but it was also Arc’s desire to have a less combo-focused fighting game. They wanted to challenge this kind of gameplay, so in this, our goals pretty much matched. It was easy to build the basic concept of the game.
On the other hand, for people who are really into fighting games, there is going to be another layer of complexity based on the timing and trying to read the opponent’s next move to determine the best response. It won’t be boring for competitive players as well.
G: Which elements do you think make Versus and Relink unique compared to other fighting games and RPGs?
TF: For Versus, the accessibility will certainly make the game stand out from other fighting games. Also, in normal fighting games, when a beginner faces a dedicated user, it normally ends quickly with the beginner unable to do anything in a completely one-sided match. That won’t happen in Versus.
Of course, a higher skill level is an advance, so dedicated users have much higher chances to win, but beginning players also have a chance to get through.
Also, many younger players don’t really get into the competitive side of fighting games, but we want something for them as well. There is going to be a story mode full of RPG content. Playing by yourself without competing with other people will be very enjoyable.
For Relink, among our game’s fanbase, there will be more people familiar with the game’s systems. It’s something more accessible for all Granblue fans compared to Versus. Accessibility is also very important for this game.
To be honest, we aren’t really aiming to have something completely unique or bizarre, departing too much from the typical elements of RPG. Yet, we do have a great IP, and we’re working to deliver every single element in the best possible quality. We believe that the overall quality will make the game stand out from the games in the same genre.
G: One of the most relevant aspects of Granblue Fantasy is that the main character can change job. I know this is probably not possible in Versus, but will it appear in Relink?
TF: As you mention, it’s not going to be included in Versus. About Relink, we did want to implement the job system at the very beginning of the project. Yet, we thought about tradeoffs and the costs involved in implementing the full job system.
Granblue has two main characters, male and female, and with all of the 3D models and assets that would be required, we could add a decent amount, but the massive selection is one of the relevant aspects of Granblue. We thought that having only part of the job system wouldn’t be satisfying for our fans.
In the end, it was a tough decision, but we made the decision not to implement the job system in Relink. Instead, we’re using those resources to fully flesh out the other characters like Katalina, Rackam, and more. They all have very different gameplay from the main character.
There is going to be a very vast and diverse user experience as an action RPG even without the job system.
G: Granblue Fantasy Relink was originally announced for 2018, now it doesn’t have a release window. Is this due to a change in scope and ambition for the project or other factors?
TF: As you mentioned, 2018 was our initial goal. After the project kicked off, it continued to become more and more massive, as the IP itself was growing at the same time.
Also, it wasn’t as easy as we initially thought to implement the full details of the Granblue world into 3D models, especially for the backgrounds. We didn’t want to make compromises on the quality. It was possible to choose the fastest and easiest way, but we didn’t. That’s the reason why the game hasn’t been released yet.
At the moment it doesn’t have a release date because we already delayed it once, we never, ever want to do it again. We will release that information when we’re absolutely sure that we can hit that date without risking any more delays.
G: Gran and Djeeta are pretty much silent protagonists in the original Granblue Fantasy. Are you keeping the same approach with Relink, or are you going to give them a specific personality and voice, maybe following the example of the anime series?
TF: For Relink they’re going to remain silent protagonists. They will have voices for battle actions and reactions in the dialogue, but they will otherwise remain silent. The reason for that is that users can take advantage of considerable customization for their protagonist. They can change the name and gender, so we can’t give them a specific personality.
For versus, the character will be named Gran and he’ll have a personality based on the animation.
G: You already said this for Versus, but are you aiming to simultaneously release the games in the west for Relink as well?
TF: Yes, it’s the same for Relink.
G: Granblue Fantasy is very popular in Japan, but it was never released in the west. Do you have any specific plans to increase awareness of the franchise overseas before the release of Versus?
TF: You’re right, the IP doesn’t have an official release overseas, but a fanbase in the west exists. Instead of publishing the game anew overseas, we’d like to improve the accessibility for overseas users to the original version of the game. Otherwise, there would be too much of a gap between Japanese users and western ones.
Also, we do need to improve the awareness of the IP. We’re going to organize many events and we’re considering participating at Anime Expo in Los Angeles in July with Versus.
G: Are there any relevant differences between working on a mobile game and on a console game? Which side do you enjoy the most as a developer?
TF: Working on mobile games, the aspect that most stands out is that you have to continue with updates all the time, releasing new events, characters, jobs, weapons, and more. That happens literally every day. You’ll also receive reactions from your users every day. That is one element that is really enjoyable in mobile development.
In console games, the reaction of the users won’t usually reach the development team fully until the game is finally released. That’s certainly different. On the other hand, when the game does release, the reaction is much more intense, and we’re looking forward to that.
That being said, for Versus we’re going to continue to establish the game with eSports events. We haven’t yet released the console games yet, so mobile games are the extent of our experience. We’ll see what happens, but we can’t wait to see how people will react.
As mentioned, developing mobile games and developing console games are completely different experiences, so it is difficult to pick which side I enjoy more. I can say that I am absolutely thrilled about having an opportunity to be involved in both sides.
G: This generation of consoles seems to be drawing to a close. What are your thoughts about releasing two games so close to the end of a generation? Would you consider a cross-generation approach with an additional release on next-gen consoles as well?
TF: It has been quite a while since the release of PS4. That being said, that also means that the whole industry has stronger development skills on the platform. On top of that, the installed base is also much bigger. Releasing on the latter half of the generation does have its merits so we do want to take advantage of this timing.
Since PS5 has not been officially announced, we don’t know what’s going to happen. Yet, if it does come out before our games are released, we might think of releasing on PS5 as well. That being said, in that case, they would probably have to be remastered versions.
G: This may seem a bit random, but have you ever thought about creating a Granblue Fantasy MMORPG?
TF: Granblue Fantasy is a very strong IP so Producer Kimura-san and I always discuss what we can do and what kind of genres we can approach for the franchise. An MMORPG could be one option, but the original mobile game already has elements of an MMO adapted into a new experience for a new era.
If we made a straightforward MMORPG using the IP, many things would overlap. If we decided to do that, we’d have to make sure that we don’t have two very similar games which use the same IP.
G: Do you have any message for western gamers who aren’t familiar with the Granblue Fantasy franchise? And one for those who have played the mobile game until now even if it wasn’t officially released in the west?
TF: A while ago, we had the golden age of the genre defined JRPG. Granblue Fantasy aims to include all of those precious memories into one package while adding a modern twist. If you remember enjoyable moments playing those games, then you should try out Granblue Fantasy. It’s very accessible as you just have to type in the URL and it starts.
If you like JRPGs, we definitely recommend you to start the game.
For veteran players, they have our gratitude, especially since it may not have been as easy compared to game officially released in the west. We’re really grateful for their support.
The game is fully-localized in-house and many among our staff are very passionate about it. Hopefully, you have been enjoying the translation, and we intend to continue localizing it even if it’s not officially released overseas.
There are many aspects that make an official release not possible, but now we’re fully focused on Relink and Versus, and those two will definitely be released overseas.
The localization that has been done for the mobile game will pay off into the quality of the translation for the two console games, and we hope you’ll look forward to it.
The game has been announced only for PS4 and doesn’t currently have a release window.
Versus will be released for PS4 at some point in 2019.
If you’re completely in the dark about Granblue Fantasy and would like to know what it is and why it matters to you, you can read my recent article on the topic. If you want to follow Fukuhara-san’s advice and start playing the original game for mobile and browsers to get acquainted with the IP and get ready for the PS4 games, you can read my detailed guide on how to create an account, install the game, and play in English.