Fighting games are fairly popular to the point that any person who’s picked up a game or two would know what they’re like, however there’s only a very little amount of people who actually convert from liking to watch them to actually trying to pick them up. Typically the reason being that ‘fighting games are hard,’ or that they can’t really relate to the game being presented. Sometimes even seasoned players eventually drop a game because you quickly reach the peak of what the game can offer and is no longer interesting.
ArcSys has been pursuing the right balance of making a game that can fit everyone’s needs the most, and GranBlue Fantasy Versus (GBVS) is no exception. In this article, I’ll go over the three part formula that this fighting game giant has come up with to create a game that everyone can appreciate and enjoy.
Find a Strong IP
First would be the most obvious, brand power. A lot of people would be far more interested in seeing Superman fight Goku than Condiment King fight Calendar Man (they may or may not be Batman villains, who knows?). Making use of well known characters just makes it that much easier for a set of people to invest into their fight as they already know the characters and roughly know what to expect or they already have an idea on who to root for. This is why having characters crossover to a fighting game generally brings new players to it. You’ve seen this done a lot with Tekken, where many gripe over Akuma’s dominance over the roster, and through the years with Soul Calibur with Link and even Darth Vader gracing the scene. But it doesn’t even have to be a crossover, it just has to be something everyone knows about. Remember how everyone went crazy over the reveal of DragonBall FighterZ, which is a popular game to this day. Even if they’re just releasing maybe the 12th version of Goku of the same character, people still generally like what they’re getting because they’re all based on material known to the DragonBall universe.
Granblue Fantasy is a mobile game that’s been running for over 6 years now, so not only does it have a massive presence among anime and mobile gaming communities, but it’s also widely popular, already having two anime seasons on its back. You’ll hardly ever have to market it, people will just have to know it exists and fans among that crowd are likely to check it out.
Make Accessible Controls
However, people who play games on their phone aren’t automatically people that can play a fighting game. There’s a world of difference on menu tapping on a touch screen and hoping to get that SSR you always wanted and tapping commands on a controller to hopefully mash out a move you need to do to win the round. If you make the game too difficult to play, a novice player would probably not go further than a few tries before tossing the controller on the ground out of frustration and give up.
Personally, it took me a few hours to finally understand how to do a proper hadoken when I first picked up a fighting game. I’ve also said before that you may want to practice your controls before fighting anyone so you can focus on fighting your opponent rather than your controller.
Granblue Versus tackles this problem for new players in two ways, first, they simplify the button control scheme by reducing the number of buttons you need to remember. Arc Sys has actually been doing this for some time now, as evidenced with their button layout evolution from Guilty Gear, BBTag, and even DBFZ. They’ve even introduced auto-comboing as a sort of crutch tool so that a new player won’t have to train for hours on that 10 hit combo that they may or may not find useful fighting real people later on.
The other thing that GBVS does is to adapt an alternate command system that looks a lot like Smash. By having a special move button that changes depending on what direction you’re holding at the time you pressed it, a new player can get used to actually using the moves before mastering how to pull them off. Using the simpler input puts moves on a cooldown, while using the technical input makes it quickly reusable. Here’s the thing, unless you have some sort of strategy behind it it’s probably a bad idea to repeatedly use the same move anyway. So the cooldown mechanic is actually low-key training new players to use their character’s entire move set efficiently and effectively. It’s pretty genius.
Maintaining the Depth
So, if you make a game simple enough, new players will pick it up. But if you simplify it too much, the game may end up rigid. For example, if you let people auto-combo too easily they may end up with two players just looking for one hit and that would ultimately lead to the defeat of the receiving player. Making a fight basically balance on who gets the first hit in might as well be DiveKick, where everyone dies from one hit without the need for combos or whatever follows a hit from the air. Which can be fun, but you’ll quickly reach the peak of the game and well, the fun quickly dies once you’ve discovered that.
Balancing the game in such a way that one mistake doesn’t make the rest of the fight a foregone conclusion or that one strategy basically beats every other approach in the game is what will keep even the best players interested in playing another few sets with you.
This is done by making it possible to reverse even the worst situation so long as you’re skilled or disciplined enough as a player. If the game keeps the possibility of winning on the table, then everyone’s eyes are still glued to the screen. EVO’s Moment 37 in Street Fighter 3 pretty much explains everything I’m trying to say here.
GBVS has this in a number of ways, getting killed while blocking is a pretty rare occurrence, and when your character’s HP is low enough, you can access a much stronger version of it’s super move, but it still has to hit, you still have to be able to guess when your opponent may be open to be counter-attacked or if he himself is planning something similar. The game may make it easier for you to play, but winning is still ultimately on you. Timing your attacks, getting around your opponent’s guard, knowing when to be more defensive or offensive, discreetly keeping these principles as part of the game is what makes it have a good depth.
Fighting games are a blast and I’ve always wished that more people got into it, and clearly company that makes them for a living wants the very same thing. Granblue Versus has proven itself to do well in many respects and has a pretty generous offering for those who want more than just good fighting game mechanics. I mean, RPG mode isn’t perfect but it’s pretty good.
The game even features some pretty good practice modes that teaches you a lot of general concepts you can apply even in other fighters and character-specific practice in using and fighting against them.
Granblue Versus is yet another step furthering ArcSys’ strive to make games that everyone will enjoy watching, learning and playing with and if there was one I’d ever recommend for beginners or just for a group of friends looking for an entertaining title for game night, this would definitely be one of them.