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Granblue Fantasy Relink preview: a lot to think about

Granblue Fantasy Relink is a new action JRPG based on the successful mobile game

Taking Granblue Fantasy from a turn-based mobile game to a full action-based JRPG is no small feat. Still, it appears that the team behind Granblue Fantasy Relink has cut no corners in making this a memorable landmark console JRPG that should hopefully help the series stretch far into the future.

We got some hands-on time with the game, as well as the opportunity to speak to series general director Tetsuya Fukuhara about the process of transforming their world from mobile to console.

Jumping into gameplay, it’ll feel immediately familiar to anyone who has played an action RPG before. The team emphasized how newcomer-friendly they wanted to make Relink, and that shines through as I was able to pick up the controls and immediately start slashing monsters with ease.

Granblue Fantasy Relink gameplay

“Even in Japan, there are people who don’t really enjoy mobile games as much,” Fukuhara says, “so we want to try out a consumer title using the Granblue Fantasy IP to give those players something to look forward to. Plus, worldwide we acknowledge that mobile games are not as popular as console games depending on where you look, so we wanted to provide that same avenue for worldwide players as well.”

While you’ll spend a lot of your time focusing on bashing basic attack combos and dodging enemy offense, there is also a Xenoblade-style Arts system, where you have an arsenal of special attacks that slowly recharge. Plus, each side of the combat leans into the other. Nail basic attack combos and your Arts will temporarily level up, making them more powerful, and using Arts lowers the enemy guard and opens opportunities for powerful chain attacks.

Granblue Fantasy Relink gameplay

It gives battles a great sense of flow, and there’s always something to be thinking about as you’re worrying about staying out of danger, hitting combos, and looking for the right moment to unleash your Arts. This has its downsides though, as during one of the major boss battles, I started to feel overwhelmed at how much I had to be balancing with the boss’ complex attack patterns and my own combos – it makes me better understand why Xenoblade opted for an auto-attack style of combat.

It’s still a lot of fun though, and I can definitely see myself growing more comfortable with it as I get more time than the brief window I got to play in this session. Additionally, with unique weapons and upgrade trees, each character has a different playstyle. Fukuhara also tells me that “Inside each character’s upgrade paths are different skills, so it is possible to create different builds,” so it seems there is also some degree of customization over how each character plays

Granblue Fantasy Relink gameplay

The one thing I didn’t get to see much of is the narrative, which is arguably as crucial to JRPGs as the gameplay. The colorful cast of characters is certainly there, but one character that won’t be making much noise is the protagonist. In a world where many series are starting to voice their previously mute main characters, Granblue is opting for the silent approach.

“In the original title, the cast is massive,” Fukuhara explains, “so if were going to give the main character a specific personality, it would really limit the interaction with the other personalities you can have on your airship. So keeping the main character as a blank slate helps in that aspect.”

It’s not clear to me yet whether Granblue Fantasy Relink will be another JRPG for the ages, or simply something that gathers a small but passionate fanbase. It depends heavily on the strength of the narrative and intrigue baked into the world, but the gameplay is certainly enjoyable enough to carry it whatever happens.

Granblue Fantasy Relink releases on February 1, 2024, for PS5, PS4, and PC