I was lucky enough to get hands-on time with Granblue Fantasy: Relink, Cygame’s new action adventure title, at a press event held earlier this month. It was specifically to give some American outlets a chance to preview the game before its Gamescom debut. You may be somewhat familiar with the Granblue Fantasy IP as a ridiculously popular mobile RPG in Japan or even from its Versus fighting game, the sequel to which was announced at this year’s EVO fighting game tournament and was also present to preview here But what was clear from my time with the devs and both games is that they are gunning to make an impact on the West in particular.
Relink borrows more cues from spectacle fighters and action games than more traditional RPGs, at least at first glance. We were given about 30 minutes in a small linear map with enemies spawning in to fight with. The demo culminated in two back-to-back boss encounters that really showcased the flashy combat and abilities of your party.
You’ll see magical particle effects. giant explosions, lightning fast sword-swinging action, and dramatic cuts to close ups of your party unleashing devastating super attacks as part of a chain link system. The game allows for four-player co-op, but even while solo, you’ll have AI controlled party members tagging along that can hold their own.
There’s a large suite of playable characters to choose from, and retrying the short demo with a different character changed the way I had to play. I started with a very prim and proper rapier-wielding lady knight whose attack style was methodical and whose powers included a large area heal for my party and I. My second time through, I picked a brooding dual-sword user whose moves were reminiscent of the insane whirling blade attacks from Attack on Titan’s survey corps.
There’s a large mix of sword wielders, spellcasters, and even gunslingers, but each character looks to play quite differently from one another. Aside from a string of attack combos, you’re able to use four special abilities set to cool downs, and rather than a number of characters neatly fitting into a sort of class type, each one feels bespoke. This means you’ll likely have to familiarize yourself with how best to be effective with their abilities.
I will say that generally I’m weary of anime-inspired action games that lean too heavily on the flash and spectacle leaving a lack of depth to the actual mechanics — I have an entire video essay on that topic that you can check out here. We got far too little time with Relink to understand how much deeper its combat systems, RPG elements, or exploration of its hub levels will go. That being said, I had fun in its short demo and its high production value gives me hope that it at least meets the standard of similar titles like Tales of Arise.
As a newcomer largely unfamiliar with the franchise, I still found myself drawn to the characters on the roster who all exude main protagonist energy in the way big gacha games like Genshin Impact might draw you in from just its look alone. But that sort of ignorance to this franchise is exactly what Cygames is hoping to address. In addition to Relink and Versus Rising, there’s already a 2 season anime adaptation, all of which is looking to make this cast of characters and their stories familiar faces for American anime fans. It’s an attack on all fronts across multiple forms of media. I’m curious to see more but only time will tell if Granblue Fantasy will win over the west.