Granblue Fantasy: Relink Review
Granblue Fantasy is a Japanese-only mobile JRPG from 2014. North America has seen an anime adaptation and a fighting game spin-off. Granblue Fantasy: Relink is an action JRPG sequel that has been in development since 2016. It was started by PlatinumGames, but they left the project in 2019. The game was completed by Cygames, who developed the original Granblue Fantasy.
The story is a full-on sequel to the events of the original Granblue Fantasy, which is a real shame because there’s no official North American version of that game. And even if there was an official release, it’s still a mobile game, which is a major turn-off for most. Granblue Fantasy: Relink starts with a lot of characters already on an adventure. Maybe there was a plot that wrapped up in Granblue Fantasy, but I hated starting Granblue Fantasy: Relink without being able to play the original. I always felt like I was missing important information about the characters and world. There is an in-game glossary of terms, but that wasn’t enough.
Basic JRPG Gameplay
The gameplay is pretty basic action JRPG stuff. The combat is heavily inspired by the Tales and Ys series. The player attacks with square and triangle. There are jump, block, and dodge buttons. Holding R1 opens a menu with special skills mapped to the face buttons. All of the other characters are AI-controlled. It often feels like there’s a lot going on, with the player only being a small piece of the action.
This makes a lot more sense knowing there is multiplayer combat that eventually unlocks. Granblue Fantasy: Relink keeps things pretty simple for a single player, but it all makes much more sense when every party member is controlled by someone different. The main story is single-player only though. There are over 100 online multiplayer co-op sidequests. While I applaud the developers for keeping a single-player campaign central to the game, the combat works best as multiplayer co-op.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink has the annoying quality of over-explaining basic actions that are pretty standard in most action games, but also under-explaining mechanics and lore unique to the game. I don’t need a game to tell me what a combo attack is, but I do need it to tell me why it says “Arts III” over my character’s head. There are little bits of the game that need polishing. For example, in the inventory menu, the player can see the effects of accessories they can equip, but those explanations aren’t viewable in the Gear menu where players actually equip the accessories. Another example is any time there’s a mid-battle tutorial or cutscene, the target lock-on disengages, which was insanely frustrating at first.
The voice-acting sounds like it’s straight out of an anime. I’m not a fan of a lot of modern anime English language voice-acting/ direction. I find the actors often sound like they weren’t recorded together. Every line of dialogue sounds very isolated. There’s nothing super egregious in Granblue Fantasy: Relink, but if I wasn’t reviewing the game, I would have turned on Japanese audio pretty quickly. The score, on the other hand, is fantastic. One of Granblue Fantasy: Relink’s composers is Final Fantasy series legend Nobuo Uematsu. There’s no music in Granblue Fantasy: Relink as strong as his classic work, but the score breathes a majestic and whimsical JRPG life into the game.
The art direction by Final Fantasy series veteran Hideo Minaba is also excellent. The visuals captured me from the beginning with blue skies full of interesting cloud formations. Character designs have a generic modern anime design that turned me off at first glance, but ended up working well in the final game. The in-game character models have an anime cell-shaded aesthetic, which captures the anime designs perfectly. The colors throughout Granblue Fantasy: Relink are very bright and vibrant. Lots of backgrounds are textured to look like acrylic paintings. The visuals were definitely the aspect of Granblue Fantasy: Relink that set it above its contemporaries.
Granblue Fantasy: Relink does a few things very well. Its art direction and music are gorgeous. The online multiplayer co-op combat gameplay works really well. But as a single-player action JRPG, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is mostly quite generic. It’s also the story sequel to a game not released in North America, which really soured my ability to get invested in the story or characters. Action JRPG fans looking for more games in the genre might enjoy Granblue Fantasy: Relink, but there are too many other better options for non-diehard JRPG fans to recommend the game.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher***
- Gorgeous visuals/ art direction
- Online multiplayer
- Nobuo Uematsu score
- Story sequel to a game we can’t play
- Generic combat
- Poor explanations of mechanics/ lore