Want to get into fighting games? You should start with Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising

A character in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.
(Image credit: Cygames)

I’m used to experiencing some of the best fighting games purely as a spectator. Whether it's scrolling through viral clips of plays from high-level tournaments or watching videos outlining new features found in the latest titles like Tekken 8 or Street Fighter 6, I’ve always wanted to really get stuck into the genre. But one major barrier has stopped me from getting properly invested time and again.

A lot of fighting games are quite unfriendly for beginners - despite some admirable efforts to try and break down a lot of the biggest barriers that a lot of newcomers face. That’s all changed with Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising, however, which is comfortably one of the most newcomer-friendly fighting games that I’ve ever tried. 

The story mode is engaging and the perfect way to learn the ropes while you prepare to take the action online. Its multiplayer is very laid back, letting you pick opponents that are around your level and giving you all the tools to refine your technique at your own pace. Best of all, the comprehensive free-to-play offering means that you can work out whether it’s right for you without having to splash out for the full package.

 Back again

A screenshot of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.

(Image credit: Cygames)

Although I’m definitely not the biggest fighting game fan, the arrival of Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising late last year managed to catch my eye. An upgraded version of the original Granblue Fantasy Versus that was released back in 2020, Rising appeared to go even further than its predecessor when it came to approachability. 

The introduction of new, beginner-friendly characters like Anila and an approachable three-button auto-combo system all looked like perfect additions for me on paper. Launch came, and our resident fighting game expert Rhys awarded the game a glowing four and a half stars, describing it as an extremely welcoming experience. 

With this I was fully sold, so bit the bullet and bought a full-price copy of the Deluxe Edition (which includes the first DLC character pass) for PlayStation 5. Although I chose the priciest package for full access to the roster (as well as the tempting prospect of crossover characters like 2B from Nier: Automata), there’s actually a comprehensive free-to-play version available that boasts an awful lot of content with no up-front cost. 

It features permanent access to the basic all-round fighter Gran, alongside three rotating characters selected from the wider roster. They’re swapped out weekly, giving you a good chance to get a taste of the complete offering. The arcade mode, versus mode, and online multiplayer are included too, not to mention the first chapter of the story, which is where I’d recommend that most newer players begin. 

The campaign in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.

(Image credit: Cygames)

Although Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is a tie-in with the mega-popular Granblue Fantasy mobile RPG, its narrative is easy to understand even if you’re anything like me and haven’t touched the source material. Following a standalone plot that gradually introduces the characters and the world, it’s supported by solid voice acting and some seriously impressive 3D animation.

Even if you’re not much of an anime fan, it’s hard to imagine that you won’t be immediately drawn in by the pseudo-2D visuals and eye-catching character designs. Better still, the first few missions are dedicated to meticulously explaining the mechanics. Styled more like a beat-em-up than a traditional fighting game, each chapter opens with waves of basic enemies and provides on-screen prompts showing how to perform each of your moves.

New systems are introduced slowly, in a bite-sized manner that feels far more encouraging than most. By the end of the first chapter, which culminates in a regular fight, I had a good handle on how to play and was even confident enough in my knowledge to try an online match.

 Head to head 

An online lobby in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising.

(Image credit: Cygames)

The online lobby in Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising is presented as a small open-world, shrinking you down to an adorable pint-size avatar and letting you wander around freely. It’s a charming format that lets you approach challenges at your own pace rather than just unceremoniously dumping you into a match and the opportunity to chat to other players or leave a message in the lobby’s visitor log helps foster a real sense of community. 

The world is filled with miniature arcade cabinets, each with two available seats. To start a duel, you simply deposit yourself in an unoccupied space and wait for opponents to come to you or find a cabinet with a spare space. 

Every player has a prominent rank above their heads, reflecting their skill with their current character, in addition to a color-coded indicator that shows their overall level. This lets you deliberately try and pick out players who seem close to your skill level. Initially, I was quite worried that high-level players would try and take advantage of this, deliberately gravitating towards newcomers for easy games, but this was thankfully not the case.

My first few matches were incredibly even, with just the right mix of wins and losses to make every new victory feel like a proper achievement. In fact, the few times I fought high-ranking S++ players was entirely of my own volition and led to some surprisingly pleasant experiences. While I admittedly lost every attempt, relying on auto-combos and taking advantage of counter-hit opportunities taught in the tutorial served me shockingly well, and even won me the odd round. 

Rising is relatively slower-paced compared to other anime fighters like Guilty Gear Strive and Dragon Ball FighterZ, meaning that many attacks are clearly choreographed and simpler to read. This makes it far easier to learn from each encounter and I quickly picked up some useful techniques from my opponents’ behavior. Most importantly of all, however, every lobby I have experienced so far has been completely free from the kind of toxicity that tends to dominate online play. 

While there’s a full text chat, simple stickers are the most convenient mode of communication, and seeing cheerful illustrations accompanied by text like ‘Good Work’, ‘Not Half Bad…’ or ‘Nice Fight’ pop up after games is nothing short of heart-warming. 

Your own experience might vary, but if you’re new to fighting games but eager to learn I couldn’t recommend picking up Granblue Fantasy Versus: Rising enough. With the free version available on every release platform (PS5, PS4, and PC), there’s no reason not to at least give it a try. 

For some top fighting game hardware, see our guide to the best fight sticks right now. For more Granblue goodness, see our review of Granblue Fantasy: Relink. 

Dashiell Wood
Hardware Writer

Dash is TechRadar Gaming's Hardware Writer. Before joining TechRadar, he was a print journalist writing articles for some of the UK's biggest gaming magazines including PLAY, Edge, PC Gamer, and SFX. Now, when he's not getting his greasy little mitts on the newest hardware or gaming gadget, he can be found feverishly devouring the latest Nintendo Switch otome.