Several emotions have surrounded Granblue Fantasy spinoff Granblue Fantasy Project Re:Link since its announcement in August 2016, at an event held by publisher Cygames.
First, there was excitement and intrigue when the company confirmed they were expanding their horizons beyond the mobile gaming market, with Re:Link being one of the key titles. (The other non-mobile title is a big RPG project, though no details were confirmed alongside it, and nothing has been mentioned about it since.) Second, there was concern since developer PlatinumGames didn’t have much experience with action RPGs at the time. Thankfulness also came into play eventually, as it was nice that PlatinumGames had another company and project to rely on after Scalebound was cancelled by Microsoft. NieR: Automata was also nearing its release at the time, so they needed the work.
There was also wonder: As in, people wondered why info about the game went dark for well over a year. Following the announcement and eventual confirmation of its intended platform at Tokyo Game Show last year (that’s PlayStation 4), Cygames placed promotional focus on projects that were coming sooner, like mobile RTS title Last Order, along with constant updates to Granblue Fantasy. That ended when it made a surprise appearance at the Granblue Fantasy Fes 2017 event this past weekend, despite it not being listed on the schedule.
The eight-minute demo started with a character slowly strolling through a colorful town to show off its presentation and graphical prowess, though it was tough to get the visual effect from a recorded stream. After a few minutes, the demo switched to a battle scene, which featured characters fighting multiple enemies within an arena.
It was possible to get the full effect of the overly-excited commentators, though. Excited presenters are common for Japanese games streamed during stage events, but this was a new level, either due to too much caffeine intake or a damn good paycheck — or both.
After fighting normal enemies for a while, the boss rushed in with its long health bar. But this worked as an opportunity to show off some special tricks and combination attacks the party can use to take down bosses and foes that might seem too formidable at first.
To elaborate further on the emotions I mentioned above: The concern about PlatinumGames’ experience in developing an action RPG evaporated with NieR: Automata, which made several Game of the Year lists this year due to its story and gameplay quality. Re:Link appears to take some elements from that title’s gameplay in how attacking and dodging works. But through having a party of four attacking a flurry of enemies simultaneously, it also looks similar to the Dragon Quest Heroes games — though the enemy gatherings aren’t on par with what Koei Tecmo/Omega Force’s Warriors games offer. The combination of the two styles looked like a blast to play and watch.
In fact, the game looks more fluid in motion than it did in the reveal trailer last year, so that’s one reason why it went dark for so long. It’s changed enough that Cygames removed the link to the old trailer from its official website, though it remains available on their YouTube account. In this week’s Famitsu magazine, director Tetsuya Fukuhara of Cygames claimed the game has now reached a point where they’re satisfied with the action flow. They’re also aiming to have no compromises on the graphics, to the point that members of Cygames’ staff have been stationed within PlatinumGames to ensure its quality — presumably on a PS4 Pro. Hopefully they’re not annoying the PlatinumGames staffers to the point of frustration.
Re:Link will also have a multiplayer mode, where players can control the other party members. Whether characters and some of their stats can be imported from one person’s game to another wasn’t specified, but that’s unlikely. There’s also no way to tell whether it’s being balanced for the single-player or multiplayer options, though the gameplay demonstration suggests the former is the focus.
Re:Link will release in Japan sometime in 2018; unless they start heavily detailing it soon, expect it to arrive in mid-2018 at the earliest. The game looks impressive enough that someone will localize it, but who could potentially handle it is the big question. Cygames doesn’t have a western arm, and there are no current signs suggesting they intend to establish one in the near future. But someone like Atlus or XSeed will handle it, and could ideally keep the release close to the Japanese version. It could hit PC western markets in addition to PS4, particularly when producer Koichi Haruta teased it was coming to that platform during the 2016 event.