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Granblue Fantasy: Relink (PS5) review: A fun action RPG that pays homage to the classics

By Zelda Lee - 13 Apr 2024

Granblue Fantasy: Relink (PS5) review: A fun action RPG that pays homage to the classics

Note: This review was first published on 21 February 2024.

Diving into Sega’s Granblue Fantasy: Relink was akin to unearthing a relic from a cherished past, a past where the landscape of Action RPGs was less crowded and more adventurous. This sense of nostalgia, unexpected yet profound, hinted at something unique about Relink – it didn't just remind me of games I used to love on the PlayStation 2, arguably the console that hosted the golden age of Japanese RPGs; it felt like it belonged among them.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink is crafted with a clear nod to multiplayer dynamics, echoing the social and cooperative elements of titles like Capcom’s Monster Hunter. The game introduces players to hubs that serve as central points for interaction, weapon enhancements, side quests, and narrative progression. These hubs are a clever design choice, fostering a sense of community and shared purpose among players. However, Relink diverges from the path tread by Monster Hunter in its mission structure, favoring combat-heavy time trials that thrust players into the thick of the action without unnecessary delay.

The game’s narrative journey is a linear progression through a series of battles against lesser foes, interspersed with platforming challenges, encounters with mid-level bosses, and culminating in epic confrontations with each chapter’s big boss. Despite its linear progression, Relink manages to inject variety and exploration into the experience, offering alternate paths and hidden treasures for those with a keen eye. The inclusion of unique gameplay elements in each chapter – from aerial combat against enemy ships to navigating through ancient ruins – ensures a refreshing experience with every new chapter, preventing the gameplay from stagnating.

Visually, Granblue Fantasy: Relink attempts to carve out its niche with a distinctive style that blends the realistic with the fantastical. The game employs a mixed-media aesthetic that gives certain elements, such as hair and skin, a shiny sheen, while others, like clothing and metal, boast a hand-drawn quality. This approach, while innovative, is not without its drawbacks, as some character models may feel out of place within the game's overall visual scheme.

Combat in Relink is a high point, however, offering a fluid and dynamic system that, despite a few quirks, provides a deeply satisfying experience. The game’s vertical jump mechanic and problematic lock-on system are minor blemishes on an otherwise engaging combat system. The inclusion of invincibility frames during dodges and a well-timed parry mechanic adds layers to the combat, encouraging players to master these skills for a more effective and rewarding engagement with enemies.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink embraces its identity with a collection of distinctive elements that add to its charm. From timed challenges to adrenaline-pumping escape sequences filled with treasures and alternate paths, the game revels in its status as a video game, unafraid of indulging in the mechanics and tropes that define the medium.

The game truly shines in its boss battles, which are meticulously designed to offer a multi-faceted challenge to players. These encounters feature multiple phases, requiring players to adapt to changing tactics and exploit moments of vulnerability. The boss fights are a highlight, showcasing the game's ability to blend cinematic spectacle with engaging gameplay mechanics, resulting in battles that are both visually stunning and strategically demanding.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink stands as remarkable evidence to the enduring appeal of games that dare to be different. It captures the essence of a bygone era, a time when the boundaries of gaming were constantly being pushed and expanded. While the game does not escape criticism, with its visual inconsistencies and combat idiosyncrasies, it succeeds in delivering an experience that is both nostalgic and refreshing.

The game's storyline, though not its strongest suit, serves as a backdrop for the rich gameplay and world exploration that define the "Granblue Fantasy” experience. The linear story progression is enhanced by the game's willingness to introduce new gameplay elements and challenges in each chapter, keeping the player engaged and curious about what lies ahead.

In short, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a bold foray into a genre that often plays it safe. It is a game that not only pays homage to the classics but also strives to carve out its own identity within the crowded Action RPG landscape. With its engaging combat system, unique visual style, and commitment to innovation, Relink offers a compelling experience that stands out among its peers. It may not be without flaws, but its successes are significant and noteworthy. It is a game that will likely resonate with those who appreciate its nostalgic roots and inventive gameplay, promising a journey that extends well beyond the confines of its story. In a gaming world that sometimes feels too predictable, Granblue Fantasy: Relink is a breath of fresh air, inviting players to embark on an adventure that feels both familiar and entirely new.

Granblue Fantasy: Relink is available for purchase at the PlayStation Store

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