Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Grandia II

Genre: Role Playing Game
Platform: Windows, Playstation 2, Dreamcast
2000 UBI Soft Entertainment, Game Arts. Screenshots and images courtesy of Amazon.Com.

Grandia Games
Grandia Strategy Guides/Art
Original Soundtrack
Toys and Accessories
Everything Grandia
Cover Description:
Each Shall Rise to Face Their Destiny...

Throughout the history of the realm, the most fabled times were those of great deeds and fantastic adventures, with magic and battles to inspire kings. Such a time was the era of Grandia. Such a tale is the trial of Ryudo.

Enter a visually astounding world brimming with real-time 3D graphisc, 20 minutes of high-res CG animation, and over a thousand APCs. Grow your characters with near-limitless flexibility, and experience one of the most critically acclaimed combat engines in RPG history.

That's It? >>> by firesenshi

Ryudo is a Geohound, a slayer who receives jobs from various towns to eliminate monsters. One day, he receives a special job in a town of Carbo to become a special bodyguard to Elena, a songstress of the religion of Granas, the god of light. After an unknown attack killed many people in the village, Elena and Ryudo realize that it is the god of darkness, Valmar, who does this in order to be resurrected. In order to prevent the god of darkness from resurrecting, Ryudo and Elena must travel to the Church in order to stop Valmar and save the world from the brink of darkness.

A few confessions before I start my review: If my FF10 International didn't have any disc errors, I would not have turned to Grandia 2. I have not played the first Grandia but I must admit that the good reviews regarding that game enticed me to pick this up and put my FF10 thirst on hiatus.

First off, everyone can tell that the graphics improved just like any other game that had a primer on the Playstation. You get a good view of how these graphics were rendered because the camera gives you a tour of each town you enter... albeit a slow tour that you could never ever skip so you can go straight to the dialogue. You can see the improved sprite version of the characters. I was actually disappointed with the minimalist efforts done in making the characters move on the battle map. There were just circles on their faces and no mouths -- the same game graphics that are forgivable on the PS1 if you played Legend of Dragoon or even FF7. The graphics were only enhanced in battle if you used any magic. And in typical Final Fantasy battle effects where summons have special appearances, special attacks even show some anime sequences.

The battle system is actually done very well. It is a turn-based system based on an SP meter. You can see when you or your other party member can attack as well as your enemies. If you can catch the time as to when your enemy can attack, and you precede that enemy on that meter, you can launch an attack to counter it or even cancel the spell or special attack the enemy is intending to do. There are four embers in your party. You can even choose to put party members in AI mode so that you can concentrate on your own attacks but that is unnecessary because the battle menu triggers automatically as well as freezing the battle awaiting for your instruction. I think AI modes are only necessary in real-time multi-member battles (as in Tales of Destiny 1 and 2) where each member can attack at random.

The sequence and scripted boss battles are there as in most typical RPGs, following the town-dungeon-boss formula. The dungeons are not that tedious. In fact, you can dodge enemies a la Lunar Silver Star Story Complete but that is not advisable since there seems to be ENOUGH enemies (not more, definitely not less) for you to earn enough points to power up your characters. I actually found myself even hunting for enemies because enemies drop scarce points for you to both power up your characters in developing attacks and magic (There are separate points you need to power up for each. Enemies drop different SP and MP points for both.) Only the bosses drop those big points and given the long dialogues and travels, collecting points are never enough. But good thing though, you never have to level up your characters. The points matter. You don't have to go out, find a dungeon just to level them up in order to fight your boss even though you have to switch characters. Switching characters is part of the story and it's quite unpredictable.

However collecting points does not entail much conscientious effort on your part. Nor engaging in battle. Once you have the points and power up your attacks and get the magic you want, then you have the formula in beating anybody including the bosses. This is where battles get repetitive because all you need to do is slash-slash-magic-magic and repeat for all enemies and bosses. Tactics involved in beating the boss fast involves more of a trial and error as to finding out its weakness (This means attacking or casting magic and seeing which works best.)

What I don't like most about this game are actually its supplementary features—the slow dialogues and the dub. The dub just turned me off and I can't push a button to skip the dialogues. You have to wait for them to stop speaking before you can go explore the tiny town and go through the more important motions of supplies, equipment and power up.

The story of Grandia 2, on the other hand, redeems itself so much so that it will pique your curiosity enough to continue the game. I think that if the story of this game were turned into anime, it would have been better. The story has the classic account of 'doom' endangering the Earth where the players are cookie-cutter defined good vs. evil. However, since this is an RPG and recounts more of the adventures of Ryudo and his party, the focus on the drama among all of them ranges from entirely comedic with the likes of Millenia to the touching story of Mareg. Although the translation does not exactly compare Millenia to as funny and lovable as Jessica of Lunar SSC, you must admit she does put spunk into the story of this game. Spunk enough to take on the other leading lady, Elena, and compete in a *cough* love triangle. The bonus at the end even allows you to take the character one last time to tell you in great detail what happened to each and every character. How satisfying it was depends on how you liked the story or if you had a favorite character. But the bonus in the end certifies that there was complete closure. Nothing left hanging in terms of storyline.

COMPLETION TIME: 20-35 hours
RATINGS: Gameplay 6; Battle 7; Story 9; Visuals 6; Characters 6; Sounds 8; Replay Value 4

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