Pure gaming ecstasy, Grandia is the RPG genre at its finest
While it was initially released on the SEGA Saturn in 1997, Grandia was released on PlayStation two years later. Earlier this year and late last year, Grandia was released on the PlayStation Network in American as a celebration of the re-development of Grandia Online. Grandia is an excellent role-playing game. With over 60 hours of game time, an enjoyable story, a fun battle system and satisfying gameplay, Grandia is a must for RPG-fans.
Grandia tells the tale of an arrogant and stubborn 15-year-old boy named Justin, who inherits a special stone, the "Spirit Stone" that belonged to his deceased father. Justin and his childhood friend and neighbour Sue visit ruins being excavated by an evil Army, the Garlyle Forces, and discover from a mysterious woman named "Liete," that the Spirit Stone holds great power and Justin must travel across the ocean to Alent, an ancient city of knowledge. Naturally, Justin wishes to be an adventurer and sets off to discover the mysteries behind Liete and the Spirit Stone. While not amazingly original, the story is nice, simple and easy to get drawn into.
Grandia is a fantastic, satisfying and intriguing game. Every time you progress the story or reach new towns you really feel a sense of accomplishment. Towns look nice and bustle with trade, you can even stop in the Inn to have dinner with your party and discuss current events. The story is relatively linear, you'll be following the story along a moderately set path with the odd side-dungeons. The game is pretty lengthly though and on many occasions you do have the option to revisit locations and dungeons from the World Map to grind. Like many RPGs, grinding is pretty big in Grandia. What makes it fun is that you don't actually grind the characters themselves, you grind stats on the character. Different weapons have their own stats, along with different elements of magic. When magic and weapons are leveled up with a character, they learn new spells and abilities. Magic can be the same between characters, but they do match the characters personalities and stance on battling. For example, Justin has almost purely offensive magic, Sue is defensive and used for buffs, and Feena is balanced, etc. Abilities are dependent on the character they are generally the flashiest moves.
You can't have an RPG without orcs
Characters in Grandia are all 2D sprites in a 3D world, in contrast to the 2D world of Final Fantasy VII with 3D characters. It looks really nice and because of it's style it hardly feels outdated even when playing it today. There are a few CG cutscenes, but they don't look amazing and they appear so rarely you wonder why they even bothered. I do wish they had included more anime-style cutscenes, but it's not bad without it.
While running around, enemies are actually physically on the screen. If they run into you from behind, the battle starts to their advantage and vice-versa. No random battles makes the game a joy to play, especially when you're low on HP and MP and you just want to get to the next save point. Your party members trail behind you too, which gives it a touch more realism than the RPG where your party seems to strangely vanish when it's time to move on, only re-appearing to chat or battle. The more party members behind you, the more likely you are to be hit by a monster or a trap outside of battle. The battle system in Grandia is probably my favourite RPG battle system yet. It is turn-based, but you have the option to move your characters around for strategic purposes. Certain attacks hit multiple enemies or party members, so you can plan out how you will attack. Time only pauses in battle to let you pick a command, but otherwise the IP bar at the bottom-right of the screen shows your characters and enemies and who is attacking next. A critical hit can send a character further along the IP bar, and paralysis and sleep stops their progress in its tracks. It's actually a fantastic system, and gives you enough breathing space to plan out your strategy without stress.
If I had one to make complaint about Grandia, it would have to be the voice-acting. It's not unbearable but it does make the characters come off a tad annoying. Hearing Justin yell, "Here goes! Hwaaarghhh!" when using a special move gets tedious and it's somewhat unimpressive for such a flashy move. That being said, for a long RPG at that time to have so much voice-acting was most excellent. The music is quite nice; it's never annoying, it's warm and it fits the style of the game. There's some good variation in music there too, whether it be exploring a dank and creepy ghost ship, or walking through a bustling market town. Otherwise, the battle music is identical all the way through until the second disk where it changes. However, It's not bad and I never really got sick of it.
Yes, that is a giant tortoise
Replayability-wise, I'd keep this game for years to come. There are no hidden or alternate endings, nor does the story actually continue even with it's sequels. But going through and finding the mass amounts of hidden items, getting your characters to be stronger and faster, and finding the three hidden dungeons is great fun. I've played it through several times now and I haven't gotten bored. If you're an RPG-fan looking for a warm, enjoyable and delightful adventure with a fantastic cast of characters and well established universe on two CD-ROM disks (or as a PSN download, one file), go track down a copy of Grandia. You won't regret it.
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