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Grandia - Review

Grandia Review

By: Stewart Bishop


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 10
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 10
   Plot 10
   Localization 8
   Replay Value 6
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

35-60 hours

 
Overall
perfectionist
Criteria

Title Screen

   To say that this game is a masterpiece can do it no justice. Grandia is phenomenal, an incredible RPG that will be remembered as a work of sheer brilliance. The most interesting piece of information, however, is that Squaresoft had absolutely nothing to do with this game's creation. If you are one of the more wizened folk who can see beyond pretty graphics, this will be one of the most memorable experiences in your entire RPGaming career. While it is sad that there are very few who have played or even heard of Grandia, I have made it my personal goal to expose the entire RPG community to this beauty.

   Let us begin with the battle system. The ATB (Active Time Bar) has been replaced by a single bar, with each of the battle's participants represented by an icon. When a player's icon is near the end of this bar, a command may be selected. After inputting a command, the character's icon will slowly creep forward and when it reaches the end, the attack is performed. During this period of time, if the character is attacked, the icon stops while he or she recovers, and a powerful hit can cancel the move altogether; quite impressive, to say the least. At last there is actual strategy in a non-tactical RPG. The speed that the icon moves after the command is selected depends on the power of the move and the level of the performer. What this creates is very sophisticated fight scenes, especially for the beginning of the game. An enemy that can eliminate a character with a single hit must be defeated by playing "keep-away," as in all of his moves must be canceled by a critical hit by one character while the other character focuses on delivering lethal blows.


Sing it with me!
Trippin' around Downtown  

   The skills system is also a bit different. The elements water, wind, fire and earth each have their own corresponding levels, which can be raised by using spells of their respective types. Higher levels of magic mean more powerful magical attacks that can be cast. Note that certain spells can only be obtained by 'training' your magic to certain levels, which holds very true for combination magic such as ice. Similarly, the weapons also have their own levels. Personal skills that characters have (special attacks) can be obtained by raising weapon or magic (or even a combination of both) to certain levels, so it is very important that you switch weapon types often. Also, magic is split into three varying levels of power, each with its own set of MP. Learn to use your weaker spells on random battles and stronger spells in boss fights. Speaking of random battles, they are quite similar to that of Chrono Trigger and Super Mario RPG. You can actually see your opponents on the terrain, and can decide to engage in a fight with them or try to elude them to prevent the battle. If Justin runs into the opponent, your team is given the initiative, while if a group member aside from Justin touches them; the enemy is given the initiative. So you should be certain that you can outrun the opponents before you decide to elude them.


Ouch?
That'll leave a mark...  

   Grandia's music is incredible. Ranging from highly upbeat songs to scores of tragic happenings, it is all there. Interestingly enough, the battle music changes from time to time. The battle themes are different in the two different discs, and also differ if you or your opponent had the initiative. This is also true for the fanfare music. If you received a 'quick kill' victory, which I believe is obtained by killing your opponents quickly while remaining unscathed, you hear one type of fanfare music, while if you receive a 'normal kill' victory; you hear another type of fanfare music.

   Speech is also present, but isn't a predominant portion of the game. It is mainly used for important plot-setting events and during the introduction of a new character, but the voice acting is great. My only gripes are Milda, Guido and Liˇte, who have terribly annoying accents. The other sounds are excellent; from "Yeah! We won!" to the lightning bolts scraping against the ground, you won't ever get bored of them.

   Grandia's plot is incredible. You WILL become attached to these characters. Justin is by far one of the best heroes that I have ever encountered, in any RPG. He is wild and mischievous, but he has a heart of snow and an incredible amount of courage. Each of these characters are like real people; they have actual quirks and feelings, unlike certain eighth installations of a Final Fantasy series...ahem. There were moments that absolutely touched my heart, or when I stared in awe and admiration of Justin's bravery. With no embarrassment at all, I proudly say that I cried when this game was over. I wanted, no, needed more. If I were to point out Grandia's best aspect, it would be the incredible characters and their development.

   The graphics are similar to Xenogears. Towns and dungeons are placed in a fully 3D, rotating environment that just cries out, "Explore me!" The special effects for the spells and skills, however, are very high-caliber. I was quite impressed by Dragon Cut, H&E Cut and World's End. Though not nearly as good as the more CG-esque attacks present in many modern RPGs, these are still quite good.


suck to be colorblind
Lots of green!  

   Playing this a second time around was still a great experience for myself, as well as other friends that have played it before. I think of Grandia as a storybook; Not only is it linear, but 'reading' it a second time right after you finish will not be all too enthralling. After a while, however, picking the game back up and playing it over again may bring back many fond memories and make the experience much more enjoyable. Since there is nothing you can really do when you reach the end, however, the score is painfully dragged down.

   Despite this, Grandia has burrowed a little niche in my heart and rests there cozily along with the other four of my top five favorite RPGs. It has truly earned a right to be there and should be in yours as well. Do yourself a favor and play Grandia: the most heartwarming tale that has ever embraced the RPG industry.





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