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Spinning the Marquess
By: Michael Beckett
They say that the best way of telling whether a game is great or not is simply to ask yourself if it was fun to play. Grandia 2, a port from the Dreamcast, fails in this respect largely due to the embarrassingly regular occurrence of glitches which infest every aspect of the game. And this presents something of a dilemma; I want to like Grandia 2, but the technological problems make this game impossible to recommend. The best I can say is that the design was solid, but the execution makes it nearly unplayable.
The glitches caused by the unceremonious porting of the game to from the Dreamcast affect nearly every aspect of the game. On the field, slowdown is the order of the day, with menu and camera controls suffering huge lag time before execution. Visuals in general suffer from a huge amount of breakthrough, particularly in characters whose design calls for a cape - the shifting blue stripes that result are truly eye-blistering. In combat, voice clips are cut off mid-sentence, sound effects are distorted and the Battle Result screens are often made transparent and nearly illegible. Even the game's bright, upbeat visual design can't mask its serious underlying problems.
The music provides a cheerful counterpoint to the colorful visual design. The themes by Noriyuki Iwadare are extremely solid in composition and are a lot of fun to listen to. Those who enjoyed Mr. Iwadare's previous work in the Lunar series will find a lot to love here. Sound effects, on the other hand, are a collection of clunky, irritating, often poorly timed noises just a step or two above bleeps and boops. Grandia 2's voice work is extremely solid, and although it does descend into corniness more often than is strictly comfortable, it does keep with the style of the game.
Using a unique combination of Final Fantasy's ATB system and action-RPG style real-time combat, Grandia 2s combat is easy to learn and easy to master. Unfortunately, it's even easier to break. Using critical attacks in combination with powerful turn-delaying special moves, the gamer can adopt a style of play that would make the Marquess of Queensberry spin in his grave. Quite simply put, with the right sense of timing, your foes will never get a turn.
Being as it is an extremely traditional RPG, Grandia 2 lacks a great deal of originality. The plot, despite a promising start, is highly cliché-ridden - once again, hero with a tragic past, magic sword, darkness sweeps the land, etc. Character design is well done, but nothing we haven't seen before. The cast of characters for the game is highly likeable - I find myself particularly enamored of Millenia and her off-beat sense of humor-slash-destruction - but again, nothing we haven't seen before.
Siegrist Translations, the localization company responsible for the eminently forgettable Lunar Legend, manages a good, solid translation. Much to my surprise, the translation was consistent and high-quality in both readability and characterization.
No two ways about it, Grandia 2 is a highly linear game. With only one unrepeatable minigame and no sidequests, there is very little reason to replay. The difficulty of the game also reduces its chances of going for another spin - with fully restoring save points dotting the landscape, it's a simple matter to defeat one foe using your most powerful attacks and then simply backtrack to the nearest save point. Doing so does increase the game's Time to Complete, but Grandia 2 only lasts around twenty-five to thirty hours anyway.
I'd like to be able to say that gamers who like simple, traditional RPGs will get a kick out of Grandia 2, but I can't. There are simply too many problems with its execution to recommend this game. For everyone else, Grandia 2 is a game which lacks originality in nearly every aspect. It comes up short on complexity in design and lacks an engaging plot to tie everything together. In the end, Grandia 2 falls short of every goal it set for itself, none of which were particularly lofty, and should be avoided at all costs.
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