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Grandia II - Review

"Elmo? Who the hell is Elmo?"

By: Heath Hindman


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 4
   Originality 5
   Plot 5
   Localization 10
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-40 hours

 
Overall
Fantastical
Criteria

Grandia II
 

   Usually, when a game is only on shelves for a short time before the price drops to $20 for a new copy, it's a sign that the game sucks. Although that same fate befell the PS2 version of Grandia II, any hints of poor play are far from accurate.

    The story of Grandia II places gamers in the role of Ryudo, an ordinary guy doing odd jobs under the label of a "geohound." In classic bedtime-story-fashion, one fateful job leads Ryudo into a quest upon which the fate of the world may depend. After being assigned to protect Elena, a holy songstress on her way to an exorcism, Ryudo's life becomes entwined with Elena's, and the adventure they face will be one for the ages. While the characters in Grandia II are quite nicely developed, the story itself fails to excite. It's somewhat lacking in originality, and a good number of things that would be considered "spoilers" can be seen coming at least a few minutes before they happen.


Tio is a death house
Tio is a death house

    Fortunately for GameArts, Grandia II does feature some of the best dialogue in any game to date. Ryudo's sarcastic comments and likable, realistic personality will keep players paying attention to the whole script. In fact, this review's title is a direct quote from the game. This game even outdoes LUNAR 2 in terms of humorous discussion.

    Technically, the game is unimpressive. The graphics look nice enough; no complaints there, but the game often suffers from serious slowdown. It's all too common to be walking through a town at normal speed, only to be abruptly sent into a sort of slow motion. This hurts the feel that the game tries to present, and can be frustrating to sit through. Meanwhile, the player will be constantly annoyed by simple, repetitive music. Only a handful of tracks are present, and they are recycled throughout all of the game's dungeons and fields. Only a select couple of tracks are actually worthy of any praise, and they are all used in cut scenes.

    Grandia II's most outstanding (and redeeming) features have got to be the battle system and its interface. Each character has a set of skills that only s/he can learn with "Special Coins" earned after battle. These coins also contribute to the growth of those skills. A similar system is in place for magic. One "Mana Egg" can be equipped on any character, and spells are learned/leveled-up with "Magic Coins." The fights themselves use a system similar to Final Fantasy's ATB timing, which is extremely difficult to explain without a visual aid. Everyone involved with the battle has an icon that moves along a meter at the bottom of the screen. A small section at the end of the meter is for those waiting for the command they've entered to take place (agility, and the stats of the given attack contribute to the speed in which moves will be performed). If one is hit with an attack bearing "cancel" properties, s/he will miss his/her turn. This adds an element of strategy to the battles that can keep the player's interest for the entire 40 hours. Combine this with the deep customization, pretty effects, and the fast-paced, chaotic action, and you've got yourself one hell of a battle system. In short, one could say it's kind of like Star Ocean 2 done right.


A nice, friendly dinner chat
A nice, friendly dinner chat.

    An interesting feature in Grandia II is the party's ability to have dinner conversation while spending the night at inns. With the aformentioned hilarious dialogue, these events can sometimes be a riot to watch. In addition, they help drive home some great character development and interaction. This feature definitly scores Grandia II some bonus points.

    A factor that may be holding Grandia II back from its true potential is the difficulty, or lack thereof. Aside from one or two boss battles and certain enemies in the "secret stage," this game's difficulty is a joke. The low level of challenge can really take a player's enthusiasm away, hence making the game seem a little bit dull at times. The fact that a few bits of the story could have easily been axed doesn't help either.

    All gripes aside, GameArts and Ubi Soft deserve a heck of alot of credit for making such a quality title. A flawless translation is something very rare in video games, and especially rare in RPGs. This game is localized as well as just about any other RPG on the market today, and that alone is worth endless praise. The battle system, great dialogue, interesting characters, and deep interface make this game one to check out, especially for gamers in search of a well-priced RPG. Grandia II might be the most fun $20 can buy.




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