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   Grandia III - Reader Review  

Not very grand, unfortunately
by Solon

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy-Moderate
COMPLETION TIME
25-40 hours
OVERALL

2.5/5

Rating definitions 

   There are many series out there in the RPG genre that recieve special attention for certain parts of them that are (usually) exceptionally well made. The Tales and Star Ocean series for their fast-paced realtime battle systems, the Ys series for their spectacular music, the Suikoden series for their massive amount of recruitable characters etc etc, the list goes on. The Grandia series is included on this list. Many have said that Grandia brought the turn-based battle systems to a whole new level, with the Initiative Point system (will be explained later on), the ability to cancel other's actions and so forth. The question is, is such a fantastic battle system really enough to satisfy in the long run, no matter how lacking the rest of the game might be? Read on to find out.

   Having played the previous installments of Grandia, I pretty much knew what to expect, especially when it came to the storyline. Much like in the earlier games, you take the role of a spirited youth (Yuki) whose biggest dream is to fly his aeroplane, which according to him is the only way of being truly free. After his dream finally comes true, he sets out on a journey across the ocean to the mainland, where he accidentially meets up with a mysterious young girl (Alfina) who seems to be involved in some dangerous business. Being young and reckless, Yuki instantly takes a liking to Alfina and decides to help her out no matter what. Most players can probably figure out how this is going to end up. Yes, it's the regular save-the-world-and-let-love-conquer-all kind of plot that has always been present in the Grandia titles, with the exception that the cheesiness and the corny dialogue was taken to an even more extreme level this time around.

Flashy battles, as always Flashy battles, as always

   As previously mentioned, the battle systems of the various Grandia titles have often been one of the main reasons people play the games in the first place, and Grandia III is no exception. The battle system is just about the only thing in the game that's really enjoyable. The Initiative Point system is back again, where you can see the portrait of each character in a big circle (instead of a straight line like in Grandia II) in the upper left corner of the screen. When a character's portrait has reached a certain point on the circle, he or she can choose any action they want to perform, upon wich the portrait has to move through a final stage of the circle until the action can actually be performed. As in the previous installments, there are certain special attacks (including the classic Critical Hit command) that can cancel the enemy's action by hitting them when they're in the final stage of the IP gauge. When this happens, the enemy's portrait is pushed way back on the gauge and has to wait for his turn once again. Naturally, the enemy can do this to your party members as well.

   New to the battle system is the way Mana eggs and Skill books work. In Grandia III you extract spells from the eggs rather than acquiring them through equipping the eggs. When you extract spells from an egg it disappears, and you have to find a new one if you want another. There is still a slot for each character to equip an egg though, where it serves as a booster for certain types of elements for that character. For example, it would be wise to equip a water-based egg on the healer of your party, as healing spells are water-based.

   The skill books works pretty much the same way. Just like in Grandia Xtreme, you can also fuse the mana eggs to obtain better eggs that boost your elements even more, or contain better spells for you to extract.

   When you're finally in battle, things are pretty much as fast-paced as a turn-based battle system can ever be, which is one of the main reasons the system is so enjoyable. There are plenty of gorgeous spell effects, multi-hit combos and so on. You even have the ability to do aerial combos, if you manage to attack an enemy with the regular attack command when it's in the air (you can send the enemy flying with some spells or the critical attack command). The result is a flashy special combo that will most likely finish the monster off. All in all, the battle system is very enjoyable, and is probably what kept me going all the way through the game.

   Unfortunately there were many other aspects that made me want to stop instead, such as the soundtrack. Noriyuki Iwadare has made some fantastic soundtracks through the years, especially within the Grandia and Lunar series, but this time he just doesn't succeed. I don't know if it was lack of inspiration or laziness, but the soundtrack of Grandia III leaves very much to be desired. Many tracks are reused way too many times throughout the game, and aside from one of the boss battle themes, the battle tracks (they were always his strongest point) just seem to lack that special touch they always used to have.

Cute graphics, classical exploration Cute graphics, classical exploration

   Another disappointing part is the translation. While there is nothing wrong with the actual text (it rarely is when Square-Enix is doing the job), the voice-actors fail to impress. This hardly comes as a surprise to many people these days, but nevertheless, something needs to be done about it. If I could choose myself, I would keep it all in Japanese, as they tend to do a much better job, especially when it comes to emotes and such. I know the potential is out there though, looking at games like Shadow Hearts: Covenant, series like Legacy of Kain and so on. Unfortunately, Grandia III is not among these games, as I was never really convinced by any of the characters, except maybe Emilious. Either they went overboard when expressing their emotions, which just made it sound embarrassing, or they just sounded unnatural.

   In the graphics department, Grandia III does a decent job. The character models and especially the surroundings (for a change) are quite detailed and beautiful. There are no glitches or bugs, except for a few minor annoyances with the camera when running through smaller corridors. Much like in the other installments, everything is brightly colored and almost has a cartoonish touch.

   While most parts of Grandia III might seem to resemble the earlier entries in the series so far, the difficulty is one of the parts that doesn't. While still easy, this game is quite a bit harder than the others, especially when compared to Grandia II. The Game Over screen is still pretty much non-existant though (I've never seen it), but character deaths aren't that unusual if you're not careful enough.

   Being about as long as your average RPG, Grandia III takes about 25-30 hours to complete. There are hardly any sidequests to speak of, and the replay value is low as there is nothing but the same plot to return to.

   In the end, Grandia III would probably satisfy a lot of people who are in search for a game with a light-hearted plot and a refined interface/battle system. However, if you want something deeper, and first and foremost original, you had better look elsewhere. I can see that the developer tried to stay true to the fans, keeping the style of the series, but sometimes changing the concept a bit might help the game rather than ruin it.

   In the end, Grandia III is lacking, especially considering how long it took for the developer to release it after it was announced. I expected more, a lot more. With only a single part of the game being really enjoyable, I can't help but to feel disappointed. It wasn't enough. If you have doubts about picking this one up, take my advice and wait. Either for a pricedrop or even for a different game, because this is one of those titles that, despite having some good parts, you can manage well without.

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