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Grandia Xtreme - Review

Grandia Xtreme Review

By: Dave Willis


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 9
   Music/Sound 9
   Originality 6
   Plot 5
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 2
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Medium
   Time to Complete

40-60 hours

 
Overall
7
Criteria

Grandia Xtreme
 

   Marking the third Grandia title to appear on consoles (Parallel Trippers doesn't count), Grandia: Xtreme (G:X) takes a decidedly different approach than its predecessors. Forget the intricate plotline and hours of character development; the main focus here is definitely on combat. Labeled a gaiden (or side story if you will), G:X isn't a true sequel to the last game. It is, however, a chance to use the super-smooth Grandia battle system for some old-fashioned dungeon exploration. Don't expect G:X to be cut from the same cloth as the past two games, as it follows the beat of a different drum.

   You play the role of Evann, a brash youth who happens to be a Ranger. He has the ability to warp the party in and out of dungeons using a Geo Gate. Evann gets conscripted into the Nortis army and is snatched from his home after refusing to report for duty. You see, the army needs his ability to manipulate Geo Gates, but there are no other Rangers to be found. And what caused this sorry state of affairs one might ask? It's nothing but an Elemental Disorder running rampant throughout the land, destroying villages, and killing innocent citizens. To his dismay, Evann finds out that the Nortis officer in charge of stopping the Disorder is his arch-enemy, Colonel Kroitz. Reasons for their feud are not explained in great detail, other than some malicious remarks Evann spouts off with. After some rather hasty soul searching, Evann decides that his help really is needed in order to put an end to the Elemental Disorder. He agrees to go along with the army's plan.

   The combat system is the bread and butter of any RPG. So it's imperative that the fighting is one of the strong points in a game. G:X doesn't disappoint in that aspect whatsoever. For my money, G:X's battle system is one of the best out there. The battles are remarkably fast paced, easy to get the hang of, and laced with strategy. Types of attacks are in no short supply either, combos, critical blows (to cancel enemy actions), magic spells, special moves, and killer team up maneuvers where two or more characters perform a special move together. Veterans of the previous games will feel right at home instantaneously, while Grandia newbies will have no trouble catching on. Even so, the phrase "too much of a good thing" comes to mind during the later stages of G:X. I began avoiding battles once my characters had mastered their special moves because of the sheer repetition of monster encounters. Keep in mind; I crammed 45 hours of game play inside 6 days, so that might have had something to do with it.


Evann's wallet takes a hit after cleaning out the item shop.
Evann's wallet takes a hit after cleaning out the item shop.  

   Interface-wise, G:X has things under control. I had no hassles and didn't run into any nasty snags while I breezed through the menus. I thought the 30-item limit on the party's item supply was an annoyance at first, but it's easily remedied by storing items at the shop in town.

   Thankfully, Noriyuki Iwadare has returned to provide another top-notch musical score. The compositions heard from beginning to end are superb. There are some touching piano and violin pieces to accompany the epic sounding intro. Not to forget, the battle music is dandy. Mix in 80's style guitar riffs with the synth and horns, and these tunes will get the combative juices flowing. Anybody who has played the first Grandia will get a feeling of nostalgia once the ending credits roll. I was impressed with the sound effects G:X provided for our audio pleasure. They add to the frantic environment of battle (I sometimes cringed when my characters got smoked with a strong attack), provide a sense of realism (the sword being drawn when moving into the ready position in dungeons), and they give the monsters a more menacing persona (growls and snarls).

   There are some new features that haven't been seen in the previous Grandia games. Mana Eggs can now be combined to grant the characters more powerful spells. Melding eggs is essential since the most useful magic is attained only through advanced combinations. In addition, Skill books can be found in dungeons and like their name implies, they make it possible to equip valuable stat boosting skills. Scrolls dropped by fallen enemies contain the skills, but a trip to the Skillmaster needs to take place in order for the skills to be equipped by party members. Also, an "Xtreme" gauge has been implemented to give the player a heads up whenever baddies are lurking nearby. I found it to be quite useful, as it saved my bacon a couple of times.

   G:X's plot leaves a lot to be desired. It's not the driving force that will keep you playing like in most RPG's, but kind of a backdrop for the furious combat to be had. Side quests are kept to a bare minimum. There's an Easter egg-style hunt for sound bites that can be turned into songs by a three-piece band. Oh, and you can make Carros dance to the beat. Whoopee.


They never had a chance!
They never had a chance!  

   Translation of the game text was well done. I caught maybe one or two grammatical flubs, but that was it. Call me crazy, but even with big name talent on board, I felt the voice acting wasn't up to par. Dean Cain, Mark Hamill and Lisa Loeb were hardly the model of consistency. Some lines were flat, with no feeling behind them, while others were full of emotion and personality. Furthermore, the voices of Specto and Quanlee get my vote for most annoying of all time. Put that all together and you get one big shot of mediocre voice acting. Not horrible, not good, but somewhere in between.

Replay value here is slim to none. I guess you could find all the sound bites, or acquire every single team up special attack… but that's about it.

Hoo boy, the visuals are very nice, expect for one huge flaw that mars the whole appearance of the game. Pop up is the culprit and it sticks out like a sore thumb. To my chagrin, CG cutscenes were used instead of cel animation. Other than that, character models show some good diversity. Small and nimble characters have wussy attacks, but they pack a mean magic punch. There are some middle of the road characters (decent physical attacks and average magic) and then you have the big bruisers (super tough, horrible magic). Unfortunately quite a few monster designs have been reused from Grandia II, courtesy of palette swapping (same design, different coat of paint). Boss designs on the other hand, look downright awesome. They look menacing and loom over your characters like King Kong.

Even though I only got KO'd two or three times during the entire game, G:X is no cake walk. Using the right moves at the right time is the key to success; minor lapses in concentration while in a heated battle can diminish your chances of survival greatly. If you're like me and didn't go back and trek through each elemental dungeon a second time, the last boss is going to be TOUGH (out of the 20 resurrection items I had going in, there were 3 left after it was all said and done). All in all, 40-60 hours can be eaten up playing through this game. Even if you're a huge fan of the previous two games, I recommend you rent before taking the plunge into Grandia: Xtreme.





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