Grandia II - Staff Retroview  

A Great Battle System But Not Much Else.
by Dallas "Scandallas" Richardson

25-35 Hours


Rating definitions 

   In 1999, Game Arts released the game, Grandia. for the Playstation. It was significant, at the time, because it was probably the only RPG that was compared with the critically-acclaimed Final Fantasy VII With its great story and innovative battle system, Grandia quickly became a cult hit. It was only natural that a sequel would be released. Only a year later was Grandia II released for the Sega Dreamcast. But the game got little attention due to system's ultimate demise. Game Arts released this fact, and in 2002, finally gave a wider range of gamers the opportunity to play. Regrettably, the developers ruined the opportunity by delivering a poor quality port of a poor quality game.

    If the game were released back in the early 90's, the story may have been entertaining. But now, it just falls flat. The story is cliché and predictable until the very end. It follows Ryudo, the mercenary, who will take any job for the right price. Soon enough he is paid to be the bodyguard for Elena, a priestess, as she tries to help with a local evil-suppressing ceremony. Unsurprisingly, everything goes wrong when servants of the evil god, Valmar, attack and Ryudo and Elena must embark on a quest to prevent Valmar's resurrection and save the world. One of the few things Grandia II has going for it is the great characterizations. The localization team did well translating the humor and character in the game, and it shows. Ryudo is one of the most intriguing characters in modern RPG's. He begins the game as a selfish and materialistic rogue, but slowly and subtly becomes more caring. His character shines through the dialogue. He always has something witty to say. Sadly, the events that occur in the game are far less interesting, and most of the other characters fit right into the RPG stereotypes like the avenging warrior and the caring priestess. Gamers can easily predict what will happen next and it is rarely exciting when it does. There are a few plot twists here and there, but they fail to save the tired tale that has been told hundreds of times before.

    What makes Grandia II stand out from other RPGs is the unique battle system. Grandia introduced the IP Gauge, which made battles fun and fast-paced. The sequel retains the same combat style, keeping battles exciting. Enemies appear on the field, so there are no random battles, and combat begins when Ryudo makes contact with the enemy. A slight twist is that the party can get the initiative in battle if Ryudo sneaks up behind the enemy. However, the enemies may do the same to him. It's an interesting concept that players may use to their advantage.

Predict what will happen next. Predict what will happen next. It's easy.

   When battle begins the IP Gauge appears at the bottom of the screen. Character and enemy icons move across the gauge. When an icon reaches the Command stage, players may select an action for that character. What makes the battle system unique is that the character will not immediately act. Instead, the icon will proceed to move along the IP until it reaches the Act stage. Interestingly enough, enemies may interrupt the character before he can act, and cancel the move altogether. Players may do the same to the enemy, which adds a strategic element to battles. Good strategy is necessary to win against the games' challenging bosses. The AI for boss characters is amazing, as they attempt to annihilate strong character and render them ineffective. But the bosses are the only real challenge, since normal enemies can easily be beaten in just a few turns. A neat, but nigh superfluous, feature is the AI Commands that allow characters to act alone in battle. This feature can help make battles move quicker, but will not work against the tough bosses. Ultimately, the battle system is a lot of fun, but may get a little tiring near the end of the game, after numerous enemy encounters.

   What takes away from the experience is the game's horrendous graphics. The original Dreamcast version of the game looked sharp, with clean textures and colorful visuals, but the Playstation 2 port just looks terrible. This version is replete with graphical hitches, including muddy textures, flickering visuals, and slowdown. The Dreamcast version actually looks much better, despite being two years older and on a less powerful platform. If the visuals for both versions looked exactly the same, the game would still look fairly decent. But in its current state, the graphics almost make the game unplayable. Areas just look like a mess of sloppy textures, making it difficult to distinguish one blob of color from the next. It seems like Game Arts rushed to get the game released. Little care was put into transferring it over to the Playstation 2.

Great Battles The battle system is probably the only thing to look forward to.

   Luckily, the music is still intact, albeit it was not that great to begin with. Most of the score is forgettable, including the generic battle theme, though a few tracks, like the theme of the churches, stand out. Like the story, the music would have been most appropriate for an RPG made in the 90's. Voice-acted scenes occur during important events. Some characters sound good, but most of them are either overacted or dry. Overall, the visuals and sound might not impress gamers, but instead may repel them.

   It's difficult to recommend Grandia II, whether for the Dreamcast or the Playstation 2. The story is dull and forgettable, and the visuals are terrible. Not even the great battle system and characterization can save the game from complete mediocrity. Granted, the game has its moments. But, the bottom line is, in a post-Final Fantasy X era of RPG's, so many great titles exist for the Playstation 2, and a great majority of them are far superior to this one. Gamers will lack the motivation to play through the twenty five or so hours to complete the game. Even fans of the original Grandia will be quite disappointed. In porting over Grandia II to the Playstation 2, all Game Arts did was add another poor title to the system's massive RPG library.

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