Grandia 2 - Retroview

Shorter, prettier, and overall better

By: Phillipe Richer

Review Breakdown
   Battle System 9
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 4
   Plot 5
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 4
   Visuals 8
   Difficulty Very, Very Easy
   Time to Complete

25-35 hours


Grandia II

   After playing and being somewhat turned off by the first title in the series, I had my reserves when I picked up Grandia II. However, my Dreamcast was craving for a new RPG while I craving for something less cheesy. In the end, we both got what we wanted.

   The story starts out near the religious town of Carbo with a young Geohound (bounty hunter) called Ryudo and his talking bird Skye. Ryudo's latest job of escorting a young Songstress named Elena to a nearby tower doesn't enthrall him too much, but what occurs in that very tower more than makes up for that job's lack of excitement. Featuring a conventional plot, a conventional back story featuring a battle of good versus evil and a conventional atmosphere, Grandia II strays off from Game Arts' usual recipe and delivers an engaging, yet much too conservative experience.

   The strong point of the Grandia series is undoubtedly the terrific battle system which mixes action with turn-based strategy incredibly well. The IP gauge makes an unchanged come-back in the sequel. Once again, friends' and enemies' portraits are displayed on a line at the bottom of the screen. The portraits move according to the person's AGL stat until they hit the "COM" point. An action is selected at that point and carried out at the "ACT" point. The rapidity of movement between the COM and ACT points is determined by the attack's proficiency. Again, fiercely attacking an enemy who's preparing for an attack may cancel out his turn completely, making battles even easier.

Let us march towards a less cheesy plot!
Let us march towards a less cheesy plot!  

   The intelligent character AI is back and is as good as ever. The division of spells and moves is also back, and you can once more choose between two different regular attacks, combo or critical. In fact, everything about the first game's battle system returns unchanged, except for the level-up process. Instead of following the "the more you use it the better you get at it" system, your party will now gain "special coins" and "magic coins" at the end of combat. You can spend those "coins" at any time to improve the speed and strength of spells, moves or skills. To use magic, a character must first equip a magic egg which dictates what elements that person can harness. Upgrading spells with the use of magic coins upgrades the spells contained within the egg, spells which are never acquired by the character.

   Improving moves work the same way as improving spells, although moves are inherent to each character and require special coins for boosts. The inclusion of skills is also a welcome addition. You'll find skill manuals scattered around the world filled with different character skills such as "STR up" and "Fire magic up". You improve skills with magic or by using special coins. The number of skills a character can equip increases as the game goes on. While adding customizability, this addition unfortunately brings down the game's difficulty from "incredibly easy" to "a new born baby could finish this". This incredible ease at which you progress through the game is Grandia II's biggest downfall. At least, the number of battles has been reduces compared to the original Grandia, which in turn makes the game about 20-25 hours shorter.

   While there isn't much to be impressed about with the menus, everything is decently well organized and comprehensive. The battle gauges as well as the IP gauge are clear and highly visible. Shop menus are good, although a "trade" option would've been appreciated. Chances are that you'll have more than enough money to buy everything you want too. The rotating camera is also quite competent.

   The DC version of the game comes with a 45 minutes long music CD, and believe me, if you're a fan of game music you'll listen to it more than once. The music which was very unoriginal in the first title is much more diverse and vibrant. From the upbeat town teams to the many variations of the main theme, the music serves its purpose well in bringing out the feeling of the various scenes. Sounds are nothing special though.

Why cancel out an enemy's action when you can kill him in one (or four) blow?
Why cancel out an enemy's action when you can kill him in one (or four) blow?  

   What truly stands out is the exquisite voice-acting. Each voice is appropriately suited for its designated character and further improves the game's excellent translation. Without getting in too deep with each character's voice, you can be confident that not having an option to turn off the voices is not a mistake.

The fighting between the God of Light, Granas, and the God of Darkness, Valmar, has left its scars on the land as shown by the Granacliffs. Even to this day, the land is still in turmoil, and the mysterious power of Valmar simply cannot be silenced. Embark on a journey to acquire the 4... *yawn*. That's pretty much all that can be said about the back story. Fortunately, the plot brings forth a few interesting development, mainly thanks to the intriguing characters. Overall, it's a very "classic" tale of vanquishing evil, but at least your party has a better reason to keep going than just wanting to be adventurers. The game handles cut-scenes and important moments relatively well, adding to the sense of involvement in an already conventional story. At least it's interesting enough to warrant playing the game.

As stated before, both the dialogues and the voice-acting were shown an appreciated amount of devotion. Characters all show a lot of personality and charisma and the attraction between them are easily conveyed thanks to the script. It's also surprisingly funny, and it might even prompt a tear or two from you. Well done.

Those CG scenes are so few that I had completely forgotten about them!
Those CG scenes are so few that I had completely forgotten about them!  

The world map is exactly the same as in Grandia. You merely select your next location and wait until the town or dungeon screen loads up. This means that there is practically no backtracking involved in the game, which makes up for an incredibly linear experience. As far as I know, there are no special quests or special dungeons present, meaning that the probability of a subsequent playthrough is determined solely by how much you've enjoyed yourself the first time. I liked it enough to maybe go back sometime...maybe.

People's opinions strongly vary where the graphics are concerned. It's true that the characters aren't very detailed, and it's also true that the polygon count for allies and foes alike is quite low for a Dreamcast game. However, the environments, especially when it comes to the various towns, are incredibly detailed, engaging and sharp. The world is quite colorful and the backgrounds are always pretty and pretty interactive. Not to mention the amazing character portraits which are always gorgeous no matter what emotion they're supposed to exude. In the end, the game succeeds better artistically than technically.

When it comes to RPG advancement, there's not much new to see in Grandia II, although it's an enjoyable adventure while it lasts. All that the game needed to attain a huge level of achievement is an increase in difficulty and a fresh and innovative plot. Of course, that's pretty much what could be said of every RPG on the market.

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