Grandia II - Reader Retroview  

Grandia II: Electric Boogaloo
by JuMeSyn

35 hours


Rating definitions 

   In its short life the Dreamcast was granted but a few titles RPGamers could take pride in. Skies of Arcadia is most assuredly one of them, but with its superior Gamecube iteration there is not much reason to play the original incarnation. The only other ‘big’ title to receive an English localization is Grandia II, which is reputedly dogged by nasty rushed port issues in its later PS2 incarnation. Thus the best way to experience what is a decidedly worthy title remains on the Dreamcast.

   The heart of enjoying Grandia II lies in its battle system, which makes combat entertaining. Dungeons in Grandia II are intricately designed, with most of them featuring unique locales and environments that like to interact in interesting ways with the player’s party. Enemies are visible onscreen, and touching them will start a battle, with the method of touch determining whether the player starts at an advantage, disadvantage, or neither. In battle itself actions are real-time except for the command-entering stage. Every time the player enters a command everything freezes, at all other times it is impossible to pause what is happening onscreen. Fighting takes place on a three-dimensional field with features borrowed from whatever environment is currently being explored, with enemies and the protagonists’ team scattered about.

Wow – the Muppets have really changed in recent years. Wow – the Muppets have really changed in recent years.

   Once an action by the player is decided upon, be it using an item or defending, there is a period between deciding upon the action and having it be carried out. During this vulnerable time an enemy strike can, at the very least, delay the action’s being carried out and frequently cancel it outright. Canceling an action will result in that character doing nothing and needing to decide upon an action again. This process is handily delineated via a bar at the bottom-right of the screen showing where every player character and enemy is in relation to the readiness of action at the time. Once an action IS successfully performed the enemy/character will need to go through a waiting period before entering another command. Turnabout is fair play, however, and at any time during the command-entering period the player can look around at what actions the enemy is planning to use, with the option of annulling them.

   This brings up the use of a three-dimensional field with all combatants moving around on it. While choosing to use a combo attack (more damage) or a critical strike (cancels an enemy action) is easy, the character must move to where his/her target is before unleashing the attack. If other characters or enemies get in the way, this can drag on the action phase quite a bit. Using magic or a special technique usually does not require traipsing about the field, but these in their basest forms take time to actuate, meaning plenty of time for the enemy to counterattack. Experience and gold are awarded after combat, but so are skill points, which are stored until the player chooses to use them. Skill points level up magic and techniques, which begin at one star and can go up to five stars. One star abilities take a very noticeable period to process, while five star functions are performed so quickly as to make almost any enemy counterattack useless.

   Techniques and magic also have different zones of effect; some affect a single adversary, some a straight line around the intended recipient, some a radius of effect around the recipient, and the most expensive tend to hit everything, rendering their constant use very difficult. Techniques are inherent to characters, but magic is not – Eggs are found around the world with inherent spell selections. It is the egg that receives skill points when these are assigned, and switching spell selections between characters is accomplished in the inventory phase. Eggs also come with certain attribute enhancements which can also be powered up by means of skill points, such as increased aptitude for using items or significant HP boosts.

You’re not fully clean unless you’re ZESTfully clean! You’re not fully clean unless you’re ZESTfully clean!

   Speaking of inventory – everything works pretty well in dealing with it. Shops are easy to use, items are easy to use in and out of battle. Environmental interaction is easy also, as there are few puzzles and those that do exist are denoted with a flashing ‘!’ for an object the player can alter or use in some way to change the surroundings. Dealing with the skill point assignments can be irritating, and constant tweaking of the camera is necessary (thanks to it never being guided except during story scenes). Otherwise interaction is well done.

   Then there is the plotline, which is certainly well-told. It begins with a mercenary by the name of Ryudo being hired to accomplish a mission for the church of Granas, which soon turns into an escort mission of a priestess named Elena. The proverbial ‘water and oil’ interaction best describes how these two get along. Soon enough it grows into a larger tale of the dark god Valmar seeking resurrection and Ryudo being enlisted to hunt down the individual pieces of Valmar that are somehow being unsealed…. This ties in eventually to the dark past of Ryudo. There isn’t much in the story not seen before, even in 2000, but it’s well-told.

   Visuals are quite nice, admittedly. Quick shots of FMV are thrown in to spice up spell animations, battles are fluid and dynamic, plentiful color is present, and enemies look downright weird (in the best sense of that – I think). If the Dreamcast had lived longer the graphics seen here probably would have been surpassed, but as it stands the game is anything but ugly. Aurally Grandia II sports a fine soundtrack by Noriyuke Iwadare, although one observer was heard to utter that it reminded him of ESPN music. Real instruments are used in combination with synthesizers when necessary, and the effect is quite pleasing to the ears. Voice acting is measured in quantity but pretty good in quality, although Cam Clarke voices Ryudo much as he voices every other character – be prepared for Leonardo flashbacks. Overacting is present but not so much as to induce laughter.

   Grandia II is not terribly long, and could possibly be completed in 30 hours. 35 is a safer bet, however. There aren’t many side quests to drag it out, with only one optional area near the end coming to mind. The story does not change in the slightest either, meaning replay will net nothing extra. As for challenge: while being actually defeated is a rare event, the battle system ensures that boredom will not set in.

   Grandia II is certainly a reason for Dreamcast owners to be proud of the system, and anyone with a Dreamcast ought to track the game down given its low eBay prices. In the annals of RPG history, however, this is not one of the greatest titles ever. Its predecessor seems to have possessed a certain something lacking here, an indefinable quality of enjoyment. Incoherent pseudo-philosophical ramblings aside, Grandia II is a good time. And a good time is sometimes all one needs.

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