Grandia 2 Review

Grandia 1 was released to near-universal acclaim on the PS1. However, when a sequel was hinted at for Sony’s, then competitor sales were barely passable at the time. It only sold upwards of 180,000 units. This could have been due to the upcoming release of the PS2. The fact that many people just weren’t expecting much since the game didn’t look the part of an AAA RPG for the system. The first Grandia was more or less its own self-contained story, so trying to make a sequel might not have been the best move for game arts. But, I’m glad that they did anyway. Despite its shortcomings, Grandia 2 is a great game for anyone with a Dreamcast, and an excellent coming of age story for those who have self-doubts.

grandia 2 gameplay-screen

From a graphical standpoint, the game is pretty average. The interesting environments add flavor to the otherwise dull level design. But, outside of a few cutscenes, the game’s visuals won’t leave you wowed after you’ve finished it.

Also, the characters are pretty interesting and they are appropriately voiced during certain cutscenes. Question is, would it have been too much to ask game arts to have drawn a mouth on the models. Seriously, not even animate the mouths, just show them. Outside of the cutscenes none of the characters have mouths.

That being said, it’s not so much the art style that pulls you in, but the characters, the atmosphere, and brilliant revolutionary battle system that makes this game a must own for anyone who was fortunate enough to own Sega’s short-lived console. Your protagonist Ryudo is a stereotypical mercenary thug who’s haunted by his past and what his brother did.

After being tasked with a one in a million chance to work with royalty, Ryudo jumps at the opportunity for the pay and here sets out our characters new adventure of redemption and self-discovery. All that will lead him from the pits of Mercenary work the top of the noble food chain and then some.

Grandia2 is at its best when dealing with issues of abandonment, and worthfulness, it’s at its worst when the characters talk and have a stupid argument that normally starts off with two people getting angry at each other and bending over like mannequins to point fingers at one another. Like I said, the characters are fully voiced during certain parts of the game. While the voice actors aren’t bad by any means, the dialog is so horrible at times. It might make you want to occasionally turn the system off. What’s really surprising is that the dialog that is not fully voiced can be very profound and thought to provoke.

Why would the designers focus on voicing characters when they say things like, “Begone you foul dark one.”

grandia-ii-sky-screen-2

Despite all the “People of Darkness” stuff, everyone is really pretty much the same. There is no reason for everyone to not get along. Tribes and nations should never matter. Not ever. Songs and dances, which we of the Mau Tribe take pride in, are able to bring souls together. Isn’t that just wonderful?

Bring souls together? If you put two souls together, wouldn’t that make one big soul? No, he speaks of the bond that can form between two people. Their souls intermix, so that they may understand each goes completely unvoiced.

This doesn’t really hurt the game. Just makes me question the director’s choices.

The game’s story is primarily one of redemption for the main protagonist. The overarching story is about jealousy, discrimination, and prejudice. It’s a good concept in theory but becomes very hard to preach these messages through its most colorful cutscenes and inability to keep the story fresh after the second act. If I was in charge of development, I would have ended the game after the Melfice boss battle. He was the character that was the key focus of the game for the first two acts and is undeniably the hardest boss in the game. After his arc, the tone of the game starts to change from a moody one about angst and redemption into a typical RPG about saving the world from generic bad guy monster X.

It’s ironic how just when the characters begin to gain some confidence and feel fully developed, that the game’s story starts to take a nosedive. The final act is still fun, but other then the death of one playable character, it plays out exactly the way you’d expect. It’s the type of thing that JRPG fans just seem to know off the top of their heads.

The story may be so-so, but the innovative battle system, that ties it together, is what really steals the show.

grandia 2 screen 1

The back of the box preaches a new means of combat that is both turn-based and real time. At the beginning of each fight, you and however many friends and enemies are on screen take up a marker on a line that appears on the bottom right of the hub. The more time goes by the closer, each character’s marker slides to the right side where the words “Action” is displayed. When it is your characters turn to act, you have a choice between 2 types of attacks, magic, items, blocking, and the option to run.

The two types of physical attacks are combos and harsh attacks. Combo attacks have the chance to stun a character and potentially knock their marker backward. That will take more time for them to be able to initiate an action. Harsh attacks do more damage but have zero chance to cancel an action. Using magic drains energy from your magic meter and special attacks that are unique to each character drain from the stamina bar that replenishes after each turn. Trying to find the best combination of all of these is the trick to beating the game.

Each character can upgrade their personal status with the help of special points gained throughout the battle. This was an interesting way of giving you a choice as to who you should upgrade first. Rather then everyone getting an equal amount of experience after you win a fight, you can pick favorites and give all the special points to your best character to upgrade them faster. Everyone still earns the same amount of experience after each battle. Your collected points give you enough to choose who’s special abilities you want to upgrade first. Undeniably, the best thing about Grandia 2 is its battle system, but the music should not be overlooked. The battle music has got a great beat to it that made me actually look forward to constantly fighting wave after wave of enemies.

In its entirety, Grandia 2 is a fun game with an innovative battle system kick ass music and great characters despite its shortcomings.