Review by KFHEWUI
"Grandia II is an engrossing and well crafted game that is worth playing"
Ryudo is the main character of the game, and he is a Geohound. He makes his living by doing odd jobs, and his current job is to protect a Granas (god of light) songstress named Elena as she heads to a nearby tower to perform a ritual. Ultimately, the ritual falls, and the Wings of Velmar (god of darkness) awakens so Ryudo is hired for another mission to escort Elena to St. Heim Chapel.
Grandia II's story is well written and complex, but it still falls victim to several cliches including a main character with a trouble past and a character that is royalty but hides it. Despite the cliches, Grandia II is so well written that it is easy to overlook past them.
The controls are responsive and easy to grasp, and the layout is great with most of the controls mainly being one button for okay and L and R to rotate the camera.
Graphic wise, Grandia II is a feast for the eyes. Each dungeon and town has its own distinct look, and the developers paid attention to the minor details. The houses are full of minor details that make it feel alive. The 3D models are good, and the textures look great.
The music is fantastic, and each track fits the moment perfectly. Not only is the music great, but so are the sound effects. Each monster has their own distinct grunts, and the weapons have their sound effects when they hit the monsters. Grandia II also comes with a second disc that contains twelve tracks from the game.
Grandia II is your basic RPG affair. A group of characters travelling across the land and going from town to town and in between each town is a dungeon, and in each town there are dozens of citizens that can be talked to. Each citizen has their own set of dialogue which is very impressive.
Where Grandia II shines is the combat, and unlike most RPGs, there are no random battles. Running around the dungeons are monsters and touching the enemies starts the battle, but depending on where they are touched determines if the player has initiative or a normal battle. If the enemy touches the player from behind, they will surprise the player, and the enemy will have the initiative.
Combat is unique and a refreshing experience and the battles play out in an open area with the characters in party and the enemies so they can run around. In the lower right corner is a bar with icons above and below it, and the tops represent the enemies while the bottom icons represent the players. When the icons reach the middle of the bar, the character can select their attack then the icons will start moving again and once it reaches the end, the character will attack however the speed of the last leg of the bar is affected by what attack is chosen. If magic is selected, the bar will slowly move up, and if a skill is selected, it fills up slightly faster however selecting attack will move the icon the fastest. As game progresses and magic and skills are upgraded, the speed will increase, and some skills will even surpass the speed of attack.
Once the meter fills, the character will run towards the enemy, but if the character takes too long, the enemies move around too much, or if the enemy is blocked out of the character's vision then beads of sweat appear above the characters head, and their attack is cancelled. This can also happen to enemies.
Attack abilities consist of combo (two attacks), critical (one strong attack), skill, magic, items, defend, escape, evade, and AI (set the AI for your party). Each character has their own set of skills however they have no magic and over the course of the game, the player will obtain eggs which have magic power. Equipping characters with the egg enables them to use magic, and each magic spell has their own unique scene that plays when the magic is used. A problem with this is that the scenes cannot be skipped at all, and some of the scenes can take up to thirty seconds. So every time the spell is used, the scene has to be watched over and over again, and it gets old quickly.
After winning the battle, the player is rewarded with experience, gold, magic coins (MC), and special coins (SC). Special coins are used to upgrade skill and moves while magic coins are used to upgrade magic.
Over the course of the game, several characters will join the party however only four players can be in the party at a time, and there are in total five characters that will join Ryudo on his quest. Character swapping is not in the game however characters will leave the party at predetermined spots however they will quickly be replaced with the exception of one character.
The dungeon design is a mix bag, and most of the dungeons are either great or a confusing mess. Getting mixed up and backtracking is a common occurrence, but there is a compass in the upper corner which points to the exit. The closer the player gets to the exit the green circle around the compass will minimize. The compass has some issues which are that sometimes the exit will be near the entrance and the circle will maximize so it looks like the player is backtracking instead of progressing forward. Instead of using the compass, a mini-map would have been better especially since in one of the earlier dungeons which takes place in a cave with narrow corridors and a lot of branching paths so backtracking happens a lot and accidentally.
Camera is not that bad but it is too close to the character, but the camera will pull back when the character starts running around. In the dungeons with narrow corridors this can be problematic. It can be hard to see around corners which can lead to some cheap encounters.
Grandia II does have a few issues. First there are no side quests, but there is a bonus area near the end of the game which has some nice items. Also the area houses a cheap enemy that can wipe out the entire party with a single magic spell.
Second is the difficulty, and the game is very easy. This is one of the few RPGs that I have beaten without having to level grind to progress forward, but if you want to max the levels for skills and magic spell then MC and SC grinding will be needed however this is not needed to beat the game since sadly the final boss is a complete push over.
Replay value is another problem, and the game takes about 20-30 hours in the first play through however other than replaying the game there is nothing else to do. Also Grandia II is very linear and consists of going from point A to point B without any thing to do in between like side quests.
Grandia II is a masterpiece that should be in every Dreamcast owner's collection and despite some minor issues the game is a real treat. Most impressive is the amount of content that Game Arts squeezed into one disk.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/31/12, Updated 04/24/13
Game Release: Grandia II (US, 12/06/00)
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