Review by Careful_Crab

"Not worthy of your time"

It really surprises and baffles me that Game Arts continues to produce RPGs. To recap, both Grandia 1 and 2 have excellent battle systems, but severely lack in character and story development. I would think that Game Arts may be better suited to an action or strategy game instead, because I play RPG games for a great story, and it's something they can't provide.

And Grandia 3 doesn't really change the great-battle-system-but-terrible-story problem. It's a serious problem when the most important part of a game genre doesn't have what matters. If this statement sounds familiar, it's because I've written it in every Grandia review I've done; nothing changes much between games. Heck, I could likely copy and paste my review of Grandia 2 here, make changes only to the title and character names, and all my points would stand. And it's truly a shame, because the battle system here takes a big step forward, while the story takes a big step back.

--Story/Characters-- 1/10

The short story is nothing works here.

Actually, that's a bit of a lie. The game really starts off on the right foot. You see a cool intro with main character Yuki idolizing his hero, a legend in flight. He makes his own runway and plane to pursue his dream of flying in the sky like a bird. Things are looking good. Then his mother (who I initially passed off and his sister, she looks way too young to be a mother!) comes in with that pain-in-the-butt attitude, and things get a bit sour. Must she always be so critical and negative? Then there's the heroine-in-distress Alfina, who has the key to the safety of the world. Wait, have I seen this before? Then a weirdo Alfonso joins the group and, without any reason, bets the priceless artifact the heroine has when any video game player knows he'll lose.

There are so many problems here I don't know where to start. The game puts you into situations you really wish you had control over. Maybe it's because most of the cast don't use their heads. Why didn't Yuki go in and stop Alfonso from making a stupid bet like that? Why did the Goddess sacrifice her life to the bad guy when they could have fought and probably won? Why is everyone so mopey and down spirited all the time? The main problem here is that all the material here as been done before, and far better than what's here. The plot is as predictable as they come, leaving no surprises to be found.

The game also seems to be peppered with a LOT of anime cliches as well. Characters throw huge fits, fall clumsy into pits, do silly things, overreact to situations, etc. You can name it and it'll be here. It's never amusing and is downright annoying to see it all over the place. As if it wasn't enough to just fill the game with RPG cliches...

The story boils down to killing gods to releasing a dark evil god that'll take over the world. And who is helping the dark god awake? None other than Alfina's brother, of course. This really is a slap in the face, if for no other reason than it's been done before in Grandia 2. And while in the previous game our main hero comes to terms with this, Alfina cries and screams about this fact throughout the whole game. Her reactions are way too over-the-top to really take seriously.

Oh, did I mention that two of your main characters switch out mid-game? And unlike previous Grandia games, you get no compensation for this whatsoever? And the characters that replace them are also run-of-the-mill cliched characters?

To summarize, there is absolutely nothing good here.

--Battle System/Gameplay-- 8/10

And now for the only redeeming feature of this game.

If you haven't played the other two Grandia games, think of Final Fantasy's battle system, except you have the ability to counter and nullify your opponents actions. This, along with fast paced action and a dash of real time fighting is what makes Grandia so fun to play. Grandia 3 takes the improvements from the second title and expands upon them, which I liked a lot. You can now send enemies flying into the air with critical hits, and if an ally attacks the enemy while in the air, they'll do an impressive air combo for more damage. It's really cool when a character jumps in the air and slashes away at them. Another cool addition is the battle help. When fighting, the game will help tell you when to attack to cancel an enemy, or when to dodge and defend. This makes it much easier for new Grandia players to get the hang of things. There's a tutorial too, which I'd like to praise if I could somehow turn it off.

While Grandia 1 was too hard and Grandia 2 was too easy, Grandia 3 is just right. The game is easy at first, but ramps up the difficulty as the game goes on. The boss battles in particular deserve special attention; they require all the strategies you can come up with, and are downright hectic.

Another great relief comes outside of battle. Instead of your whole team following you, it's just the main character, so you don't have to worry about back attacks. You can also wield a sword to attack an enemy before engaging them, to get a surprise attack or to run away. This makes fighting or fleeing so much easier.

The only thing that's really missing here is a multiplayer option. This would increase the game's fun factor two-fold; games like Tales of the Abyss greatly benefit from this option, and would be a perfect fit for Grandia since the game pauses while you choose your action.

What drags down the game here is that there are a lot of battles. And since the game's difficulty is so high, you can't really afford to miss too many battles. The dungeons are oftentimes too long, or have irritating puzzles to solve. And after awhile, all those battles start to grate on you. If there was only a good story to fall back on...

To summarize, the battle system is awesome. No multiplayer and grinding battles keep it from scoring higher.

--Graphics-- 5/10

The graphics here are fairly standard. Some game reviews love the graphics: I for one find them merely passable. Sure, the spell animations are great, but the backgrounds and characters lack color and depth. The color palette is muted colors and lacks any creativity. The graphics for the cutscenes is a tad better than the in-game graphics, but not by much. The framerate and loading times are fine, nothing much to report here.

Overall, fairly uninspired stuff here.

--Sound-- 3/10

The sound effects again are passable, there's nothing special here. The music is mostly poor quality. The main battle theme is terrible! Most of it is simply boring musical compositions. The only saving graces here are the first boss theme and (always my favorite Grandia music) the ambushed theme. The voice acting.....well, most of it is corny. I can't really blame the voice actors on that. Some of it is fine, like Yuki, while grating to others like...everyone else in the game.

To summarize, it's rather painful on the ears.

--Final Comments--

I'm convinced the Grandia series needs a reboot. I have not been happy with the way any of the Grandia games have turned out, and they all share the same problem; the story sucks. This is the third game, which would led me to believe the story wouldn't be as bad, that the developers may have learned from their mistakes. Unfortunately Game Arts was only concerned about the battle system, because the story and characters here are some of the worst I've ever seen. It pains me to say this, but third time is not a charm. Seeing as how this is no better than any other RPG (or even Grandia title), I highly recommend avoiding this game.


Reviewer's Score: 3/10 | Originally Posted: 12/02/08

Game Release: Grandia III (US, 02/14/06)


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