Review by onionring1988

"Game plays like a dream, but the story is a scattered nightmare"

When Grandia 2 arrived on the Dreamcast, it was regarded as one of the best RPGs on the system. After Sega pulled support on the Dreamcast, Grandia 2 was soon ported over to the Playstation 2. Whoever played the Playstation 2 port of Grandia 2 could easily say that it was a horrible port with grainy FMV's and slowdowns whenever there was more than four people on screen. Grandia 3, however, is a Playstation 2 exclusive and has a brand new graphics engine, a new story and cast, and further refines the IP gauge seen in the previous two installments. Was Grandia 3 worth the long wait? Read to find out!

Story:

Like many sixteen year old boys, Yuki cannot stand being at home. His mother barks orders, like stop playing all the time, which Yuki cannot stand. Living in his own little dream world, Yuki desires to be like his idol Schdmit. Schdmit is kind of a special guy in Grandia 3's world because he was the first pilot to fly around the world. With his friend Rotts, Yuki has just completed his nineteenth plane. Unlike the eighteen before, Yuki is confident that this plane will fly around the world and he will soon be renowned as a world-class pilot. Sounds awesome, right?

Well, Miranda, the mother who looks like she could be his sister, has female intuition. She knows that he plans to escape, so what does she do? Secretly, she hides in his plane and rides the backseat when Yuki takes off. When Yuki realizes the plane is not flying as high as it should, he soon learns that his mother's weight is the cause. Moments later, they crash. However, right before they hit the ground and miraculously survive without a single scratch (oh my, how lucky they are), the two see a woman with elf-ears being chased.

Of course, this being an RPG, Yuki feels the sudden urge to help this woman, who is named Alfina. The mother does not object, and says he's the boss, despite her being his mother. Right. When Yuki saves Alfina from random bad guys, Yuki falls into the hero archetype. Alfina tells him of her quest to find her brother and Yuki decides that is what he and Miranda should do, as he drops his own dreams and ambitious in a drop of a hat.

During this quest, the three get caught up with some bad guys who want to destroy the world.

The story in a word: nonsense.

Other reviewers have commented on this, but I will as well. Spanning across two disks, one would assume that this game would have one hell of a story. Unfortunately, it seems that most of the disc space is dedicated to cut scenes. They're many moments in the story, especially in the second disk, where the player will just be like, “Uh, what?” Story elements are introduced which are only discarded, literally, thirty seconds later. Villains are introduced who leave randomly. The villains have absolutely no motivation in their course of action. Members of your team will join you without any reason. There really is no development of any of the characters. We never see them grow as the only purpose they serve is to convey the plot that has been told time and time again.

While I thought Grandia 2 had a pretty cliche story as well, at least it was presented well. We cared for Ryudo and the annoying Elena. In this installment, though, Alfina was beyond annoying and Yuki might as well been a cardboard box with a smiley face drawn on it. I will not criticize anymore. I only wanted to emphasize how anyone interested in this game should not play it for the story.

The environments, though, will engage the player into Grandia 3's world more than the cast.

Graphics:

Even though the game does not support widescreen (16:9) or progressive scan (480p), this game is aesthetically impressive. From the first small town, which has a quaint atmosphere with its luscious gardens and leaves blowing in the wind to the final dungeon, each location looks beautiful.

The character models have an anime design and do not look as good as the environments. The characters really do not express much emotion, whether it be from the bad dialog or the overall direction, each character usually has a stressed, happy, sad, and dramatic look.

When the scenes are not voiced, a small portrait of the character will pop up with their respective lines. Maybe this is a pet peeve of mine, but the text appears as the pace of one's speech. So, if the character pauses between each word, the text will not pop up for moments at a time. I found this particularly annoying because there is no way to speed up the text and I could personally read, along with anyone who can read, the text 10 times faster than it was presented.

During the scenes when the characters are voiced, the player will notice how each voice actor portrays their respective character well.

Sound:

Many scenes are voiced, unlike Grandia 2 where only a few select scenes were. Scenes may be voiced, but very little will be said. When I say this, I mean that the characters repeat dialog a lot. Alfina will whine about the same thing, while Yuki enthusiastically says that he will save the world. During the dramatic scenes, the character tries to enhance the moment with usual outcry and such, but the bad writing only makes the player want to laugh.

Sadly, the voice acting is the best use of sound in the game. The battle theme and other tracks are pretty mediocre.

Composed by Noriyuki Iwadare, who also did Grandia 2, each track sounds rather upbeat, including the battle theme. Not only are the tracks pretty bland and unmemorable, but they are recycled rather often. While I enjoyed the “sad theme”, hearing it during every dramatic scene only took away from the scene. As if the bad story and writing wasn't doing that already.

Despite these short comings, the battle system is top notch.

Game play:

The battle system outclasses every other aspect in the game. It really seems as if the developers, GameArts, spent more time refining the battle system than anything else. Utilizing the IP gauge, Grandia 3 redefines the turn based battle system.

For those who have played Grandia and Grandia 2, the IP Gauge has not changed. For the newcomers, I will explain how it works as it is the key to victory. On the top left hand corner of the screen is a circle divided into three phases.

Wait is when the character stands idle. Nothing can be done during the wait phase.

Command is when the character can take action. During this sequence, a wheel will appear on the screen. The wheel is a battle menu, with standard options like attack, item, flee, and magic. Unique to the Grandia series, though, is “critical” which can also be described as cancel. I will describe its function a bit later. The other unique icon that is exclusive to Grandia 3 is “special attacks,” or the really flashy animations seen in any other RPG.

Action is the last phase, as this is when attacks, spells, and special attacks will be executed.

Each character has a small icon that will revolve on the IP gauge during battle. This includes enemies as well. This is when the critical skill comes into play. Either using special attacks or the “critical” option, the player has the option to cancel an enemies attack before it is used. For example, the enemy may be charging the spell “Howl” (wind magic), but the spell takes time to charge. The enemy's icon will slowly glide over the “action” phase on the IP gauge, so if you are able to “critical” the enemy during this state, not only will the attack be canceled, but the enemy's icon will be thrown back into the wait phase. However, this is not as easy as it sounds because the player needs to consider where the enemy is in relation to the respective character. The character may not get there in time, which is when “special attack” comes into play. Special attacks are usually executed immediately. If the player is successful in canceling the attack, the enemy will be flung into the air. If another character falls into the “command” phase during this period of time, then the player can execute an “aerial combo” by attacking that enemy. An “aerial combo” is just a fancy name for special attack.

Even though you can “cancel” an enemy's attack with the “critical” skill, characters can also stall an enemy by simply attacking it. When the enemy is attacked, its icon won't move until the attack is over. With the right timing, a character may be able to “stall” the enemy until another character is able to act, and perhaps that character can cancel the enemy's attack all together.

This system requires strategy and good timing. The game does a very good job at explaining its mechanics. Each battle feels unique and it's great that the frame rate does not drop and that the over the top animations really make each attack look absolutely devastating. My only gripe is how the player cannot skip battle animations, which gets annoying when the player become dependant on the same few spells.

Unlike Grandia 2. Grandia 3 is no cake walk. The game does have random difficulty spikes and unless each mechanic is utilized, the game will be difficult. The enemy's AI is rather good, as it will try to cancel your character's attacks or gang up on a certain party member. The other problem is that some enemies will be able to perform several moves while you are waiting to act on your first, while the enemy has ridiculous amounts of HP. Personally, I did not find this problematic, but I can see how it would deter anyone new to the genre or someone who does not try to exploit the game.

To assist the player, the character's can equip skills, magic, and eggs.

When in towns, the player can go to the inn, general store, random houses, and to skill and magic shops.

Skills are found in books, which are found throughout dungeons. Skills can be individually bought in Skill Shops. In order to equip skills, though, the character needs to have skill slots available. Some skills only require one slot, while some require six. For example, the skill “Warriors Way,” costing one slot, will raise that character's attack. To fully utilize the skill, though, the character should have a book equipped. The skill “Warriors Way” has a little sword symbol next to it, so the player should equip a book that has a little sword symbol on it. This raises the efficiency of the skill. At any time, the player can equip a book, but skills can only be adjusted at save points and skill shops. To get some skills, though, you need to “extract” them from the book. The book is sacrificed in the process, but the better skills are only found in these books. When sacrificed, the Skill Book is no more. Also, each book has a “skill level”. The character must be at that skill level in order to equip a book. For example, a level 7 book requires the character's skill level be at level 7 or higher.

Magic works in a similar fashion, where the player can buy certain spells at the Magic Shop or extract them from Mana Eggs. Mana Eggs are like Skill Books and can be equipped on anyone, at any time, as long as that character's magic level is high enough. The difference with magic, though, is that the player can fuse two Mana Eggs in order to make a better egg. This option does not open up until later in the game, but it is the only way to get the better spells. Like skill boys, if the player decides to extract a Mana Egg to get a particular spell, then that egg will be sacrificed. Like Skill Books, equipping the right egg will raise a character's efficiency in a certain element. For example, equipping the “Lake Egg” raises the character's water magic to the highest degree, which makes water spells like “Heal” faster to cast and more powerful.

Again, all of these mechanics are explained very well within the game.

Between battles, the story, and customizing each character to the player's liking, the game will take 25-30 hours to complete. Sadly, there is no replay value.

Replay Value:

Linear is the only word to describe this game. The player is set on a very direct path without any deviations. The dungeons have a very straightforward A to B path with small forks leading to treasure. The story progresses in a very linear fashion as the player will never get lost or confused as to where to go. There is a world map, but the player really cannot explore it because the game is pretty much set on rails.

Furthermore, there is no new game plus, special dungeons, or side quests. The main game is the entire game and after it is completed, then there is no reason to come back to it.

Closing Thoughts:

Even though I am critical on the story and horrible soundtrack, the game has a very distinctive and fun battle system. The game may be linear, but I did find this too problematic. Sure, I may never play the game again, but seeing as it is 2009, the game could be bought for a fraction of its release price.

I do recommend this game to those who appreciate a good battle system and could pretty much ignore every other aspect. If you play RPGs for the cast and story, then ignore this game. The difficulty could be off putting to those who never played a Grandia game before or those who do not want to take advantage of the skill/magic/egg system.

Among all of the RPGs on the PS2, Grandia 3 stands out for its beautiful locales and battle system. The story may not be memorable, and at times laughable, but game play is the most important aspect, right?

Final Score: 7.0/10

Quick Summary:

Story: Starts off promising, but falters towards the end. The second disc seems rushed.

Graphics: Absolutely beautiful, but could've been even better if the game supported widescreen and progressive scan.

Sound: Mediocre tracks, but good voice acting. The bad script is the only reason why the voice actors could not convey certain scenes well.

Game play: A very refined battle system that completely innovates the tired turn based battle system seen in many other RPGs


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 08/17/09

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


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