Review by Bkstunt_31
"Can Grandia 3 live up to the Grandia name!?"
Grandia 3. The last true Grandia game to come out... back in 2006. Ah, it's too bad that we haven't had any more Grandia games since then, I've really grown to like the series. It wasn't the BEST RPG series out there, but they were good games nonetheless. I played the entire series in order (since a friend pretty much insisted I try them) and so I'll miss not having another Grandia game to play. Anyways, here is what you can expect out of Grandia 3:
You take on the role of Yuki, a young man who dreams of being a pilot. Together with his best friend Rotts, he continues to try and build airplanes... but has failed multiple times. He's ready for his latest flight as the game begins, as he's hoping to cross the ocean just like his idol, the legendary pilot Schmidt, and become a famous pilot (instead of the village pottery-maker!). When the night for his flight arrives, Rotts takes off in his own plane (and appears to succeed), but when it's Yuki's turn, his plane appears to be having problems! It turns out his mother Miranda (who was suspecting Yuki was going to leave her) snuck aboard the plane, and the extra weight is going to make them crash!
While all this is going on, Yuki and Miranda spy a bunch of mercenaries chasing a girl in the forest down below... Yuki and Miranda decide to save her, battling a man with a giant gauntlet in the process. They learn her name is Alfina, and she is one of the world's two communicators, able to speak with the magical beasts that guard this world. Yuki and Miranda end up deciding to help Alfina travel over the ocean (which they are forced to do via. ship now, since the airplane crashed) to her temple in Arcriff, starting Yuki out on a grand adventure.
The game starts out very promising. Yuki is an engaging character, and his one-mindedness on the sky is contagious (the cut-scenes showing how cool his idol Schmidt are probably help as well!). Yuki of course ends up being drawn into Alfina's story, as her troubles end up taking them around the world as they try to get to the various guardians before Alfina's brother Emelious (the world's OTHER communicator) does (for reasons I won't spoil here). The characters are generally interesting, but all too often just aren't fleshed out enough (good guys, bad guys, they are all generally overlooked). Or at the very least, aren't fleshed out to their potential. The biggest problem with the game is the sheer lack of side-quests and optional areas to explore, which is a MAJOR bummer given how big and open-ended the exploration is. In fact, the only side-quest I can even recall was playing "detective" with a kid in town. Are you sure this is an RPG, Game Arts? So much potential wasted...
Game play: 10/10
If you've played a Grandia game before, you pretty much know what to expect. If you haven't, that's ok too, you'll just be pleasantly surprised. Basically, you will be in an open-air arena with several monsters and can tell your party members what to do when their turn comes up (which is all speed-based). Party members can attack with a combo move, a critical move, a skill, or a magic move (they can also use items, defend, or try to run away). HOWEVER, all of the action is real-time, so to keep track of the commands you give your party members (and to make them wait their 'turns') you will have to pay attention to the action wheel at the bottom right of the screen. Enemies will follow this wheel as well, and you can check in on them to see what skills they are planning to use. Then you can use a CRITICAL attack or a skill to completely cancel their skill (bringing a level of strategy into the mix). New to Grandia 3 is the combo-ability where a party member will hit any canceled enemy with a special aerial attack, which is no only spiffy but also grants better dropped-items.
Moves in the game are done somewhat differently than other Grandia games. As you play, you will randomly learn "upgrades" to you moves, making them more powerful and faster. You'll also randomly learn new moves, even though each character only has a limited amount of moves (I imagine there's some sort of internal calculation that makes all these decisions of when you learn new skills). Skills and Magic are also tweaked a bit. Basically, you'll be able to find and purchase skills in the game, and then as you characters level up they will have so many skill slots. So, for example, Yuki has a skill level of six giving him six skill slots to equip skills to. Most skills just fill up a single slot, but some of the more powerful ones will take up multiple slots to fill. You can also equip skill books to power up your skills. The magic system in Grandia 3 is probably the best one yet: you will buy the SPELLS themselves and equip them in a system that works a lot like the skill system (magic levels dictate how many spells you can equip). However, the mana eggs from previous games also return. You can either equip the egg to a character and gain a magic boost (for example, equipping a wind egg will boost your wind magic), or you can break down the egg for the spell it contains. Of course, you'll find so many eggs you'll be doing BOTH, but you can also FUSE two eggs together to try and make a more powerful egg! A very addicting magic system!
The game play in Grandia 3 truly is the BEST of the series. The game play is much deeper than I explained, naturally, as you'll have to worry about status ailments and equipment, but you get the general idea. You glass half-empty people can find a FEW things to complain about though, such as the random nature to move upgrades (which I didn't mind). Personally, the only things I think could use improvement was the auto-battle AI, as my party members would use ridiculously powerful spells on an enemy who was about to die... and that was with the "Rational" mode selected (but is that really a complaint?! You aren't even PLAYING at that point!)! Overall though, the battle system is engaging, has a great difficulty curve, and represents the pinnacle of Grandia's game play system.
The graphics in the game are undoubtedly the best you've seen out of Grandia. The game is colorful and varied, with some beautiful backgrounds and locales for you to explore (they did a great job in this area). The character designs were also extremely well-done for every character involved, both GOOD guys and BAD guys. Enemy designs were well-done (the "Excise" enemies made me jump a few times), even if the developers fall into the age-old lazy trap of just palette-swapping an enemy and calling it "new" every now and again. Animations are excellent as well as the game flows smoothly in and out of battles. There are several FMV's (Full-Motion Videos) throughout the game which are extremely well done and enjoyable to watch as well. All in all, you're not going to be complaining about anything graphics-related in this game.
Like every other Grandia game, the soundtrack was composed by industry veteran Noriyuki Iwadare. The opening song is a guest-spot by J-POP singer Miz (and is fairly catchy actually). The soundtrack itself is well-done with several memorable tracks (Melc Ruins is catchy, and Surmania is GREAT, as well as the catchy battle themes).
The voice acting throughout the game is solid with nothing to complain (or rave) about. I enjoyed everyone's voices and there was never a single character that made me want to mute the TV. In short, the audio in the game is solid. Fairly average voice acting with an above-average soundtrack.
Well, I already told you in the "Story" section that the game has absolutely NO side-quests or optional areas. The game DOES have a wealth of items to find and collect, though, as well as rare drops from dozens of enemies that you can try and acquire (which will undoubtedly make you grind a bit and curse at your horrible luck). The game does have an appreciative difficulty curve as the enemies get faster and use more special attacks, but unlike other reviewers (who apparently aren't very good at RPG's), I didn't find the difficulty curve game-breaking: just have a good set-up, try to cancel devastating attacks, and maybe GRIND a bit and you'll be OK.
The pinnacle of game play in the Grandia series falls a bit short on it's story and re-playability to bring the score down to an 8/10 (I actually scored the FIRST Grandia a 9/10, while the other two also got an 8/10). It's a good RPG in it's own right, but you can't help but see the failed potential here and there. I'd still recommend playing it (and the series) if you have the time! Have fun and keep playing!
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 08/10/11
Game Release: Grandia III (US, 02/14/06)
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