Review by JagYui
"Play the Battles, Skip the Story"
You may have looked into other reviews for Grandia III and found a trend that they mainly contain the word "mixed" quite a bit. And it's a pretty accurate description for Grandia III. You'll find an area or two where it stands out and even shines in a high gleam. But every other aspect of the game either feels rushed, tacked on, or just plain annoying. Well, let's dive in, shall we?
Story - 3/10
(Multiplier*2.5, Story is the single most important part of any RPG)
You're going to hear tons of people throw out their reason for not liking the story is that it is cliched. It's possible to find games with stories more cliched, but you'll spend a while searching for them. Grandia III has a basic "save the world" story. From the boy-meets-girl beginning to the very last moments of the game, it never deviates from this path. And worse, it does it in the sappiest manner possible, talking constantly about "the power of love" and "strength of bonds".
While they could have made the game great by taking a risk with an original storyline, they instead chose to play it safe with an overused and tired storyline.Even still there's tons of potential to execute this story in an interesting manner, but Grandia III is full of wasted potential.
The storyline then suffers from a second debilitating blow; it has plot holes you could easily drive five trucks through side by side. Party characters and major enemies alike disappear without a trace in the course of the game. Sometimes you are actually told where to go next and giving either no reason or a flimsy one. At one point, you fly to a new place because someone thought they might have heard a noise there that might have been related to what you're looking for.
All in all, the story feels rushed and, at most times, tacked on to the game in the last minute. Such an integral part of an RPG should never feel this way.
Gameplay - 9/10
(Multiplier*2.0, You have to enjoy playing the game)
Grandia III has one of the most thought out battle systems in RPG history. I won't take time to explain it in depth, but it involves your characters and enemies on a wheel in the corner called the IP Gauge. You move through a wait phase into a command phase, where the battle goes on hold for you to decide what to do, and finally into an action phase.
But the great part is that you can use your enemies' positions on the IP Gauge to your advantage (and they can do likewise). Hitting an enemy with certain attacks while they are in the command phase will Cancel their attack and send them back into the wait phase. A successful Cancel will also open the enemy up to an airborne combo if another character attacks them while they're still in the air.
All in all, this system allows for some great strategy and timing decisions. Sometimes you'll be torn between cancelling an attack or risking casting a powerful spell. The game makes suggestions from time to time, but the final decision is always yours (except in one battle).
On top of this, your characters are highly customizable, with stats in Magic, Skills and Special attacks. You have a limited amount of space for Magic and Skills, and equippable items modify how well you cast certain magic or carry out certain skills. Each character has their own Special attacks (they use a third bar, called SP) and using them more often raises their power or shortens their cast time or even shortens your wait period after using them.
The only reason this section did not score a perfect 10 is that there is no way to combine two or more of your party into one attack. Your enemies can do this easily, but there aren't any special attacks that use more than one character.
Gameplay is definitely where Grandia III shines. However it seems that this is one of the reasons all the other areas suffer. Too many resources were put into this and not into areas equally as important.
Characters - 4/10
(Multiplier*1.5, Characters must be identifiable and sympathetic to draw you into their world)
Imagine the characters of Grandia III as a batch of gingerbread men with minor variations. Their cutters came from a long line of previous RPGs and they were all made from the same dough. That's probably the best way to describe them.
All of your characters are one-dimensional versions of characters from other games. All of their personalities are very similar to one another, and that makes all of them hopeless optimists to the point of annoyance. Another problem comes from the fact that the designers expected you to be familiar with how these characters should act and didn't bother with the details.
For the most part, you are never given any idea about any of the characters' pasts. You have absolutely no idea what motivates them or what stake they have for joining you on the adventure. In fact, most of the major characters in the game undergo sudden, drastic changes of heart for no reason whatsoever. All this holds true for your enemies and other main characters as well.
The lowest point here has already been mentioned, characters (friend and foe alike) will disappear into a black hole somewhere in the game's programming.
There is a saving grace here, though (and the only reason this section scored over a 2), your main characters' skill sets are fairly diverse. You have your basic main character, offense, defense and magic caster and this allows you to develop your party with strategy in mind.
World - 6/10
(Multiplier*1.5, A good world makes you want to see the next area to see what it has in store for you)
There's really only one way to describe the world of Grandia III, unfinished. In fact, when you get to freely explore the map, there are places marked on it where you can't visit. The places you can visit are usually expansive, but small in number.
On the plus side, it seems to be planned very well. There are very few parts that don't make sense in the world (one of them being why it seems that everybody can understand a Guardian when they aren't supposed to). Another positive is that a lot of work went into NPCs, they all have dialogue with your characters, and almost always have something new to say after a major event in the game.
Sound - 5/10
(Multiplier*1, As long as you don't want to tear your ears off...)
All I can say about the music is that it gets the job done. There are times of the game where you may find yourself humming or whistling along with a theme (open area dungeons and Melc come to mind), but these are quickly balanced by a mediocre main theme for the game and a village theme in the game so bad, you will injure yourself trying to find the mute button.
Sadly, after turning off the console, you'll find yourself hard pressed to recall any good music to any real extent. Even the good ones are easily forgettable.
The voice acting is hit-and-miss, mostly miss. It's quite possible this is due to the generally poor writing in any voiced scenes, but most of the speech is delivered in overly dramatic or simply whiny fashion. You'll find that you can't even bring yourself to care about most of the cast. The only characters that are really interesting leave early in the game, never to return.
Replayability - 1/10
(Multiplier*1, Have you missed anything? Did you even play the game to its fullest?)
Once you finish the game, there's no reason whatsoever to play it again short of nostalgia for the battle system. There is one minor sidequest with somewhat good rewards. There are no secret areas to find or optional bosses, unless you count a one-of-a-kind monster in the desert that's more of a major enemy than a boss since he respawns. There's also no version of a New Game+ for after you finish the game.
Graphics - 8/10
(Multiplier*.5, All the rest is just scenery)
The world of Grandia III is rendered quite beautifully. The open areas give you a feeling like the world goes on forever around you. Towns have a very natural feel to them with a wide array of NPCs. Dungeons manage to feel ominous and there is at least one that will take your breath away. There is a lot of detail put into every place you visit.
Your characters all have a definite style specific to each of them. There are some very original designs for monsters. Animations for both friend and foe while attacking is very detailed and well-executed. Speaking of attacks, normal, magic and special attacks are very beautiful, and don't take forever to carry out (for the most part). Almost none of them feel overdone or too flashy, but maintain a very sleek visual appeal.
Story - 3*2.5 = 7.5
Gameplay - 9*2 = 18
Characters - 4*1.5 = 6
World - 6*1.5 = 9
Sound - 5*1 = 5
Replayability - 1*1 = 1
Graphics - 8*.5 = 4
Total - 50.5/100
Final Score - 5/10
If you manage to finish Grandia III, it will more than likely be for the battle system. It definitely won't be for the cut and run ending. There may be a select few who find the story more to their liking, but it will likely annoy and repel the average gamer. I would recommend anyone still interested in the game to rent it first.
Reviewer's Score: 5/10 | Originally Posted: 02/27/06
Got Your Own Opinion?
You can submit your own review for this game using our Review Submission Form.