Review by Veloci
"Corny lines? Check. Awesome battle system? Check. Yes, sir. It's Grandia alright."
The first time I had ever heard of Grandia was back when the fantastic little system known as the Dreamcast was alive and kicking. It was Grandia II, what would grow to be one of my most loved RPG's of all time. After blitzing through the game, I picked up the first Grandia and loved it just as much.
Fastforward to the present day. Finally, we are presented with a 'true' sequel to Grandia II, rather than the rather unfinished feeling game (but with an absolutely kickass battle and stat customization system) known as Grandia Xtreme. Onwards we go, into the unique land of Grandia...
Impressive as expected from this series. The game looks fantastic, with backgrounds and characters all looking great. The cutscenes are well done as well, giving it that nice cinematic feel during some of the bigger events.
One thing that stood out to me from most other PS2 RPG's was its smoothness. There was very seldom any slowdown in this game, save for a few crowded battles.
The one problem I have with the graphics is that in some parts, certain characters won't move their mouthes when they speak. Also, the magic in this game didn't seem to have quite the same flair as Grandia II had, oddly enough.
The music in Grandia I and II was difficult to top. This game certainly doesn't come up to par with its older titles, but it most definately is not bad. There are some nice songs here and there, with the 'winning battle' themes especially having that certain Grandia style that you just can't explain in words.
The sound effects are fairly standard fare, but are overall pleasant.
The voice acting is fairly well done, nothing too spectacular, but at the same time nothing too unbearable. One problem with a few of the voices, however, was that they were sometimes a bit difficult to make out. The guardians, especially, had this problem, once again leading me to a small complaint later on.
Grandia's battle system is truly its saving grace. It is very difficult to explain exactly how it works in words. Basically, there is a circular gauge that shows your characters and your enemies turning until they reach the point where they enter in their commands.
From there, it is somewhat like a typical turn-based RPG but with a few major exceptions. One being that you have two modes of regular attack, Combo and Critical. Combo will perform 2 (or more, depending on skills) regular strikes. Critical will perform a single, concentrated blow that is not quite as powerful as the Combo, but can cancel an enemy's attack altogether. This is an incredibly useful tool that allows you to turn the tide of battle in your favor.
As well as those commands, you are also given Magic, Special Moves, Items, Defend, Retreat, and a Strategy command to choose from.
A word on the Strategy command, it is basically like auto-battle, where you can set your characters to be controlled by the AI. This was one thing I did enjoy about the otherwise mediocre Grandia Xtreme, as it had the potential to be quite customized. However, in this game there are only 3 real options as to how to set your characters' AI, so I generally left it alone.
Outside of battle, the game plays like one would expect of an RPG. The storyline itself is quite linear, but character customization is thankfully quite in-depth. You can set skills and magic for each character, creating numerous effects from MP Boosts to EXP Boosts to a fun little command called Revenge, which sometimes triggers a Special Move as a counterattack to an enemy.
One small complaint I have is the lack of captions during the cutscenes, as some of the speech can be a tad difficult to understand at times. Think of the deaf folks, Squeenix...
The characters in this game are a somewhat mixed bag. Their overall designs were fairly nice, though I can sadly put a cliche to each one of them.
Yuki, the protagonist of the game, is a late-teens boy with dreams of flying. He loves flying. A lot. And he's got the goggles to prove it, goggles that would make Taichi Yagami hang himself at the fact they are better than his. Anyway, he is the typical bread and butter good guy. He's got the look, the attitude, and the general sword as his logos. He also says some extremely goofy lines about getting his wings and such.
Alfina, the lead female. Oh Alfina, Alfina.. She's a smallish blonde elf girl who has many of the stereotypes going for her as the lead female in an RPG. She's unsure of herself, says a lot of really sappy things, blames herself for the world's misfortunes, and, the clincher, she's a COMMUNICATOR! Yes, a Communicator is a special kind of person that talks with the spirits. And she has a staff, and she's generally a white mage-ish type. Hmm, where have we seen THIS before?
Miranda is supposedly Yuki's mother, though she sure doesn't look like she's the proper age for it. Alonso is a scruffy sailor/gambler spear-user who joins up fairly early in the game as well, and acts somewhat as a father-figure for Yuki. This is, of course, until they completely CUT THESE TWO OFF FOR THE REST OF THE ENTIRE GAME for no particular reason! They don't even show up for an event, they just kinda.. disappear. Bad bad bad.
Ulf was actually my favourite character to use in melee combat, as his weapon was a nice change from the norm. See, Ulf here gets a mace, and he knows how to use it. He also has a very amusing move where he'll charge at the opponent, screaming that he's full of TNT and then detonate himself upon them for mass damage, then muttering "I don't feel so good..". This alone earns him points as my favourite character. Aside from that, he is the gluttonous, somewhat rough-around-the-edges but mostly nice guy of the group. His design, however, feels as though it was stolen from Inuyasha and Naruto, then thrown together.
Dahna.. Gypsee type woman mage who I did not like at all. I'll leave it at that. And Hect, an overly depressed fairy-looking girl who you get for a very short time late in the game. These were probably the characters I liked least of all, I just couldn't feel much for them.
Aside from the playable characters, there are several villains that make up this game. Unfortunately, they get very little time in the spotlight so you don't get to see them develop a lot.
Something must be said about two of the mysterious villain characters in this game, Emellious and Raven. They seriously look like they were ripped directly from a couple of the Elvaan character models from Final Fantasy XI. It's a bit hard to explain, but those who have played the game will know what I'm talking about. The fact Emellious is wearing armor that is VERY reminiscent of the Paladin Artifact armor from the same game just adds the poison to the cake.
There has been talk that the story of this game was insultingly bad. I will agree to disagree with this rather extreme statement, but the game's plot line is not as deep as it could be.
The game starts out with Yuki attempting to build a working airplane with his friend Rotts. The fact that Yuki dreams of flying is presented quite clearly here, giving him that zealous aim that many RPG protagonists possess. Unfortunately for him, the flight goes less than successful and he ends up crashing into Alfina, who he and Miranda promptly rescue and take back to their village.
From there on, Yuki, Miranda, and Alfina set out to find a way to the mainland so that Alfina may return to her home and become a communicator. I won't spoil the story, but it's fairly generic with several cliches, but not painfully so.
I will say, however, that the game's storyline could have been a lot better had they added more side quests. And more cutscenes with the more amusing villains such as the blue-armored man.. whose name i forget now. See what I mean? Also, maybe uhh... LET MIRANDA AND ALONSO COME BACK TO THE PARTY?! I apologize for yelling, but this knocked another point from its score altogether.
Grandia III is a very enjoyable RPG, and deserves some praise for what it is. Yes, it is a fairly short game. Yes, the story could be better than it is. Yes, the battle system absolutely rocks. And hell yes, there are countless corny lines and gestures, such as the infamous thumbs-up symbol that caused many-a-head to shake. This is a worthy entry in the Grandia franchise, though you could be better off to rent it and just bliz through the game rather than shell out $50.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 03/02/06
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