Review by Heatmiser

"The Grandia series has officially become irrelevant"

I remember a time when the original Grandia came out, for the ol' Sega Saturn. It was so exceptionally original and well-made that critics everywhere dubbed it the "FF7-killer" back in the day.

Those times are long since gone.

Grandia 3 is a video game of such stunning and unrelenting mediocrity, it makes one wonder if GameArts planned specifically to ruin every ounce of good faith they'd rounded up all those years ago when the original was released. From Grandia 2, Grandia XTreme, and now the third bland mess of a game, the series just keeps getting worse and worse, smaller and smaller, less and less relevant in a video gaming world that seems to have passed it by.

To wit: most JRPGs nowadays come replete with not just a main quest, but a bunch of sidequests, minigames, secret areas, and/or creative little weapon/armor/item-synthing systems to go along with it, filling out a gaming experience that'll make you feel like your $50 was well spent. The Grandia games have notoriously ignored this line of thought, and seem to almost thumb their collective noses at it. While Grandia 1 had a couple side areas, Grandia 2 had only one at the end of the game, and Grandia XTreme wasn't even really a true RPG to begin with (just a random dungeon crawler). And Grandia 3? The biggest offender of them all-- absolutely no side areas, sidequests, new game +, or unique game systems to speak of. First generation SNES games had more to offer, and the people at GameArts should be ashamed of themselves for charging full price for this.

Perhaps they thought that the storyline alone was enough to quench your gaming thirst? A hubristic and, ultimately, incorrect thought. You take up the role of Yuki, pilot wannabe and the hero of the story, who fills out nicely one of the JRPG hero cliches: they have to either be an earnest & virtuous young boy (Grandia 1), a cynical anti-hero (Grandia 2), or a lazy kid who eats a lot and oversleeps all the time (every other JRPG ever). Not that it matters, but Yuki is the first of those choices, basically a warmed-over Justin from the first game in the series. His travels as a pilot lead him into a web of intrigue and excitement, I grant you this, with plot twists and an overall high-quality story. But if you think in this day and age that a storyline alone is enough to pull in gamers, you got another thing coming.

Even the one (and perhaps only) drawing point of the Grandia games has been altered for the worse in this third title. The battle system, an absolute favorite of RPGers for years, has been tweaked only slightly, but juuuust enough to practically destroy it. In previous installments, you and the enemy in your sights would move around that active time bar, waiting to see who'd get to attack first, who would cancel whom, and what special moves or spells you and he might utilize. Well those days are gone, since pretty much three-quarters of all the baddies in Grandia 3 are about 50% faster than you; some bosses are actually twice your speed- or more- making fine battle adjustments a non-issue. You'll pretty much be scrambling to cancel your enemies' faster attack speed non-stop, thus ruining the heretofore wonderful free-for-all nature of the series' battle system. To put it more bluntly: the Grandia battle system was my favorite battle system of any RPG in my 25+ years of gaming-- but that is no longer the case.

Thankfully the graphics and sound are far above par, particularly Noriyuki Iwadare's exceptional soundtrack. Glass statues shimmer incandescently, leaves rustle to and fro with the breeze, and everything your eyes are privileged to see is accompanied by a wonderful score in that splendidly over-the-top Iwadare manner. He composes music in a way I can only describe as Sousa meets Vivaldi with a little bit of Enya thrown in for good measure. Um, let's just say he writes music better than I write reviews.

And if only he had more of an influence on the rest of the game, maybe Grandia 3 wouldn't have been so darned... bland. You experience a story, you putz around with the newly ruined battle system, and that's it. No frills, no extras, making you feel as if you're doing little more than playing an interactive 50-hour film. When a game series has been around for roughly a decade and has gotten worse as every moment passes by, you know there is a flaw somewhere in the game making process. Grandia 3, I'm sad to say, is the end result of that flaw.

Reviewer's Rating:   2.5 - Playable

Originally Posted: 03/05/07

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