Review by Dorfl_2
"The 'Select' button is your friend!"
Grandia III seems to have gotten a rather bad rap from Grandia fans. So much so that I was rather reluctant to play it and put it off for months. I finally finished the game last night and I've got to say, it's pretty good IF AND ONLY IF you make copious use of the Select button. In this game you can enable cutscene skipping in the options and activate it at will with the Select button. This option might just save your life, if only by stopping you from banging your head against the wall at the cheesy storyline or ripping your ears off when you hear the painful, painful dialogue.
And it is painful indeed.The story is the absolutely worst part of this game, 0/10 all around. It's like the writers pulled up the Grand List of RPG Cliches and went through from top to bottom, fitting in as many as they could. It's that bad. You've got the usual ancient guardians protecting the world, the damsel in distress that can communicate with them, her evil bishie brother, the sealed evil guardian the bad guys want to resurrect (*rolls eyes*), the hero who drops everything in his life to help this girl he didn't know from Adam five minutes ago and two additional characters who have no real reason for being in the party but are just there for completion sake, you know the drill. Also there's a mysterious swordsman and a gruff veteran. There's always a mysterious swordsman and a gruff veteran.
Speaking of characters, other reviewers have made much of two characters who leave your party early on, crying about how much they are missed and how much their replacements suck. I beg to differ. In my opinion, those characters were cool but they stood out like a sore thumb against the childishness of the rest of the cast. They were good characters, but not for this kind of game, and I give credit to the creators for realizing this early on and remedying the problem.
So anyway, the story is a wash (seriously, what I told you above is all there is to it) and the characters are so cliched it hurts. Why a 7/10 score, then? It's all purely down to the Grandia classic battle system, and the fact that you can skip the cheesiest, most painful parts of the story just by pressing Select. You still get a feel for the overall story through the non-cutscene parts, plus you can watch as much or as little as you want. I think I'll always regret not pressing the button in time not to hear "Emeeeliouuus, I lo~~~ve you~" though.
The graphics: really nice. They used juuust enough bloom to make it look good without overwhelming the screen like some other games do *ahem, Valkyrie Profile 2, ahem* The models look great in and out of cutscenes. Way too many palette swaps though, the cheapos. Once you get a plane you get to fly around the world and take in the sights, but there's no real point. The only places you can go to are storyline related anyway and the whole world can be covered in about 1 minute of flying. Tiny planet is TINY! Not much else to say about the graphics besides that. Grandia III looks very, very good but if you play games solely for the graphics, umm, you suck.
Sound: The opening song is way too "pop" for my liking. I watched the opening sequence and I was like, huh? Like...HUH? Yeah. Not a terrible song, but not my taste at all either. I don't remember any of the other songs in the game, and I just finished it last night. I don't even remember the battle song, which changed halfway through to an even worse tune.
The battle system!! What Grandia does best, for ever and ever. The difficulty level was just right, with a few tough battles here and there to give you a workout. You never need to grind either: so long as you clear out every screen of all the enemies there before moving on, you'll always be at the correct level to take on the boss.
First: no random battles. You can see the enemies on the screen and slash them to stun them to give you an advantage when battle starts. If they take you from behind you're in trouble.
Second: Special moves. You start with a special move or two which you use SP to activate. As you use each skill over and over again, it levels up and becomes faster and more powerful. You also learn new skills seemingly at random. These moves are very powerful, very fancy and very useful indeed so you'll be using them a lot as time goes on.
Third: Magic. Most of the magic from earlier Grandia games have been retained. Mana eggs are still available. Equipping a mana egg doesn't teach you new magic, it just strengthens one or more types of magic (Fire, Earth, Wind, Water). You can also extract powerful new magic from the eggs. Even better, you can fuse two eggs together to create a better egg that you can equip or extract stronger magic from. Note, you can't use magic that's in your inventory unless you equip it at a save point. Initially you can only equip about 2 or 3 but as you level up you get more slots to put magic in.
Fourth: Skills. Different from the Special moves. These are passive abilities like Life Up and Warriors Way and Counter that boost your stats or give you abilities in battle. Buy them from stores or extract them from Skill Books, which work much like mana eggs except, alas, you can't fuse them.
Fifth: Actual battle. I wrote a lot about this just now but a power surge cancelled it all out so I'll just summarize it for you. Basically the IP gauge from earlier games makes a return in the form of an IP ring. When you characters move to the COM point, you input commands. When they get to the ACT point, they carry them out: attack, critical attack, magic, special move, defend. Simple. Getting hit by a special move or a critical between the COM and ACT point cancels your command, which hurts when it happens to you but is INDISPENSABLE when taking on some of the tougher bosses (of which the final boss is not one, pet peeve). Stats-wise Ulf and Yuki have the STR and Dahna and Alfina have the MAG so you know who to equip with what magic and what skills. In the end most battles with boil down to special attack, special attack, big magic, big magic. But somehow every battle feels fresh and different. Items are limited to 9 per item you can't spam specials or magic too freely, and some enemies are so fast you're going to get hit multiple times no matter what you do. Hang tough, stay on your feet and you'll make it out alive. Mostly.
Overall: I recommend the game, moderately. If you're a fan of the Grandia series then I recommend it highly. The bad parts can be skipped easily, and it's not that long, clocking in at just 39:51 for my save. Apart from one minor minigame there are no sidequests. You just get in, play the game, enjoy the battle system and finish things. A fun, short game that you can easily get into and enjoy, that's Grandia III.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 05/19/08, Updated 05/20/08
Game Release: Grandia III (US, 02/14/06)
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