Preview: Grandia II

Grandia II


Scenes of an airship

Conversing over dinner

An innovative battle system

Around and about in town

Impressive spell effects

On a mountainside

This guy... he walks into a bar...

Movement on the battlefield



The creators of Lunar return with this latest adventure in the world of Grandia.
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Game Arts
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Rated Teen: Mild animated violence, mild language.

In late 1997, the creators of Lunar were preparing to release their latest RPG: Grandia, for the Sega Saturn. It was widely hailed for its gorgeous graphics, innovative battle system, and interesting characters. Nearly two years later, the game was released in the United States, this time for the Sony PlayStation. While Grandia's original battle system and intriguing setting gave the game considerable appeal to RPG fans, the inconsistent voice acting and low-key marketing campaign for the game kept it from becoming a classic.

This past August, just under three years since the release of the original Grandia, Game Arts took its next shot with Grandia II for the Sega Dreamcast. Europe-based publisher Ubi Soft snapped up the North American publishing rights to the game and now, a mere four months after its Japanese release, Grandia II is available in North America. Ubi Soft is to be commended-- not only for the quick turnaround on Grandia II's release here, but also for the care taken in localizing the game.

One of the foremost concerns among RPGamers after Ubi Soft obtained publishing rights to Grandia II was: "Is the voice acting going to be any better this time?". To quell these concerns, Ubi Soft quickly announced that they had hired the voice acting team from the PlayStation game Metal Gear Solid to do the voice work for Grandia II. The voice work in Metal Gear Solid is considered by many to be the best in any video game to date, so already there were high hopes for Grandia II. The voice acting wasn't the only reason.

As details began to surface about the game, it was revealed both that the storyline and setting of Grandia II were unrelated to those of the first game, and that the battle system from the original would be returning with only a few changes. Grandia's battle system was arguably the best thing about the game, and what continues to set it apart from other RPGs. Grandia II's battle system is very similar.

Up to four characters are allowed in a party at a time. During combat, a small meter at the bottom right-hand side of the screen keeps you aware of when each of your characters will be allowed to attack. The meter is divided into two main sections: the Command section and the Action section. Small icons representing each character in your party move along the bar throughout each battle. When a character's icon reaches the end of the Command section, that character is prompted to select a battle command; after doing so, he/she moves into the Action section. At the end of the Action section, the character will begin to execute his/her command. Enemies are bound by the same rules and their icons move along the meter opposite yours.

Each character can select from a variety of battle commands:

  • AI, which lets the game select commands for your character
  • Combo, which executes two attacks in unison. Combo attacks can do the most damage, but don't affect the enemy's position along the time meter.
  • Critical attacks, which execute one powerful attack. It doesn't do quite as much damage as Combo, but can knock the enemy back on the time meter, allowing another member of the party to arrive at the end of the Action section first, thereby following up the first attack with another-- all before the enemy can respond. Better yet, if a character executes a Critical attack while an enemy is in the middle of an attack sequence, the enemy's attack will be canceled entirely.
  • Magic, which can either attack a single enemy, a number of enemies within a certain range of the single enemy being attacked, or all enemies on the screen. These drain your Magic Points.
  • Special attacks, unique to each character; these can either attack a single enemy, a number of enemies within a certain range of the single enemy being attacked, or all enemies on the screen. These drain your Special Points, but Special Points can be recovered as you take damage from enemy attacks, or successfully execute Combo and Critical attacks.
  • Defend
  • Escape

Those who have played the original will be quite at home with Grandia II. The one real change lies in the method of learning new spells and special attacks. Spells are based on elements: Heal, for example, is a Water-based spell, while Diggin' (which increases a character's defense) is an Earth-based spell. Originally, new spells were learned by spending more time in like environments; i.e. learn Healer (a more powerful Heal spell) by staying around water. These spells could be upgraded over time and use to different skill levels, ending in complete mastery of the spell. In Grandia II, though, spells and skills are purchased using Special Coins and Magic Coins, obtained following each battle. Upgrading the skill level of your special attack or magic spell also requires nothing more than Special Coins or Magic Coins, respectively.

Visually, Grandia II is a Dreamcast showpiece. Towns and houses are fully-detailed, nothing pre-rendered; colors are lush and vibrant throughout, as the adventure continues across a wide variety of environments. For spells, Game Arts decided to create spell effects as prerendered FMV that runs in synthesis with each attack. How exactly does this work?; while this is difficult to describe, the overall effect is very impressive, if a bit unusual. .

Grandia II is available now for the Sega Dreamcast. The game comes on one GD-ROM and also includes a soundtrack featuring selections from the game's composer, Noriyuki Iwadare.

by Jimmy Avistetto

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