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Grandia 2 - Retroview

The Action-Packed Turn-Based RPG

By: ShadyX


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 10
   Interface 7
   Music/Sound 8
   Originality 6
   Plot 5
   Localization 9
   Replay Value 8
   Visuals 9
   Difficulty Very Easy
   Time to Complete

25-35 hours

 
Overall
9
Criteria

Grandia 2
 

   I remember early RPGs like Breath of Fire, Zelda, and Shining Force being very fun to play, but not having the most original or best stories. RPGs were treated more like video games, than the "interactive movie experiences" of games such as FFX. Those add tons of mini-games, voice acting, action-based battle systems, and more linear stories. Not to say that's bad, it's just different. I haven't played nearly as many new RPGs as old-school ones, but that is an impression I often find. In any case Game Arts' sequel to the cult hit on the Saturn/PlayStation, Grandia 2 plays like a newer game, but feels like an older one. Those used to Final Fantasy will get their classy FMVs, orchestral music, and story over exploring gameplay; but those used to older games will get an immersive battle system, long game, and great character development.

   The battle system in Grandia 2 (this may show my lack of experience in 3D RPGs) is the best I've ever seen. Being a Skies of Arcadia diehard fan at the time this game came out a couple years ago, I remember a friend raving that he actually WANTED to enter battles while playing. Those who played Skies know that battle can get rather repetitive and almost needless. Grandia 2 however has fast-paced and very rewarding battle systems. Though the game is rather easy (leveling up makes it almost too easy) you will always be looking to get into battles. For those who don't, you can set the computer to do it for you. You can set it to just do standard attacks (with health spells when needed), have the computer ALWAYS look to capitalize on the enemies weakness, or go all out with the most powerful spells and items. Those are just a few of 8 or so ways to have it play, and if you wish you can have each character use different AI. You have to love that when you're just mindlessly leveling up.

    As far as gaining levels, there are 3 ways. You get a certain amount of mana eggs, and skill books to give the characters (one of each a piece), and of course standard character levels. Those who like to cast allot of spells will equip strong mana eggs to the weak characters, and level them up with magic coins earned in battle. Each spell in the mana egg has 5 stars (levels) of power, the more you level them up the stronger they are, all without costing more MP to cast. Special Books are my favorite, use special coins earned in battle to get and equip a couple of 5 star strength upgrades and you can nearly double your favorite characters standard attack power. Good stuff. There are all sorts of upgrade types (defense, speed, and even raise the randomness of getting items after battle). And regular character upgrades just add a set amount to each characters stats (+5 defense, +150 HP, etc.). As you can imagine, you'll want to get special and magic coins, and will purposely get in too battles often. Entering battles are not random, but use an Evolution (also an Ubi Soft published game) like style. You see little monsters roaming the screen, and when you hit them from behind, you get to "surprise them" and attack first, when they do as such, they surprise you and get the same, and a neutral battle is also an option. This means if you don't want to fight, just run around the monster. Battles are turn based, decided upon by an IP meter, with your character moving up it towards the ultimate goal of attacking. When you do reach it, the IP meter stops - unlike most Final Fantasy battle systems. Good if you need to leave it for a while.


Vibrant Towns
Vibrant Towns  

   That covers most of the game mechanics, now to nitpick sound. It has a beautiful musical score, great sound effects (I love the clash of swords in battle, and the grunts of your characters), and most impressive to me: great voice acting. All cut scenes are voice acted, and many of the important talking sections. It adds allot of... well character to the game's characters, and I swear to god has the voices from that English dubbed Jet Li-Red Dragon Pavilion Movie (had to mention it since a friend of mine rented it). Overall the music isn't catchy like the simplistic but cool old-school tunes, or overly orchestral like FFX's music, but it's very good nonetheless.

   The game isn't too original, but few will care. It's the standard battle of good and evil plotline, complete with stereotypical characters that are either great fighters or magic users (but rarely are good at both), and the same game play as any 3D RPG. The mind-blowing battle system is the only standout in this category as far as I'm concerned, but once again you won't care. The plot pits good god (Granas) VS the evil god (Valmar). The ending (though dragged out for 10 hours (seriously, I times it the second time through its sad)) has a great plot twist, and really brings all the odd and out of place character responses from before to light, and makes sense of them. It flows like a good anime however, and though won't have you at the edge of you seat, will make you want to play. You'll love every character (especially Ryudo), and sincerely want to make sure they are treated well. The reason I gave such a low rating for the plot is because it is so linear. The map is done in a style similar to Breath of Fire 4 - you can go to only set locals.

   Unlike the masterful BOF4, you can't backtrack. Want to buy regular herbs (I did because they were cheaper)? Too bad, they're only available in the first few towns, and you can't go back - which is quite sad. And at the end you don't get to go back and do what you missed. I hate that too. Overall it's no Final Fantasy, but plays better than one (it's quite funny as well). All the voice acting, text, and otherwise was translated exceptionally, and you'll never wondering what the sheezy they're talking about.

   As for replay value, I played it again for the GREAT battle system, and I found knowing what happens to actually be a plus. Without giving too much away, I took note of odd happenings and said "Ahhhh, so that's what he meant...Crazy kid!" because I knew the true reason behind it. You'll probably replay it once, but not for the story.


The battles MAKE the game!
The battles MAKE the game!  

   While not as pretty-looking as Skies of Arcadia - Grandia 2 sure does look better. Higher polygon count, better animation, you name it. That's why I was so shocked when I saw the first FMV. It was something you'd see in Final Fantasy in that it was very detailed and cool, but also looked like a laserdisc movie because it was grainy as shizzle. Maybe I got a bad copy, but it was just...absurd to barely be able to tell what was going on because every other pixel was grainy.

This game was too easy, perhaps. I'm not ashamed to say I'm an average to below average video game player, but I never died ONCE. That's right - rarely did even one character die! But it doesn't really matter, as it doesn't hamper the game, nor does it make battles repetitive. Also, I was surprised that even though it was easy, one disc (it has a double case because it includes a nifty soundtrack disc), and filled with graphical goodies, it was pretty long. An experienced RPG player will take 20-25 hours, but a newbie or someone that likes to take their time, level up, etc. will take 30 to 35 hours to finish. You certainly wont feel rushed to complete it (I hate time restraints).

Finally, comparison to Skies of Arcadia is inevitable. As much as I loved this game, Skies of Arcadia wins without contest. SoA is longer, harder, has a better story, more customizable, I could go on. But those looking for a game to last a while on the little white wonder need look no further. Grandia 2 is perfect for what it is: an action packed, turn-based RPG.




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