MUSIC & SOUND
25 to 45 hours
Grand: large and impressive in size, scope, or extent.
Grandiose: characterized by feigned or affected grandeur; pompous.
Grandia III: RPG with grand battles and grandiose
From its lengthy introduction sequence to the inevitable ultimate
battle, Grandia III exhibits a childlike exuberance and enthusiasm
- particularly in the characters. Yuki, the main male protagonist,
holds a single dream: to fly across the great ocean in an airplane,
just like his hero Sky Captain Schmidt. And he's going to do it
in lucky Airplane #19. Of course, 19 is not a lucky number per se,
it's simply that Yuki has crashed and burned 18 previous planes
and is completely undaunted by a track record that would ground any
pilot regulated by the FAA.
Any male hero requires a female counterpoint to serve as love interest,
and Alfina performs this role admirably, mixing compassion and innocence
in just the right proportion to narrowly avoid being sickeningly
sweet. She and her brother are the last of the Communicators, last
scions of a family able to interpret the words of the Guardians.
With her brother gone missing, she is on a journey to either find
him or take his place.
You've Angered the Mother!
Accompanying those two young lovebirds is a small host of minor
characters, joining at various times during the progress. Yuki starts
his journey with his mother, a young, wise-cracking, no-nonsense
woman who could easily be mistaken both in looks and attitude for
a sister instead of maternal figure. Alonso is a compulsive gambler,
a rogue, a sometime sea captain, and a general trickster who causes
more trouble than he's worth. Ulf is a dragon rider, flown out from
his home in a hidden valley, desirous to see the world and have
adventure. Buxom Dahna is chief of her people, but she has a troubled
past and a bleak outlook for the future. Players will meet one more
playable character, but that identity would be a bit of a spoiler.
Much of Grandia III will seem familiar to veterans of its predecessor,
Grandia II; this is particularly true in terms of story. Indeed,
the story will not be all that fresh or exciting to veteran RPGamers,
and the main gist will certainly be recognizable territory: save the
world from disaster against overwhelming odds. While a standard
plot device in RPGs, this theme can be dressed up in a number of
interesting ways. Sadly, Grandia III shied away from what could
have been a truly intriguing plot setup. That isn't to say that
the plot is necessarily bad, but the strong start seems to fall
by the wayside by the end of the game.
Grandia III's strongest point is undoubtedly its battle system,
a slightly tweaked and modified version of the system found in Grandia II. Combat is initiated by touching a monster on the field screen
(just say no to random encounters), and players can even strike
out with a sword to surprise the enemy. Once combat is initialized,
everyone in the melee is placed on the IP wheel according to their
initiative. Different characters and monsters then move forward
at various velocities, speeding toward the command line.
Reaching the command line yields the basic combat options: combo,
critical, special move, magic, item, defend/dodge, and flee. Upon
selecting an option, the character will move toward the action line,
speed determinant on the nature of the selection, and will then
execute the action upon reaching the action line. Of course, the
character may have to run all the way across the field, or significant
build up time may be necessary for powerful special moves or magic.
During the time in between choosing a command and the actual execution,
a character is vulnerable: critical attacks (and some special moves)
will actually cancel an enemy's attack, sending the unfortunate
wretch back to the beginning, passing neither Go nor collecting
$200. Thus even the simplest of battles has a tactical nature to
it in the essence of timing. It is entirely possible to use the
cancel effect to complete annihilation of the enemy; battles fought
without any of the characters suffering so much as a scratch results
in a bonus.
Grandia III also introduces aerial combos and finishes. When an
enemy is cancelled, that enemy is flung high into the air. If another
character manages to get in a combo attack while the enemy is still
in the air, an aerial combo is initiated. These combos are more
powerful than normal ones, and killing an enemy will result in an
aerial finish. Aerial finishes can yield more gold or rare items.
While the overall scheme of battle may seem complicated, the system
is fairly intuitive and easy to pick up. As characters progress
in the game, they gain new attacks, magics, skills, and items that
make combat even more interesting. Even at the latest levels, combat
still feels fresh and exciting - facing nine high level enemies
who constantly summon more of themselves is the sort of organized
chaos that RPGamers weep for. Combine this with the fact that Grandia III ups the difficulty considerably, particularly in boss battles,
and you have an easy nomination for best RPG battle system. Ever.
Characters can equip both skill books and mana eggs. Both of these
items will boost particular attributes; for example, the aqua egg
marginally boosts water magic, and the scout book greatly boosts
tech skills. Books may also be consumed to gain new skills; eggs
can yield magic or be fused with another egg to create a new egg
altogether. Characters have individual magic, skill, and special
move levels - each of which is increased through usage in battle.
These skill levels determine which eggs/books may be equipped and
the number of spells/skills may be used. Magic runs the normal gambit
of attack, support, or defend; skills are a bit more varied, allowing
for things ranging from simple increased attributes to a chance
at counterattacking to multiple combo hits.
Timewise, Grandia III feels a bit short. The main quest will likely
take 25-35 hours, and sidequests are practically nonexistent. Despite
having an airplane for a good part of the game, there really aren't
that many places to visit, and going back to the same old village
all the time certainly does get old fast.
Musn't Look at Sun.... ARGH!!!
Graphically, the game looks absolutely gorgeous with a unique style.
Forgoing the realism sought by many RPGs, the characters and environment
are served up in anime-influenced style: brighter and larger than
life. Environments are lovingly detailed, and the numerous FMV sequences
leave little to wish for.
On the other hand, the sound is a bit of a mixed bag. Vocalizations
are excellent and exemplary of what voice acting should be. The
soundtrack itself is distinctly hit or miss though; the main theme
has a distinct J-Pop feel to it and will not likely appeal to everyone.
Area background music can be annoyingly intrusive, so much so that
it can break immersion.
The game is not without other minor faults. Particularly vexing
is the lack of a pause button during scenes. Skippable, yes. Pausable,
no. And oddly enough, players must venture to a save orb or shop
in order to set up magic or skills. The reasoning behind this seems
nonexistent: why can players not equip at need?
Overall, Grandia III is fun romp that somehow manages to
overcome all its minor faults and a mediocre story. An RPG that
is greater than the sum of its parts, Grandia III comes highly
recommended to all RPGamers.