Game Arts latest title, Grandia Xtreme, is only months away from its North American release. The hype has been expanding, and expectations are high. However, fans expecting a Grandia III should think again, as this entry in Game Arts' popular role-playing series takes players down an entirely new path. With an emphasis on dungeon exploration and battle, Grandia Xtreme takes the best of the previous games' mechanics and expands on them.
Grandia Xtreme's battle system is a highly modified version of the one used in Grandia II. It includes a circular action bar that determines when a character or monster will attack. The action bar makes for great, complex fighting. If an enemy is about to attack, and a character is able to slam the enemy with a critical hit in time, that enemy will lose its turn and move to the bottom of the action bar, giving the player's team priority. The system works both ways, though, so characters must be properly prepared to face the wrath of any enemy, as well. Battles introduce entirely new features called Synchronized Flash System and Union Technique: these new functions allow characters to unleash combo attacks. The ability system presents the player with an upgraded version of the highly customizable system used in the previous two games in the series. Mana Eggs and abilities are allocated to characters in a much more polished and interactive manner.
In Grandia Xtreme, players follow Evan, an 18-year old male Bounty Hunter, on his quest to restore order to his chaotic world. He'll join up with seven other characters that will aid him on his journey. The world is ravaged by the mysterious appearance of rampaging spirits, who are wreaking havoc in the war-torn land. It is soon discovered that the source of the spirits' behavior is a result of the tablets of the four Spirit Ruins being stolen. It is up to Evan and his companions to restore these tablets to their appropriate locales.
Players will traverse four main dungeons during the game: the Nest of the Soil Dragon, the Eye of the Fire Cloud, the Mountain of Reversal Wind, and the Water of Life. Each of these ruins will present the player with a myriad of complex puzzles and relentless beasts to conquer. Once these dungeons are cleared, the player will be allowed to travel back to the ruins and find their way through a tougher version of the original level for greater rewards and treasure. Dungeon play and battles are the main components of Grandia Xtreme; less emphasis is put on story and exploration this time around.
The graphics engine closely resembles the one used in Grandia Xtreme's predecessor, Grandia II. While smooth, and beautifully-crafted, they are certainly not top-of-the-line. They do get the job done, though, and the landscapes are always impressive. The music is composed by Game Arts veteran, Noriyuki Iwadare, who is responsible for creating the music in both the Grandia and Lunar series. He has delivered a great soundtrack once again, and his work fits perfectly with the feel of the Grandia universe.
Grandia Xtreme looks to provide gamers with a satisfying gameplay experience. Solving puzzles and battling foes is the name of the game. Series fans looking for an experience similar to the last two Grandia games will have to wait for the next numbered installment. However, Grandia Xtreme still looks to be an extremely worthy title that shouldn't be missed by series fans and hard-core RPGamers alike.