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Grandia Xtreme - Review

Whatever Happened to Baby Plot?

By: Michael Beckett


Review Breakdown
   Battle System 8
   Interface 6
   Music/Sound 7
   Originality 2
   Plot 4
   Localization 6
   Replay Value 7
   Visuals 7
   Difficulty Easy
   Time to Complete

30-65 hours

 
Overall
6
Criteria

Grandia Xtreme
 

   Let me say this before we get started; Grandia Extreme - sorry, Xtreme - is not a bad game. It has some very, very serious flaws which prevent it from being a standout RPG, but it is a fun, if somewhat vacuous, game.

   As usual, the combat system is up first, and there are some truly amazing fights in Grandia Xtreme. These come not out of innovation, but rather out of attention to the details of the combat system and some great planning of enemy attacks and skills. It's certainly not from innovation. In fact, it seems the combat system was taken almost in it's entirety from Grandia 2, with only a few minor tweaks - damage done in magic and special attack combos are shown per-hit as opposed to being lumped together in the end(I'm assuming to make the spells seem more powerful and dramatic), counter and cancel are better represented, and SP starts at zero when entering a dungeon as opposed to full, as in Grandia 2. Mana Eggs, still the source of magic in Grandia, contain a supply of MP instead of draining it spell-by-spell from the caster. Beyond that, combat in Grandia Xtreme is a great deal like in Grandia 2. If it's not broke, don't fix it, right? This combat system is engaging and immersive, which is good, because most of your time will be spent in it.

   Control all around Grandia Xtreme is good and solid, and makes intuitive use of the buttons and joysticks. Camera control is a bit sluggish, but the use of the L2 button to move the camera directly behind Evann is a simple way to solve that problem. In fact, the only thing that really annoyed me about the interface was the save points.


The battle director did his homework, luckily.
The battle director did his homework, luckily.  

   Saving in Grandia Xtreme is just bloody irritating, and counter-intuitive besides. The main idea seems to be if you can only save in Locca, your home base, the game will magically be made more difficult. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Replacing the earlier Recover/Save Game points that made Grandia one and two so easy are Geogates, points that can return you instantaneously to and from Locca. The fact that you can't save in the actual dungeons is made moot by the fact that the same Geogate that took you out of the dungeon can put you right back into it at the same point you left. Geogates aren't at particularly longer intervals than save points were in earlier Grandias, and the idea that they make the game more difficult is total bull. Once in Locca, you can not only rest and save - the only two options available at save points - you can also buy and sell items, create new Mana Eggs and special skills, and even reform your party. It is, in fact, the sheer power of the Geogates that fuel the sheer ease with which an experienced gamer can blow through Grandia Xtreme.

   Anyway, let's move on to the Music and Sound. As for the former, Mr. Noriyuki Iwadare has done another wonderful job, as most of Grandia Xtreme's few themes are well done and pleasing to the ear. Standout themes are, as usual, the combat themes. One wouldn't think an acoustic guitar would work in a combat theme, but it does. One day Motoi Sakuraba and Noriyuki Iwadare have got to work together on a battle theme; I'm sure the result would be truly explosive.

   Voice acting is becoming more and more important in the RPG world, especially after Final Fantasy X brought it to the fore with it's superb acting. Well, aside from Yuna, but I digress. The voice work in Grandia Xtreme… well, could have used some work, quite frankly. Most of the actors seem somewhat disinterested in the lines, though there are a few standouts; Mark Hamill as Kroitz puts on a wonderful show, as does Lisa Loeb as Lutina, in what I Believe to be her first attempt at voice acting. Dean Cain, playing Evann, comes off as little more than whiny - appropriate for Evann, totally his character, but an obnoxious character trait in a hero nonetheless. The rest of the sounds are fairly straight forward slashes and yells, though for some reason the monster noises seem to have gotten a lot of attention. Maybe it's just me.

   Okay, before I rate Originality, I'd like to draw attention to the first paragraph; Grandia Xtreme is not a bad game. It is, in fact, quite enjoyable. That being said, Grandia Xtreme is more bereft of originality than a Tomb Raider sequel. The combat system is, as I said, lifted almost in its entirety from Grandia 2. The plot - what little of it there is - could have been written by a computer programmed to randomly spit clichés. The only thing which saves Grandia Xtreme from a wait-till-it's-in-the-bargain-bin originality rating of 1 is the fact that I've never seen anything like the Mana Egg creation system. Trying to find all fifty-some Mana Egg combinations possible is a lot of fun.


The woman in the barrel makes me wonder if someone's got a fetish. Ick.
The woman in the barrel makes me wonder if someone's got a fetish. Ick.  

   Moving on, we come to Plot. Like I said, bleah. The plot is so clichéd it's painful; we've got the childhood rivals, the monster trying to take over the world, the military empire trying to take over the world, and the small, plucky group of heroes who rise up to save the world. We've even got something horrible happening on a boat (just a side note here; in RPGs, never, never, never get on the boat. Go by foot if you have to, but don't get on the boat). I've heard that the game's designers wanted this Grandia to be more dungeon-oriented, but I don't see why we couldn't have had long dungeons and a decent plot as well. What saves Grandia Xtreme from a truly abysmal rating in Plot is a couple of interesting and well-shot scenes involving murderous pinwheels, living zombies, and exploding ocean vehicles.

Localization seems to have been done professionally, and with good Attention to detail. I think I may have seen one typo in seventy-three hours of gameplay (I like to suck the marrow out of my games). In any case, a fine job done by the translators.

Replay value is fairly high in Grandia Xtreme. Players have, after a certain plot point, the choice to go back and redo the earlier dungeons in order to obtain more treasure and Mana Eggs. There's also eight playable characters, meaning at least two possible teams to play through the game with, and a moderately extensive Epilogue with a - say it with me here - a One Hundred Level randomly generated dungeon. It hurts, yes, but it's a good hurt.


One of only two towns in the entire game.
One of only two towns in the entire game.  

Next up are the visuals. Like I said, there are some nice graphic touches here and there, and on the whole, I like the character models a whole heck of a lot better than I liked them in Grandia 2. Character designs by Kamui Fujiwara are well done - I'm not sure if he did the character designs for Grandia 2, but there are a lot of similarities. Spell effects are really nice, and I particularly like Burnstrikes' flaming pigeons. Seriously, visuals are well done, and are a high point of Grandia Xtreme.

Grandia Xtreme's difficulty is, mainly due to the Geogates and the ease of collecting Mana Eggs, Easy, and the game can take anywhere from 30 hours to upwards of 60 hours to really beat the game. On the whole, it's a worthwhile trip to pay around forty bucks for, but one really shouldn't expect an earth-shaking event. Final score is above average, but only just.





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