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   Grandia Xtreme - Reader Re-Retroview  

Elementally Disordered
by Prince Jeremy, Duke of Otterland

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Hard
COMPLETION TIME
40-80 Hours
OVERALL

1.5/5

Rating definitions 

   Because of his elemental abilities, the Nortis Army has drafted Evann, a Ranger, to help neutralize the Elemental Disorder, a series of ecological disasters ravaging the land. However, Evann has refused to help because his childhood rival, Kroitz, is in the Army, until one day, the Army seizes him forcefully for his cooperation. Grandia Xtreme is the second in Game Arts' series to appear on the Playstation 2, which unfortunately ends up being a disappointment..

   Like its predecessors, Xtreme features combat combining turn-based and real-time elements, with enemies visible in dungeons that approach you when you draw near them. This time, the player can put Evann into a defensive position, where he walks slowly, so that the enemy doesn't get the initiative in the following battle. A gauge also indicates how powerful the enemy party will be before the encounter, but regardless of the party's level, enemies will always charge at them.

   All characters and enemies appear on a circular turn order gauge, with the player able to input one of many commands when one of his or her characters reaches his or her turn. Commands include combo attacks, where a character attacks normally more than once; critical attacks, which can cancel an enemy's command if timed right; the use of magic from one or more Mana Eggs, each with their own individual MP gauges; special skills, which consume SP built up whenever the player's characters receive damage or attack; and items.

Someone has a fetish "The woman in the barrel's mine, kid!"

   In Locca, the game's main hub town, players can fuse Mana Eggs into more powerful incarnations, pay money to reveal innate skills from scrolls, purchase items, and recover the party. This time around, unfortunately, there are no save points whatsoever within dungeons, although there are Geo Gates that can transport the player instantly to a certain location in a dungeon from town or provide a one-way trip from a dungeon back into town. Even so, the restrictive save system poses many problems, since the game sometimes forces players to trek forever before being able to leave a dungeon (the lack of spells or items to instantly leave dungeons doesn't help, either).

   The fights themselves are okay, although eventually, they can drag on for several minutes, which somewhat makes them lose their appeal. There are also some other flaws, such as the randomized nature of how the player's characters and enemies move about the field, which can sometimes mess up the intended effects of spells and skills; character pathfinding is lousy as well in many instances. Overall, combat is certainly one of the high points of Grandia Xtreme, though that really isn't saying a whole lot.

   Interaction, unfortunately, doesn't help the game. There's a limit as to how many different types of items players can carry, with items constantly found in dungeons quickly eating up inventory space. As mentioned, moreover, some genius at Game Arts thought it would be cute to have only one save point in the entire game and at times force boss fights unto the player after long, tedious dungeon treks. There are some redeeming factors such as automaps in dungeons, though the developers could've certainly improved the other aspects of interaction.

Trap and kill! "Fear my revolving door attack!"

   Gameplay-wise, Grandia Xtreme is mostly a rehash of its predecessors, although there are some new elements such as combo attacks and a greater emphasis on dungeon crawling. Unfortunately, the story itself isn't terribly original, and is undoubtedly the game's low point. The cast of characters is rather hastily assembled, with little, if any, meaningful attempt at character development and a lousy main plot that incessantly borders on corny. Toss in an androgynous evil god towards the end, and it becomes painfully obvious that the writers should've given the story a thorough once-over.

   Grandia Xtreme doesn't fare any better musically. Noriyuki Iwadare returns with his recognizable hit-or-miss style, with few standout tracks aside from some cutscene and battle music. As for the voicework, Enix made a big deal about the game's having the voice talents of Dean Cain, Mark Hamill, and Lisa Loeb; what they failed to mention, though, is that the game also features the voice talents of their janitorial staff not to mention lousy voice direction and laughable scripting, ultimately resulting in lackluster voicework. In the end, the music certainly won't drive you to buy the soundtrack, and there are certainly RPGs, even without celebrity talent, with much better voicework.

   The graphics, though, are another high point of the game, yet again, that isn't saying a whole lot. The scenery is nicely colored, if a bit pixelated on close-up, and character sprites resemble their character portraits, yet do contain a bit of a boxy appearance and don't show much variety in their facial expressions. The monster designs and FMVs are decent, as well, and overall, the graphics don't detract from the game, yet aren't worth writing home about.

   Finally, the game is fairly lengthy, taking from forty to eighty hours to complete depending upon the time spent in the dungeons, one of which is accessible after beating the game. Overall, Grandia Xtreme is a bitter disappointment: the battles, while fun at first, somewhat lose their appeal as the game progresses, and the restrictive save system limits the times during which players with busy schedules will be able to play, among other things. It doesn't suffer from sloppy porting issues like its predecessors, though that doesn't compensate for the fact that the game itself isn't very good.

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