Although most consoles in recent videogame generations have tremendous graphical capability in three dimensions, quite a few titles have stuck to traditional two-dimensional visuals, which can be either a good or bad thing depending upon stylistic choices and how similar they appear with graphics of prior gaming compeers. Games that come to mind in this area are the Lunar remakes on the Sony PlayStation, whose main visuals look on par with 16-bit graphics, not to mention the PlayStation 2 Atelier titles, with their respective systems bearing the potential to have these artistic aspects tremendously polished. A title that retains 2-D visuals is the Spike Chunsoft-developed, NIS America-published Grand Kingdom, which is for the most part an enjoyable experience.
Grand Kingdom sports quest-based gameplay, with the player moving a chess piece indicating the player’s party of four characters of different classes across a line-based battlefield, with other pieces indicating enemy encounters, although random encounters do frequently pop up during travel. In these battles, the player’s party and the enemy exchange turns, the order of actions likely determined by agility, with the player able to move around their characters during a turn and into range to perform normal attacks, use consumables, or cast magic. If a class is melee, the player can execute successive button presses to hack away at an enemy, although akin to the Valkyrie Profile games, the player must pay attention to how the foe bounces around to ensure attacks miss not.
Battle rules differ for non-melee classes, characters like archers and mages having attack ranges, allies such as these typically needing to be far away from foes to execute their standard actions. Archers and mages, once they begin executing their attacks, have an indicator that moves across their attack range, the player needing to time their button presses so that arrows and magic will actually hit antagonists and strike either nothing or allies (friendly fire being possible). While one can speed up battle animations, moreover, combat still feels slightly sluggish and somewhat clunky in terms of control, although players can undo movement with the select button.
Defeating all enemies in a battle rewards all participants with experience and some recovered hit points, a character of the medic class also able to recover HP for allies in combat, although initially not for themselves. The battle system definitely has its issues, such as the general sluggish pace of battles, even with an option to speed up actions; no mid-mission saving; easy friendly fire, and the need to reset a unit’s level to one when upgrading bonuses earned from investing points into various stats, which necessitates a bit of grinding. However, failing a mission retains obtained experience, and regardless of its issues, combat in Grand Kingdom helps more than hurts.
Grand Kingdom has a general linear structure that keeps players moving in the right direction, and general easy menus, although loading times can somewhat add up.
The characters players control in battle are more or less blank-slate, and there isn’t a terrible amount of depth, although the war aspect mixes things up a little.
The translation is mostly adequate, although there is slight awkwardness in NPCs addressing their superiors as “squadron leader” and such.
Grand Kingdom features a solid soundtrack that only suffers during the frequent musicless loading time screens, and the voice acting isn’t half-bad, with options for either the English or Japanese voices, and that characters tend to say things like “Crap!” or “Whoops!” after friendly fire very much lightens the mood, although there is some oddity in the quote “We did it!” when opening battlefield treasure chests and retrieving materials.
The game features a visual style somewhat reminiscent of those in Vanillaware’s titles, with reasonably-anatomical character sprites that only show slight choppiness, the only major blight in the graphical department being the simplistic nature of movement across vast battlefields.
Finally, given the need to grind, completing the game’s twelve main story missions can take somewhere from two to three whole days (with the loading times mercifully counted in overall playing time), although plenty lasting appeal exists in online features mercifully optional.
Overall, Grand Kingdom is for the most part an enjoyable mission-based RPG, given things such as an enjoyable tactical battle system, good control, solid sound, pretty visuals, and plentiful lasting appeal. Granted, battles are somewhat burdened by a slight sluggish pace, unpredictable random encounters, and no mid-mission saving, and loading times can be frequent, alongside the blank-slate characters and storyline. Despite these issues, the game very much warrants a purchase on either the PlayStation Vita or PS4, and this reviewer would very much have interest in playing an eventual sequel or spiritual successor.
+Good tactical battle system.
+Great soundtrack and voicework.
-A bit grindy.
-No mid-mission saving.
-Loads of loading.
-Story and characters are somewhat blank-slate.
-Simplistic map graphics.
The Bottom Line:
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Playing Time: 2-3 Days