Grandia II Anniversary Edition

The Game Arts-developed Grandia series debuted on Sega’s Saturn a few console generations ago, although North American gamers would be denied the original game at first due to Sega chief Bernard “Bernie” Stolar. While it did see a port to the rival Sony PlayStation that did receive localization, criticism arose of that particular incarnation, particularly regarding the English voicework. The following console generation saw the release of Grandia II on the Dreamcast, not to mention the PlayStation 2 and PC, although non-Dreamcast ports contained technical issues like slowdown. Grandia II Anniversary Edition, released through Steam, rectifies some of these problems, but is it a good experience?

Gameplay-wise, it is, although the system of visible enemy encounters in dungeons has its share of issues, such as enemies charging the player’s active party regardless of strength, contact with one of protagonist Ryudo’s allies guaranteeing enemies a preemptive strike. The player’s party can get preemptive strikes, as well, though doing so can be difficult since enemies turn red and charge them upon coming close. In dungeons are occasional rainbow cones that full restore the player’s party, so players can most certainly make liberal use of their party’s skills and magic.

In battle, the player’s party of up to four characters and the enemy share one active time gauge, with members of each side eventually reaching a point towards the end of the meter where they decide their commands and execute it, with two-hit combination attacks and one-hit critical attacks occurring instantly once a character draws near the enemy, although skills and magic, depending upon their levels, will most likely take longer to occur. If an enemy’s icon is still on the rightward portion of the turn order gauge but still hasn’t executed its command, critical attacks can cancel their command, the same sometimes going for the enemy, although doing so takes a certain finesse.

Each character has SP-consuming special attacks, some of which have the ability to cancel enemy commands (and luckily, maxing the cancelling skills guarantees instant execution after selection, making cancelling enemy commands easier), not to mention MP-consuming magic usable with up to six acquirable Mana Eggs. Victory nets all surviving characters experience for occasional level-ups, money to purchase items and equipment from shops, and points the player can invest into skills and Mana Egg spells. Eventually, the player also acquires Skill Books that grant innate abilities such as increased HP and lowered execution time, also necessitating skill and magic points gained from victory.

The battle system works well for the most part, with most fights endable with a few commands from the player’s characters and combat having a general quick pace, although the sporadic flashy skill and magic animations can somewhat mar the flow of fighting. Furthermore, while the makeup of the player’s party changes at a few points, it’s mostly safe to invest skill and magic points into any character, since there are some surprise twists towards the end, for instance, with the last few battles fought with only three characters. Overall, the Grandia franchise mostly does a good job in the gameplay department, so there really isn’t too much to improve.

Conversely, there is plentiful room for improvement regarding control, with occasional crashes of the PC version, for one, compounded by the dated JRPG tradition of save points, although one improvement over the original Grandia is that the compass actually indicates where places are in town and which general direction to travel in dungeons. Furthermore, the sequel seems to really love the trope of countless points of no return, with this player, for one, needing to keep multiple save slots, and if others don’t, they can find themselves stuck on the endgame, given the inability right before the last few bosses to back out and grind. Ultimately, the developers could have certainly rethought interaction.

The story is an improvement over that in its predecessor, given a greater sense of maturity, but that really isn’t saying much, since most of the plotline is lifted directly from Lunar: Eternal Blue, another Game Arts title, given the escort of a maiden to a holy place, protagonist Ryudo’s flying companion, the struggle between light and dark, and so forth. The characters, however, are reasonably likeable, with plenty of humorous banter included in the localization, although the translators most of the time seemed fairly allergic to contractions that would have made many talks sound far more natural, and as always, battles get the worst dialogue. In the end, the plot isn’t one of the title’s main draws.

Noriyuki Iwadare returns to compose the sequel’s soundtrack, with most of his tracks being enjoyable, although there are countless moments of silence, even during cutscenes that have no voice acting, with that particular aspect a definite step above the janitorial-staff quality of the original game.

The visuals have some things going for them, with scenery for instance looking nice at times, although textures appear blurry on closeup, and the character models don’t show much emotion on their faces, which are mouthless. The anniversary edition, though, is devoid of the slowdown that plagued other non-Dreamcast versions, and while this reviewer’s computer didn’t meet the minimum graphical requirements, it still ran like a champ aside from occasional crashes. Even so, the developers could have definitely touched up the graphics for this rerelease.

Finally, the game will last players anywhere from one to two days, and there’s plenty to keep coming back to the game for such as trophies and selectable difficulty.

All in all, Grandia II Anniversary Edition definitely won’t set the RPG world ablaze, given shortcomings such as an irritating endgame, occasional crashing, the derivative plotline, the lack of music during many moments, and the dated graphics. It does, however, have quite a few things going for it such as the solid Grandia gameplay, the enjoyable localization, the solid voice acting and whatever music does make itself heard, and plenty lasting appeal. Even so, there are definitely much better RPGs on the PC, although this particular port certainly isn’t terrible, and is probably the definitive version of the game, should players look past its flaws.

The Good:
+Solid Grandia gameplay.
+Passable localization.
+What music exists is good.
+Good voice acting.
+Trophies and difficulty settings enhance replayability.

The Bad:
-Annoying endgame.
-Can crash.
-Story rips off Lunar: Eternal Blue.
-Silence during most cutscenes.
-Graphics haven’t aged well.

The Bottom Line:
A passable port.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PC
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 3/10
Story: 4/10
Localization: 7/10
Music/Sound: 6/10
Graphics: 5/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 1-2 Days

Overall: 6/10

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