Overview

I have been looking forward to Grandia II since I read the press release for the DreamCast version. Many, myself included, felt and still feel that the original Grandia is one of the best RPG ever despite its flaws.

The story begins with our hero Ryudo getting home after another successful mission as a geohound (mercenary), when he and his bird partner, Sky, find a note from his next employer a priest. Young Ryudo is not at all excited about this but his partner Sky reminds him a jobs a job, and so their adventure begins. As many of you know I hate giving away spoilers, so I’ll stop here.

Grandia II is not ground breaking, but it is enjoyable with plot twists in all the right places. The characters are real and for the most part fully developed and the game is not scared to surprise you when you least expect it. One potential downside is that the theme is a little too heavy on religion, but judging from the response to Final Fantasy X, you should get by this in no time.

Gameplay

The gameplay is just the way you remember it - perfect. There are no random battles that has been the staple of modern RPGs. In Grandia II, you’ll find free roaming monsters that you can see on the screen and avoid if you wish. Encounters are based on the direction you are facing when the monsters attack. If your back is turned on them, then they will ambush you. And the best part is when you attack monsters when they’re turning away from you, them you can have preemptive strike. This gives the gameplay a much more 3D feeling.

All characters have standard attacks. The only difference is in magic. Each of them have their own unique magic attacks and abilities, which have to be learned throughout the game. Of course the more powerful attacks are harder to learn, but I can assure you that they’re well worth the effort. Just like Final Fantasy X, the game system is totally open. If you want to make Ryudo a healer, you can do so. The same goes for every one else.

In short, the gameplay merges the best parts of Final Fantasy X’s open characters upgrading system with Chrono Cross’ excellent enemy encounter system.

Graphics

Where do I begin? Lets start with the bad. The DreamCast version was full of beautiful lighting effects, such as the camp fire scene in which the light from the fire highlights the characters, just like a real fire would. The PS2 version lights the whole area as if it was a sunny day. This is not a PS2 problem, just a classic case a bad port. Moving on, the game also suffers from an endless supply of jaggies. After seeing what proper developers like Squaresoft and Black Isle did with Final Fantasy X and Baldur’s Gate, I can’t help but feel a tad disappointed. Game Arts should have spent more time in getting the transition right.

The only plus point regarding the graphics are the FMVs, which at times look amazing, and dare I say on par with Square’s finest efforts.

Fun Factor

This game is so much fun ( deleted by editor). Yes that’s right. Hard to believe but the gameplay alone is enough to earn a fun factor rating of 10. The mini games are also fun, and coupled with the good storyline, Grandia II is an enjoyable experience.

Overall

Over all Grandia II is a breath of fresh air after Christmas slum. I highly recommend this game for its gameplay only. Everything else is a bonus. Shop around and you should be able to find at some stores packed with a useful guide. Grandia II is worthy of being in your collection, so go out and buy it now.

Former owner and editor in chief of Darkstation.com