Friday, February 15, 2013

Grandia II

Most Awesome Anime: Review of Grandia II

There are many elements that make up a truly great RPG.  Not least of which is an epic storyline, engrossing characters that resonate, innovative gameplay, and music so good it stays with you long after you’ve finished the game.  With Grandia IIyou’ve got all that in spades.

The story starts out simply enough. You play as Ryudo, a type of mercenary for hire called a Geohound. Along with his falcon companion Skye, the two take on jobs that others are unwilling or unable to do, completing them without of moral judgment.

Bouncing from job to job, in order to make a living, everything changes one day when Ryudo accepts a job from the Church of Granas. He is to guard a young songstress named Elena during a ritual to reseal the wings of Valmar, an ancient source of evil. But things don’t go as planned as soon the two find themselves caught in a battle between ancient forces of good and evil, and what seemed like a simple assignment at first turns into much more.  

The story is engrossing and manages to pull players into the world with a colorful cast of characters.
Ryudo is hard not to like. Highly skilled with a sword and cynical to a fault, he is the classic antihero who cares little for people and even less for the Church. 
Elena is often the counter to Ryudo’s rough and uncouth personality. Kindhearted and always the optimist, she puts her duties before herself and fights to save the world from the encroaching darkness.  

Others include the beastman Marig, whose intimidating physical appearance is accompanied by a calm and gentle demeanor. Marig seeks to slay the man who destroyed his village.

Definitely one of the more interesting characters of the game is the mysterious demon girl Millenia. Often flirtatious, uninhibited and quick to act. Though despite her impulsive nature and less than clear motives, Millenia possesses a more sensitive side and her demonic abilities makes her an extremely powerful ally.

Dialogue is well written and voice acting in the game is spot on adding a great deal of appeal to the characters. Graphics are also top notch as environments are extremely vibrant and full of color. The level of attention paid to detail in the game is quite stunning. For example, indoor areas often include interactive elements. A player walking by an object such as cup or weapon might knock it over if they get to close.

However the battle system is where I believe Grandia II deserves some of its highest marks. Here the best elements of both turn-based and real-time battle engines are fused into one system.

Battles progress in real-time, pausing only for commands and spellcasting. A gauge at the bottom of the screen shows the time between fatigue and attack for both friends and foes. When a character's icon is in the first section, they can only defend against attacks. However, once the icon hits the command section, the player may select an action.

In engagements with enemies, strategy, position, and timing are everything. How a battle goes will depend upon the choices you make.

This makes battles incredibly engaging as players must weigh their choices carefully. Should you have a character strike an enemy with a powerful special ability or use a weaker critical move at precisely the right moment to cancel out an opponent’s attack.

Some of the game’s most thrilling moments will come when the battle freezes at the coming of your turn just as one of your party members is inches away from being attacked.

And nothing is more satisfying than making it in the nick of time to save your ally by hammering the oncoming assailant with your own canceling strike.

This instills a sense of comradery between you and your characters as you have them continuously watch each others' backs throughout the game.

The formula stays fresh and incredibly fun throughout the game, as no two battles will ever play out quite the same way. Much of this is what gives battles in Grandia II a surprising amount of depth and makes playing so entertaining.

I have great memories of Grandia II. In my opinion this is hands down one of the best RPGs ever made for the Sega Dreamcast. Overall, I think this is a beautiful game with an amazing story and a battle system that is second to none. If you love RPGs, I highly recommend checking this one out on either the Dreamcast or PS2.

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