Reviews: Grandia II

Better story, boring game

We all know that console jrpgs are only addictive to people who like plots. Battles are a time-sink, as is anything on the map that doesn't push the plot forward, i.e. dungeons and caves. The story is all that matters. In fact, plot complexity is sometimes misconstrued for quality. (see Xenogears).

So, from that point of view, Grandia I and II are quintessential jrpgs, and damn good ones, too. Grandia II is darker than the last one, but never so much that it becomes pretentious. The other reviewers are 100% right: this game is stupidly easy. The first game at least encouraged you to use your entire spellbook. This time, using magic doesn't pay out with exp — you get that automatically. Just keeping spamming "Snooze" and you'll won't even take damage most of the time. The plot isn't as tight as the first game. The "religion is evil" JRPG tract is in full swing, too. and there's a Sephiroth clone tossed in for good measure — he does some stuff, and disappears right after that.

OK, so the premise won't win any awards. Happily, Grandia II does a good job at world-building and fleshing out its characters. Ryudo is the broadsword-swinging cousin of Dr. House — hell bent on doing his job and kicking sand in the faces of anyone who dares to thank him. His interplay with Elena, the good samaritan nun, is pretty hysterical since the pair have a Calvin/Susie Derkins dynamic going on. The only weak link in Roan; he's not a bad character, just flat and uninteresting. Mareg is Koan-spewing lion man who surprised me by becoming my favorite character. Tio comes into the story too late to matter, but she and Mareg develop a cute "Teach me how to be human" relationship (though why Mareg would know anything about that is beyond me). And who can forget Mirimu and the creepy subplot with the girl and the flying eyeballs and the Spanish Inquisition etc etc — yep, definitely worth a playthrough for that all by itself.

And so it goes, with the only interesting bits being the Adventure Towns, and slogging through endless, repetitive battles in-between. YES, the famous Grandia "no battle is the same" enemy encounters are, in fact, pretty much interchangeable.

Grandia II: The Easy Way to Heroism

I won't summarise much of the plot, since TV Tropes does it for you. However, it's good to mention that you control a Jerk Ass folk with a talking, and worth hearing bird (whose presence is amusingly never explained), and you must escort a princestess and keep her safe. It backfires quite nicely as the priestess gets tainted by the evil god Valmar; however, just a bit later you meet Ms Fanservice, who really wants to get naughty for and with Ryudo... and that's when the plot becomes interesting, so we'll leave the summary there.

This game has some drawing points which make it really nice to play even though many years have passed since its appearance. The first one is, surprisingly, the plot. While my summary was intentionally bland, the game has a very interesting (albeit clichéd) argument, with Millenia and Ryudo as the most developed characters. It's a pity that the English voice acting, even though it has big names in it, shows a performance under their possibilities.

A second pro for this game would be the combat system. It is fun to fight, actually; the dynamic turn system and the possibility to cancel your foes' attacks would allow for strategic options which should be very interesting to explore.

Lastly, I personally liked the world's design and ambiance. It gives a colorful picture which is refreshing, as JRPG games tend to go to the gritty, dark and greyish side, and yet it doesn't feel out of tune with the plot, which becomes certainly gloomy sometimes.

However, this game presents a big problem, seemingly common to all Game Arts games: they are way too easy to beat. The main article for this game covers the Anticlimax Boss, but I'd say that all the bosses are like that, or even easier to defeat. The plethora of tactical options that the combat mechanics give, and the epic that the story manages to render become moot since the game itself is a walk in the park. The healing savepoints, the addictiveness of the combat system... it all makes the game plain boring, more like a Visual Novel and less of a game.

I like this game, it has a sweet spot in my heart and it makes for a perfect introduction to the JPRG genre, but if you're expecting a challenge of any kind, find something else: Grandia II is not for you.

  • taps pen on chin*

...Yeah, it's pretty good.

Characters are fun to be around, even if they're cardboard cutouts of your standard RPG characters. Battle system is as good as ever, and opens all kinds of wicked strategies. Of course you probably won't need them since this game is one of the easiest RP Gs I've ever played.

Still, it's definitely worth playing. So go on, have fun.