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Grandia III

Developer: Square-Enix, Game Arts
Publisher: Square-Enix
Release Date: 2/14/2006
Platform: Playstation 2

The Good: Easily one of the best looking PS2 games, amazing battle system, impressive voice cast.

The Bad: Weak storyline, uncommonly linear gameplay, cheese.

The Stupid: Anything that comes out of Alfina's mouth.

In the haydays of the 90's, RPG's were the games to beat on any system; from the SNES to the Saturn, each systems "killer app" was most likely a RPG. The Sega Saturn recieved a little bundle of joy called Grandia that was soon forgotten in the quick death of the console. It's newest iteration, Grandia III, attempts to retell the classic coming of age story that was so brilliantly told on the original game; the only problem with this concept is that the intruige is dropped early on.

The story focuses on Yuki, a budding pilot who can't seem to take any of his homemade planes off of the runway, but his dream of meeting Sky Captian Shmidtt, a world-renowned pilot and engineer, steadies his determination. Yuki's seemingly simple journey takes a dramatic turn when he brashly decides to save a young girl he spots while airborne, and is dragged into the tried and true storyline of good versus evil.

You are still stuck with reading alot of text

The only problem with this storyline is that it surpasses even the cutest of games level of cheesiness; just when you think the game is going to take a serious turn and actually let the player develop some sort of emotional investment into the storyline, the game throws the worst possible dialougue that would make even the girliest girl roll her eyes in disgust and blush for the fact she was still playing the game. Game Arts has taken a large step back from their great writing for Justin and Feena in the original Grandia, and has dumped the player into a lighthearted love story that moves way too quickly for it's own good; the only saving grace for the story is the inclusion of older characters that actually add some interest in the story, but other than that, prepare to be cheesed to death. This is pretty dissapointling coming from a development studio that gave us the epic tale of Grandia 1, by the end of the game, the player will most likely has little to no interest in what even happens to Yuki or Alfina.

Grandia III does look amazing to say the least, featuring sprawling landscapes that seem to go on for miles, and almost seem to be traversable if the game didn't limit you to a linear path. The main problem that I found with each and every location in the game is that it seemed to lack any sort of creative inspiration that the previous games had; every dungeon and pathway looked like a different skin on the same one I had encountered a few hours ago. Game Arts also seems to be shoving in a few design elements from the first game as well, the problem with this is, these elements worked with the original game, but they have no place here, and make little to no sense in where they are located.

Like in Final Fantasy X, characters will also slip in and out of high-res and low-res models in certain scenarios, which looks very odd when the characters mouth is moving in one cut, and then it switches to a static model with it's head bobbling to simulate talking. For what CG work there is to speak of in the game, it is done fairly well, but fails to bring anything new to the table in terms of technology. But a great merit to the game is the fact that an overall design concept is a strong element in the game; all of the characters look perfectly outfitted in the clothes of their native land, it almost looks too natural how well the colors coordinate to the location they come from.

The overworld map also looks great, although there is a slight fog that you encounter in the distance, it is filled with a rich and vibrant world that begs to be explored. The problem with that notion is that Grandia III translated the original game's map hopping into a light flying sim that basically only takes you from point A to point B. The system is done so well that it is really a shame that there really is only a handful of locations to go to in the game, and the high quality of the system almost begets a bigger purpose. You can take the plane up to above the cloud levels, and the music will change to the appropriate tune of grandeur to accentuate the intensity of being that high. The game could have benefitted from having more locations to discover, and more utilization of the flight system, but it fails to develop what seems to be the main theme of the game.

An overworld not fully realized

But the real reason that we all return to the Grandia franchise is the crowning jewel of the franchise: the battle system. The mixture of turn-based strategy and action elements have always completed a perfect blend of fun and tact. In battle, characters portraits appear on a circular "IP gauge", in which each player and enemy must wait until their portrait reaches the Action portion to choose a command, and finally there is a short stretch of the IP gauge in which the command must travel to in order to be executed. The fun and excitement in this simple system is held in the fact that the player can slow down a foe's IP portrait, or if they happen to land a special or critical attack while the foe is in his execution stage, they can cancel their attack alltogether and it will have to start all over again.

Each and every character is loaded with a wide variety of abilities to choose from, while most of their initial attacks are similar in effect, later ones will allow for each character to stand on their own quite well. In certain situations, characters will "discover" new moves and secret techniques when they choose to use a special ability. Long gone is the system where characters will gain abilities depending on how much they use a certain element or ability, it is replaced by them learning it when a certain ability is used in a certain situation. This is kind of dissapointing in the fact that you lose a sense of building your character by not being able to work towards gaining a new technique. Spells are now taught through equipping Mana Eggs, and characters will also come across "tomes" that can be equipped for status increases. The Mana Eggs can be taken to a Fusion shop to either extract a spell from it, or fuse them together to create a new and more powerful spell. This allows for a little experimentation with one-time items in such a linear game.

The crowning jewel of the series

There is also a combo system that allows characters to coordinate their attacks when the timing is right. If a character whose critical strike move sends the opponent into the air, any character that selects that target while it's airborne will execute a "finishing move", which deals major damage overall. This is just Grandia's way of telling the player that everything flows easier when you work as a team, because most battles will become too difficult if each character tries to do their own thing.

Sound in the game is a mixed bag, I couldn't put my finger on why it seemed to lack quality in some areas, and others had exquisite piano or techno tracks. For the most part, you will hear sweeping piano pieces, or the rousing beat of the battle theme, but some areas lack any type of inspiration, and almost seems to be along the lines of PSX quality. I was dumbfounded to find that the composer for this music was the same man who gave us such wonderful peices of music in the original game; but something just seemed to be lacking this time around. Voice-acting, on the other hand, is actually done quite well, and certain characters really shine. After the curse of Baten Kaitos, a voice-acted RPG was sternly looked down on, but Grandia III does a great job with giving excellent voice actors even the most minor of characters.

One of the larger problems with the game is that it was way too linear when you take into account that the previous two incarnations actually gave you some room to go explore. Once you leave a certain area, there is little to no reason to return to it at a higher level to explore the areas that were too high of a level to get to initally. You are basically strung along as the story carries on, where the only things you may miss along the way were treasure chests out of sight.

Overall, Grandia is a decent sequel to a series that has always pleased fans of RPG's who were looking for a taste of something new. But the lackluster storyline and rather bad character dialouge drowns the game in mediocrity, as plot twists and character relations are more obvious then secrets in a Kojima game. If you are here for the battle system, then the game is still the orgasmic trip it was the first time around, but fans of an epic storyline with character progression will definately be dissapointed with this one.

The gates of creativity have been closed


--- Alundra

Copyright by Anime-Source.Com All Right Reserved.

Published on: 2006-04-12 (12498 reads)

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