By Operation Rainfall Contributor / September 24th, 2015
|Title||Grandia II: Anniversary Edition|
|Publisher||Gungho Online Entertainment|
|Release Date||August 24, 2015|
|Platform||PC (Steam, GOG)|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Teen|
Game Arts has been around for 30 years now. As one of the smaller developers in the industry, the company has released some fantastic gems and some games that were not well received. Game Arts is most famous for two major RPG series, Lunar and Grandia. Grandia II was released 15 years ago on the SEGA Dreamcast and was widely acclaimed as being one of the best RPGs on the system. To celebrate Grandia II’s 15th anniversary, Game Arts and Gungho Online Entertainment have released Grandia II: Anniversary Edition for the PC. Is it worth celebrating Grandia II’s anniversary with this new port?
The story revolves around two gods who once fought in a battle between good and evil, Granas and Valmar. Once the battle was over, humanity was able to live on despite the damage to the world forming the Granacliffs. Our main hero is Ryudo, a Geohound who wanders the world doing mercenary work for clients. He is an excellent swordsman with a sarcastic attitude. He is known to be an atheist and has something against women early on. Unfortunately, the latter is never explained during the game. He is accompanied by Skye, a sarcastic bird who has been friends with Ryudo and offers wise advice to him. One day, he takes on a job for the Church of Granas by accompanying one of the Sisters of Granas, Elena, to a tower for a exorcism ceremony to prevent the revival of Valmar, the god of destruction. Ryudo reluctantly takes on the task. During the job, the ceremony does not go exactly as planned, and he must continue to protect Elena from darkness and prevent the prophesied Day of Darkness. They are eventually joined by Roan, Mareg, Millenia, and Tio.
Ryudo starts out as an unlikable character, but eventually takes interest in the events going on in the world and vows to protect everyone. The characters are well developed, and their own personalities are revealed throughout the numerous cutscenes and conversation scenes. In certain areas of the game, the player will be able to click on the characters as they have a discussion on current events happening around them. As the game progresses, the characters change as they overcome adversity and learn to accept different points of view from not only themselves, but from the people, as well as their personalities while their philosophy on life is challenged. In most RPGs, NPCs only serve to be information dispensers with no personality. In Grandia II, the NPCs have their own personalities, their own humor, and will react to in-game events and changes within the town. Players will want to talk to the NPCs not because they are not forced to, but to hear what they have to say and, at times, find some good humor and good jokes.
Most of the game will be in the same structural formula: Go into town, talk to the NPCs, help them out by going into a dungeon, and fight the boss. The cycle repeats itself until approximately the last eight to ten hours of the game. The game is played from a top-down perspective. The party can walk around the towns and dungeons to encounter enemies and get items. There are plenty of different points to heal up the party and save the game. It is either done by going to an inn or going to a specific rainbow cone point. Enemies can be seen in the dungeons, and a battle ensues if the party comes into contact with the enemy. As long as you don’t avoid battles, grinding is never a necessity.
Grandia II is famous for having one of the best and most unique battle systems in a role-playing game. Grandia II combines turn-based combat with real-time strategy. A bar at the right corner of the screen is divided into two sections. The command bar has players waiting until their icon reaches the end of the bar. Once the icon reaches the end of the bar, players can input commands. The action bar has the character either performing their attack immediately or waiting for a period of time to charge up the attack. The enemies are also restricted to the same bar. Each character has a move and action stat. These two stats will influence how often they can attack. In battle, the party can use items, defend, run to a different corner, or attack. There are several ways to attack. The combo is a basic two-hit attack with the weapon equipped on the individual. Critical hits are one-hit attacks, but, if a party member can successfully strike a critical hit on an enemy preparing to attack in the action bar or before the enemy can get an attack off, the enemy’s move will be cancelled. This is where the strategy comes into play. Do you want to quickly finish off the enemy or cancel the enemy’s attack to avoid taking damage? Along with the basic physical attacks, there are special attacks and magic. Special attacks are special physical moves that can attack an enemy, damage enemies in a line, or damage all enemies. Special attacks require a specific number of special points to use.
Magic is handled differently from the other stats. Magic is leveled up in mana eggs separate from the levels of the characters. Mana eggs are equippable items that allow characters to cast magic spells from that specific egg. It has the same capabilities as special attacks, and can be elemental, heal HP or remove status effects, among other things. Magic Points are needed to cast magic. At the end of each battle, the party is rewarded with experience points, gold, special coins, and magic coins. Special coins are used to level up special attacks up to Level 5 and to unlock new special moves. Magic coins work the same way as special coins, but are used to unlock new magic and level up spells up to Level 5 for the Mana Eggs. Instead of smashing one button and using the same attack, players must carefully execute their strategy to win the battle with only a few scratches.
Noriyuki Idaware has always been an underrated video game music composer for many years. He has created music that rivals Nobuo Uematsu’s masterpieces, but never gets the name recognition for it. Grandia II is another game filled with fantastic themes. My personal favorite themes were the battle themes, Raul Hills, and a couple of the dungeon themes. Idaware is known for using some synths, guitars, and other upbeat instruments to create a rock-filled soundtrack. The graphics have been touched up in this particular port as the colors are more vibrant thanks in part to the anti-aliasing that makes the game look cleaner and brighter. The character models have not aged gracefully, as all the characters — with the exception of Mareg — do not have mouths. They look like expressionless, mouthless dolls, and, when the camera gets close to them, it looks creepy at times. Speaking of the camera, the camera is going to be your worst enemy. Fortunately, it can be rotated 360 degrees, but it will need to be shifted constantly to find treasure in the dungeons and see the path ahead to check for enemies or to get a better angle.
Grandia II Anniversary Edition is not a simple port from the Dreamcast to the PC. The game is loaded with some extra features. The game supports both controllers and keyboards. It can also be played in different resolutions and in full or wide screen. Besides the original difficulty, there is a Hard Mode for players who want more of a challenge, and, lastly, the voices can be set to either the English voices or the Japanese voices.
Grandia II is worth remembering 15 years later. It is an old school RPG with a fantastic battle system, good characters, and a good story. The gameplay and combat is engaging, forcing players to pay attention to fights and create strategies rather than mash the A button. Unfortunately, the camera is still as broken as it was 15 years ago, but it’s not a deterrent. The extra features and small enhancements made to the game gives it a small fresh coat of paint without overhauling what made the original game fun back in 2000. If you have not played any of the Grandia games or any games from Game Arts, this is well worth the price of admission for $19.99.
Review copy supplied by the publisher, based on the Steam version of the game. It took approximately 25-30 hours to complete on the default difficulty.
Game ArtsGrandiaGrandia II Anniversary EditionGungHo Online EntertainmentPC ReviewsSteam