Publisher: GungHo Online Entertainment
Developer: Game Arts, SkyBox Labs
In 1997 Game Arts released one of the best RPGs of the PlayStation and Sega Saturn era, Grandia. The game was very well received and Game Arts made the decision to create more games in the series. Grandia II was the second attempt at success and was also received well when it was released on the Dreamcast in 2000. Sometime later on it was also released on the PlayStation 2, which unfortunately, was plagued with slowdown issues. It was then released for the PC in 2002 to some critical success. Now here we are in 2015 and Grandia II is back with a PC Anniversary Edition release.
Grandia II follows a Geohound (think of him as a mercenary) named Ryudo and his talking falcon Skye. At the heart of the story is a job they take guarding Elena, a sister of Granas (the god of good). As they attempt to seal an evil god away, things take a left turn and we find out all is not as it seems. The story does get somewhat predictable, especially towards the end of the game. Even though this game is just a fraction in length as its predecessor, it is just as fun.
The Grandia series, like many JRPGs, had a unique battle system. When players entered battle, a field would appear with players and enemies at different positions on the battleground. As commands are issued, the different combatants move about the field to pull off their attacks and back off in order to defend themselves. There is a time bar at the bottom of the screen to indicate when commands could be given, and when the command would happen. Basic and critical, move canceling attacks would activate immediately, while special moves and magic would take time to cast. Upgrading magic and special moves required special and magic coins. Leveling up each would do two things, make the attack faster and stronger.
At the time of its release on the Dreamcast, it was a very good looking game. Music, effects, and even the voice acting were all top notch. The game has aged reasonably well, which is more than I can say for some games *ahem* Final Fantasy VII. The game is 15 years old but only looks 10. I did have some issues getting certain controllers to work with the game. An Xbox One controller kept spinning the map, like I was holding down the R shoulder button, while a Xbox 360 controller worked with few issues. The biggest hang-up with this release was the occasional slowdown during exploring.
The big change made to Grandia II is hard mode. At the start of the game, players choose if they want normal or hard mode. Normal mode leaves the game as it was when released, and Hard mode does more than just increase hit points of enemies. It also adjusts their defense and attack power, both physical and magical, to give players an extra hard challenge especially during boss fights. This mode is fantastic for players looking for a real challenge!
Game Arts has created a masterpiece for RPG fans with Grandia II. Even if the story is somewhat predictable, the gameplay and characters are just too much fun to pass up. If you are like me and are wondering what to do in this massive drought of good classic JRPGs this is a great game and shouldn’t be passed up!