So now that I’m done with Grandia it’s time to sum up my thoughts on the game before I move on to the next one. I decided to mostly borrow the format used by Game Trailers.com and divide my review into three categories: Story, Gameplay and Presentation.

Story

Grandia has a generally good story but the game takes its sweet time dishing it out. Many times early in the game I would wander from set piece to set piece fighting monsters and improving my stats but with no recollection of why I was there. When all was said and done the story of Baal unleashing the evil force known as Gaia in an attempt to rule the world is pretty standard RPG stuff. At the end of the game important events were certainly happening one after another and I was interested to see how it would turn out. But they really dropped the ball in the first 1/3 to 1/2 of the game by dribbling out bits of plot and character development.

I liked the characters in Grandia for the most part. Sue was irritating from the start but she didn’t last. Milda was also irritating but also didn’t last. Same with Guido and Gadwin. In some ways I would have liked to have just 3 or 4 characters and been able to stick with them instead of having these different people dropped into and then taken out of your party.

The thing I did like about Grandia’s story and atmosphere was its relentlessly cheerful nature. I always felt like things were going to work out, people were always smiling and encouraging and everything was generally lighthearted. I do like a good serious RPG like Planescape: Torment but I also think there is a place for a light, happy game.

Overall I give Grandia’s story a 7.

Gameplay

Grandia’s gameplay was superb. I already talked about the game’s system for levelling up just about everything (link) and how that made for a very compelling experience. The thing that took some getting used to was the battle system. I was familiar with the Final Fantasy games where you line up on different sides of the screen and whack monsters when your turn came up. Grandia was different and felt like a breath of fresh air. In Grandia your characters moved around the battle field. They could cancel an enemy’s attack or have their own attacks cancelled. You always knew who was going to attack next so you could plan your moves accordingly. It’s going to be hard moving to another RPG battle system as I think I’ll often be unconsciously comparing them to Grandia.

My one complaint about Grandia’s gameplay was how easy the game was. Many times I would breeze through a battle without much worry at all. Boss battles almost always were cake-walks. While I liked the ability to completely recover HP, MP & SP at the save game cones I do think it imbalanced the game. As I said before, I didn’t use a single potion until the last boss battle.

Overall I give Grandia’s gameplay a 9.

Presentation

Grandia was originally developed for the Sega Saturn. I don’t know how the game was improved for the PlayStation but it used a combination of sprite-based characters and 3D environments. This approach generally worked well for me but I was playing using ePSXe and that made an enormous difference. The filters in ePSXe smoothed out the pixellated textures and allowed me to run the game in a higher resolution than the PlayStation offered. And I have to say I liked the graphics in Grandia – not only the technical qualities but the style. Everything was bright and warm and fit the overall mood of the game. I think if I had played it much on the original PlayStation I would have spent 10 minutes thinking how it looks worse compared to Final Fantasy VIII and then forgotten about the differences.

I really liked the ability to rotate my view and the times I could zoom the view out and get a broad perspective on where I was in town or in the dungeon were great. I wish all RPG’s had this feature.

Audio was generally strong as well. The music was above average and several of the tunes got stuck in my head. I won’t put Grandia’s soundtrack on the same shelf as Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI but it was very good. The voice acting… not so much. Mostly I would just cringe when the characters would speak. I really wish they’d abandoned the idea of voice acting in Grandia as the actors they hired for the job mostly were stiff, chidish or grated on my nerves.

Overall I give Grandia’s presentation an 8.

Summary

I really enjoyed playing through Grandia. Having tried to play it once and given up I was skeptical about giving it another shot but I’m glad I did. Once it clicked for me I was hooked pretty thoroughly and didn’t once think about giving up. It has a heart and a soul that seems to be lacking in more modern games.

Final score: 8.3

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