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Grandia II

Developer: Game Arts | Publisher: Ubisoft
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 03/10/02 | Genre: RPG

What does one look for in a good role-playing game? A dramatic storyline involving a loveable hero and a despicable villain is always nice. Plenty of imaginative items and an assortment of flashy spells can help give the game character. A simple but effective battle system that allows the player to totally kick the stuffing out of unbelievably tough bad guys would also be a top priority. Grandia II is an RPG that delivers all the above in an attempt to win your hard earned gaming dollar.

That Age-Old Story
The story is not terribly complicated. The player assumes the role of a Geohound, something like a badazz for hire. Geohounds have a reputation for being particularly crude. They're the type of guy people don't want their daughter dating or their son aspiring to be when he grows up.

The game begins with the player being summoned to a sleepy little town where the head of the local church wishes to retain a Geohound's services. It turns out that a coven of priestesses will be going to a shrine where they will perform a secret ceremony. The player's job is to protect a particular young lady called "the Songstress".

But why does this Songstress need protection? What is this mysterious ceremony all about anyway? And just how far will a Geohound go to uphold his commitment to the job? These are just a few of the questions the player will answer as he/she progress through Grandia II.

Of Eggs and Skill Book
This game has a unique skill and spell system that allows for extensive customization of your party. Characters acquire eggs that allow them to master various spells. Each egg contains numerous spells that can be unlocked by spending magic coins, which are obtained in battle along with gold and experience points. If the player wishes to change up the spells a character can cast he simply equips a different egg and presto, a new set of spells are available.

Skill books work in a similar fashion. Each skill book contains several different enhancements for the characters (i.e. adding to attack, defense, speed, etc.). Skills are bought with coins just like spells. The difference is that any character can learn any skill from any book at any time. For example, if a party member doesn't have enough hit points, the player can just give that character a skill that enhances HP.

These two similar systems offer excellent flexibility for an adventuring party. Spells can be customized so that one character can specialize in healing and protection, while another character specializes in attack and status spells. Of course, the possibilities for customization are much larger when one considers utilizing the skills and spells in combination with one another. The best part is that the system maintains flexibility without being overly complicated.

The Battle Unfolds
Fighting bad guys is at the heart of any good RPG. Grandia II offers a diverse cast of monsters that are ready to take a whipping. Early on, the game might even appear to be too easy because of a neat battle feature that allows characters to pre-empt enemy attacks. Regular attacks are more powerful, but critical attacks can cancel any bad guy's attempt to cause damage.

The basic fighting system is familiar to RPG fans that have played more recent games in the Final Fantasy series or the excellent Skies of Arcadia. Every participant in a battle has a certain attack speed. An action bar fills at that speed and when it is full, an action (attack, use item, cast spell, etc.) takes place. Spells can take longer to complete and make characters vulnerable while waiting for the spell to engage. Again, this is not a complicated system. Yet it is very effective and allows players to work different battle strategies than simply taking turns whacking each other to death.

Classic RPG Flavor
Grandia II presents itself more like a console (PS2/Nintendo) RPG than a PC game. This game is probably more or less a direct port of the Dreamcast version that came out shortly before Sega pulled the plug on that console. With that in mind, one can expect substandard graphics by PC standards. The game has a "cartoony" feel from the outset. However the gameplay and storyline serve well in helping to legitimize this interesting title.

Giving this game a rating is tough. Despite the preconceptions that come to mind in the early stages of the game, this title is smartly done. Characters are strong and evolve nicely as the game progresses. The storyline is fairly generic in the beginning, yet draws you in as your uncover more secrets. Of course, in the end it is a classic tale of a simple Geohound overcoming his lot in life to become something fantastic. Grandia II is exactly what makes RPG fans, well?Ķfans.

The graphics aside, it is hard to complain about this game. It doesn't reinvent the wheel or anything. It just delivers well-paced RPG action in a solid package. Grandia II earns a solid B. If you like RPG, particularly console RPGs, check this title out pronto.

By Kevin Watson - 05/06/02
ESRB Details: Mild Animated Violence, Mild Language
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Screenshots for Grandia II

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