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Grandia
PublisherGameArts/ESP Disc(s)2
DeveloperGameArts RAM CartNo
Players1 OriginJapan

[Ed. There is a limited edition that comes with a cloth map and a 8cm audio CD]

by R. Thornburg (thornburg@zianet.com)

Lowdown:

    For those of you who don't know yet, Grandia is a Japanese RPG for Saturn. It is probably the best RPG that will ever be made on that system.
Well, I'm going to go about this by comparing Grandia to one of (nearly) everyone's favories: Final Fantasy VII. The author of the only (last time I checked) Grandia FAQ suggests that one shouldn't say one is better than the other. I don't intend to suggest that, I will compare/contrast the two of them, as this provides a background on which to paint "Grandia". Oh yeah, and for those of you will be wondering when you read the rest; I can't read Japanese, any plot information comes from the FAQ and characters facial expressions.

Overall Feel-

The most important difference between Grandia and FF7 is that Grandia is much more light-hearted. FF7 is dark and serious, with only small amounts of comic relief. It is the Macbeth of RPGs. Grandia is a much happier game, while still having its serious moments. Grandia also has some nice comic relief. A good example of Grandia's light-heartedness is Sue's healing skill. She pulls out a pair of pom-pom's and hops up and down and does a cheer (with the aid of the animal that spends most of its time on top of her head). For those of you who didn't like Chronotrigger (and few you are), you won't like Grandia. The similarities between the two are amazing (especially considering the plot is entirely different).

Graphics-

The most visible difference between Grandia and FF7 is the graphics. Full motion video in FF7 is untouchable, but Grandia's certainly isn't bad. Final Fantasy VII uses pre-drawn 2D backgrounds with rendered 3D characters. Grandia took the opposite approach. The characters are very Chronotrigger-like sprites (2D images), who run around through a beautifully rendered & textured 3D environment. In Final Fantasy Tactics, you get 4 degrees of rotation, 2 tilts, and zoom in-out. Many people feel this is not enough. In Grandia you get 16 degrees of rotation and zoom in-out. That allows for nearly full rotion of visibility. If you hold down the R or L buttons (which rotate your view), the rotation is (usually) entirely smooth. Monsters in Grandia are also sprites, including the bosses. I had kinda' hoped for rendered bosses, but even the final boss is a 2D graphic. Grandia's spells don't compare to FF7 summons, but some of them look pretty nice. Some spells are pre-drawn and some are rendered.

Gameplay (Combat)-

Grandia's combat system is rather different than most. First off, its encounter system is reminicent of Lufia 2. The mosters move around in real-time, usually unaware of your presence. If you run alot, or move near them, they will "wake up" (they flash red at these times) and run towards you. However, unlike Lufia you cannot use ranged effects on mosters outside of combat, and monsters are harder to avoid, since your group strings out behind you (like Chronotrigger or Phantasy Star IV). When you run into a monster, combat ensues. If you run away during combat (you won't use that command often) the monster will still be on the map, if you beat them they won't be (obviously). When you exit combat, you get a 2D-platform game style temporary invulnrability (you even blink the same way). In combat itself, instead of standing on opposite ends of the screen, shooting-gallery style (like FF7), your characters and the monsters appear (somewhat randomly placed) on a 2D plane. Range and locations matter. Some spells have areas of effect (although they never hit both friend and foe, always one or the other), ranged weapons (like bows and throwing stars) can hit enemies that you otherwise couldn't reach (because there are other enemies in front of them), and if someone swings a weapon at a running character/monster they usually miss. Combat uses a time-bar very similar to FF7, but there are some differences as well. For example, in Grandia, when a character/enemy is recieving damage, their time-bar does not advance until they recover. This makes mass-damage spells very effective (for either side). When your time bar fills most of the way (to a spot marked "com", I belive it stands for command), you will have to choose an action (and time freezes until you complete your decision). You can choose from attack, special attack, defend/evade, look, run away, magic/skill, and one I never tried (I think I'll go back and try it, it didn't occur to me until now that I never did), the icon for that one looks like a little strategy map (to me anyway). BTW, those names are descriptions, not translations.

Attack- The character will attack the chosen enemy. If it is not a ranged weapon, the character will run up to them first (which takes time). If the first hit kills the enemy, then he/she will attack another enemy once. If the first hit did not kill the enemy, then he/she will attack the same enemy again. Total of 2 attacks, except for Gido, who gets 3. Choosing attack moves the character's time bar to "Act" immediately.

Special Attack- The character behaves exactly as in Attack, except that they will do one powerful attack instead of two normal ones. Not usually advantagous.

Defend/Evade- You are given two choices, Defend or Evade. A defending character is harder to hit (they will often block, taking zero damage), but this action sticks their time bar at "Act" on the meter, so it uses up quite a bit of time. Evade lets you pick from three or four locations to move the character to. The character will then run to that place, consuming time, but not much. If someone started to swing at you, and you run to another place, they will probably miss.

Look- Look gives you information about the mosters. This information is also given when you choose who to attack, so you won't use look too often. Look expends no time.

Run Away- This starts the character's time bar advancing from "Com" toward "Act". When it reaches "Act", the character announces the retreat, and you all run away, exiting combat.

Magic/Skill- This action allows you to choose from the characters spells and skills. Each spell/skill has a certain amount of experience, measured in stars. The more stars are full, the less time the meter takes to advance from "Com" to "Act". When it is listed as "*MAX", the spell/skill takes almost no time to take effect.

Other- I just looked at the FAQ, it says it is an auto-battle command. DOH! That would have been nice to know about, maybe I could have shaved a little time off my counter then...

I think that describes combat pretty well, but words don't describe the way the combat system works, you just have to experience it to know how it works. The first time I read a description of the combat system, it sounded stupid, but it works beautifully.

Gameplay(General)-

The RPG elements of the game are very traditional. Each character weilds a weapon, armor, shield, shoes, hat, and accessory (usually a ring). Characters gain experience by fighting, and get more hit points when they gain levels. An interesting part of the experince is that each weapon type and spell type has its own experience and level, and you only get new spells/skills by advancing those types of experience. Note that the two types of experience are seperate. You get weapon/spell experience during combat, so it is possible to learn and use a new spell in the course of single fight. On the other hand, if your character sits there for an entire combat without attacking or casting a spell, they will get no w/s exp, but they will get normal exp for that combat. Note that this is very similar to Persona's experience system. Other than that, what's to say? You walk around talking to people, run around fighting monsters, and you kill bosses to advance to the next stage. The big difference is that you go about this in a rendered 3D environment. Things can be hidden behind and underneath objects. 3D mazes are awesome. Stair really are stairs. You can see more from high places. Monsters ambush you from hiding. You can climb ropes and fall down holes. You climb up boxes to reach the ventillation ducts in a building... And it all looks awesome. The 3D rendering and texturing is excellent.

I highly recommend this game to anyone who likes RPGs and is willing to import Saturn games. It is a shame that the game will never see US shores... So play it in Japanese. I wasn't so sure an RPG would be worth it in a language I couldn't read, but with the FAQ (available at gamefaqs) giving you a little help with the story and a few of the triggers (alhtough it is missing some of them), it is definately highly enjoyable.

As always, feel free to email with questions about anything I might know. If you are stuck somewhere in Grandia, I can probably tell you what triggers the next event.

Thanks for reading.

Category Comments
Graphics: 9
  • + Excellent textures and smooth rotation.
  • - Not all areas rotatable (most of these are buildings inside towns).
  • - No rendered creatures or characters.
Sound/Music: 9
  • + Excellent soundtrack. The music is high quality and varied.
  • + Objects produce sound (e.g. waterfalls, fires, stoves, etc).
  • - Combat music on 2nd disc gets a little monotonous.
Gameplay/Control: 9
  • + Good experience/equipment system.
  • + Well rounded combat/encounter system.
  • - Lack of vertical view rotation.
Lasting Power: 10
  • + At around 60hrs of gameplay, Grandia isn't short.
  • + High replay value for those who play RPG's more than once.
Overall: 10

  • A must have for RPG fans. Worth buying and modding Saturn for this game alone!
-R. Thornburg




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