Grandia II unfortunately doesn't have the same spark as the original. Having said that, its a fantastic RPG on its own!
Grandia II is set in a world where two gods once fought each other. Granas, the god of light and Valmar, Lord of Darkness. During this battle, the Granasaber carved a scar deep into the planet, creating a large valley. Valmar was sealed by Granas. Ryudo, a Geohound (mercenary type figure) one day found a note hanging from a tree with a job offer. It was a bodyguard mission where they have to escort an acolyte to the Tower.
The story pretty much unfolds in a linear kind of way, and the game follows that linear aspect. There is no world map of sorts, and no real random encounters. Those who played the first game will be familiar with the running around and bumping into monsters style. This makes battles far less annoying. Graphically, the game is pretty much the same all the way though, with the areas looking as good as cut-scenes and battle sequences. There are some spells that look better than the battle sequence it is used, but generally, the quality doesn't let up or down too much. Sure the characters look a little blocky, and some actions resemble those of Final Fantasy's 7 and 9, but thats the style of the game.
Battles are really the only thing that has changed only slightly. The movement bar is pretty much the same as before, with Criticals having a cancel effect, and Combo's dealing damage. Special Techniques cost SP and Magic costs MP. Determined by how many stars that move has, the casting speed reduces. This was done before in Grandia, but Grandia II uses SC and MC to increase levels of magic and learn new spells, rather than rely on usage to do this. Mana Eggs have also changed to not teach a character a magical field, but as a spellbook. There are also skill books which teach characters abilities. One character can enter a berserk mode where you have no control, but the reasoning for this is quite apparent.
The sound isn't really rememberable, and some of the effects are plain awful, the voice acting isn't as good as the first game, with some notable exceptions. It does exactly what it sets out to do, but sometimes feels rushed and not well thought out.
Grandia II is ultimately a worthy sequel, but doesn't quite have the appealing charm of the first game. There isn't a lot to do other than play through the story, and sometimes that seems a little old. But in a true linear RPG, it delivers a strong battle system, combined with styled graphics and a pretty good (if slightly predictable) plot. If you want to spend around 20 or 30 hours (standard skilled players), then this is an enjoyable experience.