Grandia II may be old, but it can teach a lot of modern RPG's a lesson in, y'know, actually being good.
Story and Characters
The plot of Grandia is full of shocking revelations and twists and turns, some truly wonderful characters and exciting cutscenes and battles so I don't want to spoil things too much here. You play Ryudo a smart mouthed bounty hunter with little respect for the priests of the good God Granas (a religion clearly modelled on Catholocism) who inadvertantly finds himself as an unlikely hero protecting a priestess of Granas called Elena from a series of unfortunate events that rapidly send the world into a spiral of destruction they must stop. It's the story of a pious young religious girl and a disrespectful athiest finding a bond between themselves all with a healthy dose of the usual fantasy complications.
As leads, both Ryudo and Elena work well together will stereotypically opposite personalites to begin with that gradually align more as the game progresses. They are both likelable in their own way and mixed in with a fantastic support cast in the form of Millenia the demon, Mareg the beatman, Roan a young traveller and Tio an Andrioid you have a winning set of characters throughout the whole game.
The God of evil Valmar and his disciples make for brilliant enemies too with their actions transforming the weak and innocent into creatures of darkness giving the story some truly shocking moments. Religious fanatic Selene in particular stands out as one of the games best enemies, with her attitude of "burn them first ask questions later" when it comes to "purging evil" placing her firmly on evils side from the get go anyway.
The plot itself is more complex than the usual Good vs Evil thing too, because the lines blur more on more as the story gets darker and the game could be taken as one that somewhat nonchalantly points out flaws in aspects of modern day belief systems too. Its a story that can make you think and have huge emotional impact at times.
Grandia II's gameplay is fairly simple in that you go from town to town, killing enemies in woods or hills on the way, then beating a dungeon and boss at the end of a section. What makes this simple premise compelling is the combat you take part in, Grandia II has a unique combat system I've never come across before that ensures that everyones moving, things are always happening and action is always taking place. The game operates on everyones image (good and bad) sliding down a bar at different speeds and hitting a certain spot to select their attack in the usual RPG style. Theres a lot of tactics you can put into place while you fight, but for those who just want to slice away at enemies thats usually a feasible option too. Its flexible, simple and fun, I wish more games used it. Levelling up occours as you fight and you also gain skill and magic points to unlock new moves.
Graphics And Sound
Graphically seeing as this is a port of an old DC game this is nothing special, slightly above PS1 standard if that. Yet the SD Chibi characters are oddly compelling to watch and my only gripe with the visuals is the camera is a little close to the character sometimes making it hard to find your way around some of the more open maps. The cute graphics do nothing to detract from the atmosphere.
The sound is nothing to write home about really but the voice acting and music are just about listenable and not awful by any means.
The games pretty big, about 30 hours for my play through but it undoubtedly could be 40 if you took things slowly enough. I didnt do all the optional content either so there is more to see. Overall for the bargin price you can find it online you get a lot for your cash.
Grandia II is a game carried by it's plot, characters and gameplay rather than technical prowess and to be fair, more games should concentrate on these aspects. This is a highly recommended title.