It somehow manages to come off as incomplete despite taking a very long time to finish.
Game Arts' Grandia Xtreme isn't so much a part of the Grandia role-playing game series as it is an offshoot. Xtreme spins off Grandia II's great battle system into a game that has more in common with action RPGs like Diablo than it does with its predecessors. There's a nominal storyline that follows the main character Evann as he is shanghaied into a military mission to stop elemental disorders. These four giant storms that have suddenly appeared over ancient ruins are causing trouble for nearby villages, and Evann and the usual hastily assembled party of characters who don't get along are required to put a stop to them by going directly to each ruin, fighting to the deepest portion, and returning directly home. Evann was picked for the mission because of his special ability to use geo gates, portals with fixed locations that all lead back home but, for barely justified reasons, can only be opened after you've fought your way to them. There's not much plot development, and more importantly, the gameplay has numerous shortcomings. The entire game seems undecided about what it wants to be, making the end result disappointing.
Grandia Xtreme has good points, chief among them the aforementioned combat system. Combat is based on initiative points (IP), which are represented on a circular gauge in the corner of the screen. The IP gauge adds a truly interesting tactical element to battles, something that is notoriously absent from most other RPGs. Icons representing the combatants move clockwise around the gauge until they reach a point where they can issue a command. This is where it gets interesting: There's an additional portion of the gauge after the command point that needs to be completed before the command can be executed. During this period, the combatant is vulnerable; there are certain types of attacks that will "cancel" the attack and cause the combatant's IP to drop far below the command point, effectively forcing the combatant to start over. Generally, the more powerful the attack, the longer it takes to prepare, therefore making it easier to cancel.
Canceling is a simple concept, yet it has a lot of depth because other factors come into play. Most canceling attacks require a melee attack, and everyone is constantly moving around the battlefield, so if you want to cancel an enemy attack you have to judge whether you can get there in time. Canceling attacks also do a lot less damage than normal attacks, and if the attack hits before the target's IP gauge has gone past the command point, the target's IP gauge is hardly knocked back at all. Furthermore, each character has a set of special skills, and some of these are ranged attacks that also have a canceling effect, but these attacks use up skill points that require recharging through using either normal attacks or items. It definitely makes boss battles more interesting as you try to keep the boss from charging up its most powerful attacks. Fans of Grandia II will also be pleased to know that some additions have been made, such as combined attacks that vary depending on whom you've selected for your party and bonuses for finishing a battle without anyone in your party getting hurt or for finishing a battle with one of a character's special skills.
If there's a flaw in the combat, it's that it's far too easy. Even most of the boss battles (which are too few and far between) are just long and drawn out but otherwise easy. The use of spells is rarely required, and instead, special skills dominate, especially since skills can be leveled up through use and magic can't.