Grandia II has a lot of heart and because of this is much more that a sum of its parts

User Rating: 8.5 | Grandia II PS2
Grandia II is a story driven turn based RPG with a fast paced battle system that was ported from the Sega DreamCast. Though the PS2 version isn't as technically sound as its DC counterpart, Grandia II's strengths more than make up it. The characters are interesting and the upbeat battle system is fun throughout. Being a story driven RPG, Grandia II is a very linear game. And though some more variety to the gameplay would have been nice, it is seems appropriate that most of the concentration was focused on this games heart felt and thought provoking story. If that is what is most important to you in an RPG it is a fairly safe bet that you'll enjoy Grandia 2. For the rest of you that aren't yet convinced, I'll go into more detail in this review.

***Extensive Review, skip to the Conclusion for an overview of the game***

Game Play 8.5

Peripherals (Great)

>> The controls in Grandia II are pretty standard fair and are executed quite well. The camera can be rotated 360 degrees in most locations, which is always nice when exploring. The only problem with this is it is easy to get disoriented since the game is noticeably lacking a mini map. This can make it troublesome to know which places you have already explored and which ones you haven't. Fortunately, there is a compass which tells you which way to go to navigate through dungeons and story sequences. This can effectively be used to explore by simply attempting to explore the areas it isn't pointing to first, which usually works.

The menus in Grandia II actually look quite different from most games, which give them some personality and actually make them easier to use. This is because colorful icons are used instead of words making it easy to interpret for those visual thinkers out there (such as myself :D). It's not like most menu's are extremely hard to read, but the change up is nice and it lowers the learning curve, which makes it easier to immerse yourself in the game (and that is the goal here).

Saving is handled in the usual JRPG fashion, this being periodic save points scattered throughout dungeons and at Inns. While I still feel that every game allow you to save whenever you want to, Grandia II does spread its save points out quite well. There are usually save points before bosses and whenever else it feels like you need one and you can fully heal at each one. While this does make the game easier, it is a convenience I appreciated.

Customization (Great)

>> You never get to choose what party members you use in Grandia II (the story works out so you always have only as many characters as you need), but there is plenty of customization available for the characters you do have at any one time. After a battle is over, along with experience you receive special coins and magic coins. Special coins are used for leveling up techniques (or special moves) whilst magic coins are used for leveling up spells. Both types of coins are used for acquiring and leveling up skills (depending on the type of skill), which give boosts to character statistics. Special moves are unique to each character, however spells and skills are acquired by equipping mana eggs or skills from skill books respectively. As you might guess, you acquire more mana eggs, skill books, and skill slots as you progress through the game. Each character also has the ability to equip a weapon, helmet, armor, shoes, and an accessory.

As you near the end of the game your characters will probably begin to master all their special moves and spells and have the best equipment no matter how you play. But with all the different stat categories in Grandia 2, there is still plenty of room to add your own spin on things through the use of skills and the numerous accessories you will acquire. Customization is definitely a strong point in Grandia 2 and it will keep you thinking.

Battle System (Exceptional)

>> If I had to choose the one thing that stands out in Grandia II (and the whole series for that matter), it would be the battle system. It is one of the most realistic feeling battles systems I've experienced in an RPG and it has a fast pace despite being turn based. The corner stone this battle system is the action bar in the bottom right hand of the screen. This action bar is broken into thirds and each character is represented on bar with an icon or their head. How fast a character moves along the first 2 thirds of the bar is based on their agility. Once a characters head gets to the last quarter of the action bar you get to select an action for them. They will execute the action once their icon reaches the end of the bar. Some actions are instant while others have charges times.

The selectable actions in Grandia II are attacking, defending, avoiding, using an item, using a special technique or spell, and running from battle. There are 2 different types of attacks that each character can execute, critical and combo. A combo is just a multi-hit attack that generally does more damage. A critical is a higher risk maneuver which cancels a characters turn (knocks them back on the action bar) if you hit them after they have selected their action. A characters turn or action will be delayed anytime (much more so within the action phase) they are hit, but there are a few skills aside from the critical attack that will cancel their turn completely. If you hit an enemy as they are executing their command it counts as a "counter attack," and is increases the damage and delay of their action.

In Grandia II characters are constantly changing positions on the battle field. You have a stat that determines how many steps a character can move in one turn. For instance, if you choose to attack an enemy, it needs to be within your movement range. However, if after you've attacked the enemy you still have movement left, your character will keep moving to a place more out of harms way. Several spells will target an area or have a line of fire on the battle field. And you need to take into consideration where your enemies are going to be once you cast the spell, as they might move while it is charging.

It is tempting to use an attack action every turn, but every action can be useful if used in the right situation. For instance, if an enemy has selected to attack your character and is running at you, you could choose the avoid command and run to an area of the battle field outside its attack range. And then there is the possibility of the enemy missing when it swings because you are on the move. If an enemy is just about to make contact with you when your turn comes up, you could choose to defend. This will reduce damage significantly and decrease the amount of time before your next turn.

Basically, timing is everything in Grandia II battles. And with so many ways to overcome your enemy, even the smallest battles cause you to strategize, whether you need to or not. I think every self-respecting gamer should experience the Grandia battle system, it is truly a work of art.

Some more good news, battles aren't random! You will get into a battle after running into an enemy. And sometimes if there are a lot of enemies your foes will walk around in party format with one enemy following the other. Your party will walk in the same manner with everyone following Ryudo. This is another nice touch as it is always weird when characters are invisible until battle like most JRPGs. Anyhew, if you run into an enemy before they see you or run into one of the back enemies you will get the edge in battle and visa versa. It is nice to have control over who gets the edge in battle for once.

Variety (Poor)

>> Grandia II follows a set gameplay routine throughout and there is rarely any reason (or even the option really) to stray from it. This routine is Town Dungeon  Story Sequence. Sometimes they will mix up the order, but that's about it. There are a couple mini games thrown in, but they are very rare and random. Thankfully, most of the NPCs are interesting to talk to and each (most of the time) have several lines of unique dialogue. This further emphasizes the commitment this game has to its story and characters, but does not save it from its lack of gameplay variety.

Graphics 8.3

Rendering (Decent)

>> The graphics in Grandia II are a bit blocky, but it is upgrade from what the PSX/N64 could do. While that's not necessarily a complement, it's something. I'm especially not a fan of how character models are missing their mouths and other facial features. In previous games it was passable, but at this point in gaming it really starts to stand out.

Artistic (Excellent)

>> The artistic flare shown in Grandia II is clearly attempting to cover for its mediocre rendering, and it does a good job. All of the graphics in Grandia II are very colorful, which really brings the slightly blockish characters and environments to life. And all of the games primary characters have hand drawn anime portraits displayed during dialogue for a spectrum of emotions and reactions. These all look very good and not only draw attention away from the featureless character models, but breath a lot of life into the characters. I was definitely a fan.

Special Effects (Great)

>> This is an area of the game that did suffer a bit during the port from the DreamCast. When I first played Grandia II (on the DC) the spell graphics were literally some of the best I've ever seen in any game. A lot of spell animations are actually done through cut scenes, which have a relatively smooth transition and look amazing (especially a couple of them, which are done in anime). While they still look good on the PS2 version, they are definitely a step down across the board. They just don't look quite as vibrant and clean anymore. Most of the cut scenes in Grandia II are done with the games regular graphics. However, there are a couple animated cut scenes and they do look quite good.

Sound 8.0

Music (Adequate)

>> This is another area of the game where it is made clear the games emphasis is on its story. I found all of the music in story sequences to be superior to that in other parts of the game. While the other music was good, it did not stand out in the manner story sequence music did. Music in towns, battles, and other instances also suffered from a lack of variety. In fact, I think the music for each respective situation generally stayed the same throughout the entire game. With RPGs being as long as they are this is not kosher and really disappointing.

Sound Effects (Good)

>> The best way to describe Grandia II's sound effects is solid. They don't stand out in a good way, but they are done well enough not to stand out in a bad way. And if you don't really notice them, then they are doing there job.

Voice Acting (Great)

>> Most of the dialogue in story sequences is voice acted and voice acted well. Though sometimes it might sound like they are talking a bit slow (almost as if for dramatic effect, haha…), it sounds good and all the voices seems appropriate to the characters.

Story 10.0

Plot (Excellent)

>> In Grandia II, you play as a Geohound (basically a mercenary)named Ryudo with a witty and loyal hawk companion named Skye. The story kicks off when you are given the job to escort a sister of Granas (the religious sect of the Grandia II universe), named Elena, to some mysterious ritual. It seems harmless enough and the pay is good (which is really all that matters to seemingly shallow Ryudo), so he takes the job. However, there is more to this mission and girl than meets the eye (of course…) and Ryudo definitely gets more than he bargained for.

Awww, merely thinking back on this story makes me happy as it is one of the better ones I have ever experienced in an RPG. As you'd expect, you are going to have to save the world from peril and so on, but the story definitely unfurls in an unexpected manner. There are a lot of heart felt moments and ultimately this game leaves you with an important message that is worth pondering.

Presentation (Great)

>> As touched on earlier, Grandia II follows a pretty straight forward JRPG formula. However, they make sure never to skip the story sequence part of that formula as every part of this game displays its commitment to the story. Another nice touch is the dinner, campfire, and other type of social sequences that take place during the game. Sometimes when staying at an in or when you find an uninhabited part of a dungeon the party will sit down and have a conversion over food or whatever. You get control of who talks when and it is fun to see how conversations play out. It is an interesting way to flesh out some of the story, but basically just plays out like a conversation tree and can be skipped.

Characters (Exceptional)

>> Definitely one of the best casts of characters I have ever encountered in gaming. All of the characters are vibrant, unique, and most importantly likable. By the end of the game they are a tight nit, yet eclectic group and each add something important to the story of the game. The antagonists in this game are also done quite well. One of the villains is especially memorable because he is appropriately evil, yet you can still feel for him and the condition he is in. More found memories here.

Dialogue (Excellent)

>> In most games when you talk to a NPC they say a couple things back to you and then if you talk to them again they'll just say the same thing again. In Grandia II, if you talk to an NPC more than once they will say something different and continue the conversation. So you can get a lot of interesting information out of almost every NPC in the game. And if you don't feel like something a certain NPC is saying is important or interesting, just stop talking to them. Talking to NPCs will get boring after a while, but I think it is really cool that they put so much effort into this area of the game.

Value 6.7

Main Story (Great)

>> The main story in Grandia II takes approximately 30-35 hours to complete. This is a little on the shorter side for an RPG, but it is still great when compared to any other genre.

Extra Content (Bad)

>> I'll say it again, Grandia II pretty much concentrates on its story and doesn't really give you the option of doing anything else. Throughout the games dungeons there will be things hidden in secret passages on so on, but they are rare and usually passable items. Near the end of the story their will be the option of doing some extra stuff to buff up your party, but this is just included in the final dungeon. Most of the content is in the story and the best extra content is all the dialogue given to NPCs. As I mentioned though, talking to the random NPCs in town will get old after a while.

Replay Value (Adequate)

>> There is no extra motivation to play through this game other than for what it provides on the first time through. With that said, the battle system, characters, and story will be enough to bring some of the die hard fans back for more. This review was done after my second play through the game, be it several years between them.

Tilt 8.7

Cool Factor (Great)

>> Ryudo is swift talking and he has got a lot of style. He actually provides a lot of the funniest dialogue I've heard in a game that made me laugh out loud on a regular basis, and I was by myself…sad. And even if you don't consider that, Ryudo is one of my favorite heroes ever in a game. He's easy going, yet logical and questions everything. He was also older than 20 which is nice to see in an RPG, I'm tired of pre-teen heroes. And the antagonist in this game is even more stylish than Ryudo and he had a laugh that can only be described as infectiously evil. My first encounter with this adversary was one of the more memorable moments I've had in gaming.

Unfortunately, a lot of the enemies in Grandia II are pretty lame. I'd especially have to say this for the bosses. It is hard to figure out what some of them are, being as disfigured as they are. I never find abominations that "cool" looking, and it was no different in this game. Some of the spells and abilities you acquired as you progressed through the game where awesome though. One spell was literally a cut scene of what looked like an atomic bomb going off. And the transport shoes combined with the combo attack is very satisfying to use. There is nothing quite like finishing off one foe and then transporting in front of another enemy and killing it before your comrade gets hit, total ownage.

Fun Factor (Great)

>> The battle system alone makes Grandia II extremely fun to play throughout. And this is a very good thing, because you will be getting into a lot of them. The regular battles in Grandia II are easy and the bosses are challenging, but fair. I like how this balance is struck and it makes moving through dungeons smooth while giving you good reason to continue building your strength. The pace of the rest of the game can get a little tiring since there isn't much to do between dungeons and story sequences. If you pace your gaming sessions well though this shouldn't be much of an issue.

Feel (Good)

>> For the Dreamcast version of this game I would award this area of the game a perfect score, however, a lot was lost in translation. The PS2 version of the game doesn't sound as good, the graphics are less colorful, and is hurt by other random bugs. Sometimes the post battle menu would turn weird colors and the sound would go out during cut scenes. There was also this bug where after a character teleported or casted a spell in battle the character model would be stripped of all it's layers and just be silver. This was actually sort of cool looking, but it did take away from the feel of the game.

Again, the games saving grace here is the battles. The way characters moved around before and after attacking and the resulting interactions made the battles come to life like no other JRPG I have ever played. It is just fun to see how things unfold after selecting an action, sometimes it goes as planned and sometimes it doesn't. I definitely think more games should implement some of the battle ideas Grandia has in its series. It really does make the turn based battles more interesting and realistic.



+Lively, fast paced, and strategic battle system never gets old
+Eclectic cast of characters that makes every interaction in this game entertaining
+Heartfelt and thought provoking plot
+Several lines of interesting dialogue for almost every NPC in the game
+Colorful graphics, hand drawn anime portraits, and amazing spell animation
+Quality level of customization keeps you thinking from beginning to end


-Extremely linear game with very little to do outside of the main story
-A lot was lost in translation in the porting process diminishing the feel of the game
-Graphics are blocky and character models are missing facial features
-Much of the music is recycled throughout the game
-Rotating camera combined with no mini map makes it easy to get disoriented, though this is slightly alleviated with the inclusion of a "which way to go" compass

Gameplay (20%) – 8.5
Graphics (15%) – 8.3
Sound (15%) – 8.0
Story (20%) – 10.0
Value (15%) – 6.7
Tilt (15%) – 8.7

Final Score – 8.5 (rounded up)

>> It is sad that the PS2 version of Grandia II was not up to par with the original release on the DreamCast. The battle system, characters, and story still make this game a must play though for anyone who doesn't mind or maybe even prefers a linear story driven RPG. I personally used the release of the game on the PS2 as an excuse to play this game again since I sold my Dreamcast. I just had to experience everything this story has to offer again. The game definitely has some ugly production values and can get repetitive in a number of ways. But if you are able to stomach its weaknesses you will find one of the greatest gems in gaming. Grandia II has an important message relayed in its story in which I completely agree with and there is a lot of heart seeping from every part of this game. Had I imparted my own personal bias upon every part of this review it would have received a near perfect score. Considering the small price tag and shorter duration of this RPG I suggest buying Grandia II. Who knows, maybe you will like it as much as I did.