Easy action/RPG with a good story, a memorable cast and a sense of humor; better on DC than PS2.

User Rating: 8.2 | Grandia II (Limited Edition) DC
Grandia 2 is the follow-up to Game Arts' masterpiece originally for the Japanese Saturn. Why this terrific game was not ported to the American Saturn is a mystery for the ages, but the Dreamcast version of this worthy sequel is certainly worth review. Ryudo the Geo-Hound (read: Adventurer) and his friend, a talking eagle named Skye, have a problem. One of them has spiky hair and is hot-headed, which means that they are destined to be caught up in the plot of a role-playing game. RPG protagonist cliches aside, the story of Ryudo and company does involve some entertaining twists and turns, certainly enough to keep the player interested. The presentation of the game is very nice, with a nice art style and richly-colored graphics on the Dreamcast that rival good PS2 titles, though not the high-end stuff of course. The sound and voice acting are engaging and the game (on DC) comes with a soundtrack CD compiling many of the catchier tracks for your listening pleasure outside of the game. Grandia resides on a single GD-ROM. The character development system is handled very well. There are many ways to improve your party that you can engage in, including simply leveling up, equipping Books which enable upgradeable skills, equipping Mana Eggs which give upgradeable magic spells, not to mention special battle items, tons of equipment and Special Attacks (which are also upgradeable). The battles are non-random, which means that you see your opponents on screen and can choose to avoid them altogether, provided that you can successfully outrun them, which is rarely difficult. In addition, the manner in which you begin a battle influences the initiative. It is possible to surprise or be surprised by the groups of enemies that you find wandering the maps. Combat is also handled masterfully, with the now-famous IP (Initiative point) gauge governing the timing of your actions as well as those of the enemies you face. This has come to be known as "Grandia-style" in some circles, with good reason. Enemy attacks are foreshadowed. Cancel attacks, combo attacks, status effects, etc. all come together to form a quick yet deep battle system that is to be commended. The menus are intuitive and the in-battle voice-overs are diverse enough to keep you from gritting your teeth. Some of the spell effect and special move graphics are extremely pretty and I started to use Millenia's Tainted Wings just a little more than I needed to for that reason. The game has a glaring flaw, however; it is far too easy. As an example, it was only by about the 7th Boss fight that I actually lost the life of a party member, and that was because I had become cocky in the course of the first half-dozen. I really enjoyed this game a lot, but an adjustable difficulty would have made this very good RPG a great one.