(It's synonymous with joy)
What is 'Grandia?' Is it a type of pasta? Is it the name of a band? No siree bobs... Grandia is a magnificent and wonderful thing. It is the equivalent
of the second coming of Jesus or making sweet love with your new husband or wife for the first time... well, maybe not that, but it's pretty darn close. Today, I'm here to talk about what is perhaps my most treasured RPG of all time, ranked on top with Phantasy Star IV and Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals.
Memories of Bliss and Torture
The year is 2001, a time when everything was peaceful. I was twelve years old, and I started getting into RPGs. My brother was going through his RPG phase, too, and he would buy new or used RPGs pretty much every month! A week before, he bought a game with a funny-sounding title... "Grandia." From all the other RPGs he bought and returned, it sounded like it'd be just another dullard. One Saturday night, he went to a friend's house to spend the night, and I was pretty bored... I looked in the drawer, saw the game, and decided "Eh, what the heck, I'll try it."
I popped the software into the PS2, went through the intro screens, and started a new game. I was introduced to a beautiful sounding symphonic score, and visuals of lovely landscape and winged women. As soon as I was able to control the main character, the game instantly sucked me right in like a Time Share session. The in-your-face attitude of the dialogue and cheesy voice acting were a nice touch. Things got even more interesting when you're finally in your first battle. You aren't able to fight until at least an hour into the game, depending on how much you've explored. I'll talk more about the battle system later in the article.
Fast forward a few months later, and... I'm still playing it, on my fourth or fifth replay. My brother complained about how it was the only thing I would ever play. It then hit me... the game took over. I was addicted to it so much, it has gotten in the way of my real life. I would repeat quotes to people at school, I'd go in the backyard to practice my "V-Slash!", and one night, my brother told me that I sleepwalked looking for a save point, which he found to be quite humorous. Alas, when Summer began, I stopped playing halfway on my seventh replay, and decided that I despised the game.
After that, I let my Aunt, who loves RPGs, borrow the game. She played it a little, and I haven't heard of the game ever since (at least until I rented the PS2 version of Grandia II one year later.) In 2003, when I looked over their game collection at their house, I saw the game... I acquired it back and let my brother, who was out of the house, borrow it. One year later when at his house, I played the game, and reminisced the fond memories I've had with it... I then took it back and decided to never let it out of my sight again. Nay, because I was older and wiser, I wasn't addicted like an EverQuest geek, but I still play it every now and then.
M'kay, I'm done ramblin' on like an old man, now it's time to talk about the game itself.
Now this is a story all about how...
Grandia started out as a title for the SEGA Saturn released in 1997, developed by Game Arts, creators of games like Faria: A World of Mystery and Danger, Alisia Dragoon, and perhaps the most well-known game from them, Lunar: The Silver Star. The unfortunate thing is that the US version was cancelled, likely due to poor sales of the console. RPG fans everywhere were saddened, but then rejoiced when it came to PlayStation two years later. There weren't that many changes aside from the water, and that's a pretty shallow edit. In the US version, they've removed alcoholic references and changed them to coffee. Looks like the translators were doing some Starbuckin', ya?
So just who is the hero of this fantastic quest? Well...
Looks goofy, but is quite strong. (Saturn art on right, PSX art on left)
Meet Justin. He's reckless, determined, mischievous, and full of life. He yearns to be a great adventurer, just like his old man, and HIS old man. He's always getting into all kinds of trouble with the kids of the neighborhood, especially with his level-headed sidekick, Sue. He is the son of an ex-pirate who owns the most popular restaurant in Parm, Lily's Seagull Cafe, who chews him out all the time by whackin' his head with a tray, whether it's walking in the kitchen with dirty shoes or lying. As grating as his voice can be at times, he's a pretty decent character, and he's not even full of angst like a certain other RPG protagonist...
"He's talking about me, isn't he?"
Early in the game, Justin receives a memento of his father, the Spirit Stone. It holds mysterious power that would be spoilers to tell unless you actually played the game (and you should, in the name of the Spirits.) The next day, Justin and Sue go into the Sult Ruins while hiding from the game's army, the Garlyle Force, who are searching for the Spirit Stone.
After defeating the first boss, the Spirit Stone inside Justin's pocket begins to glow, and the entrance to deep inside the ruins becomes clear. They enter and reach this mysterious room, the stone heads turn to face the door, and they find themselves in a different place, where they meet an elegant and mysterious beauty named Liete. Justin becomes interested in what power his father's memento lies, so she tells him to come to a place in the heavens called Alent. Justin, eager for an adventure, decides to go... and so begins the adventure of a lifetime. What troubles lie ahead in the future? Play the game to find out!
Yer a grand ol' game...
Aside from witty dialogue and music that's pleasing to the ears like the voice of a Siren, what makes Grandia truly outstanding is it's battle system. At the risk of sounding like an instruction manual, allow me to explain it.
You see the bar at the bottom of the screen? Make friends with it, because it decides who's turn it is. The icon(s) go from left to right, depending on the character or monster's ACT depends on how fast it goes. If it gets lowered during battle, the longer it takes for the icon to get to the point, and depending on what skill you use and how well you can use it, the user will have to wait a bit for it to be executed. If an enemy is about to use a dangerous spell or skill, you'll have time to see if you could cancel it with a Critical Hit.
Some spells and skills can hit different enemies at the same time. When enemies are huddled together, you can choose to attack with a spell with long range, like Howl or Burnflame!. In a way, it really is like a 3D version of a Lunar game, which would make sense, since they're both Game Arts productions.
The bar idea is very original and does so well. It's deeper than that of Final Fantasy's, in which you make a command for the character and he instantly does it. You'd really have to play it for yourself to understand it.
It's the inside that counts
If you consider these crappy graphics, you haven't played enough games in your lifetime.
Because it was on the Saturn, the game looks slightly dated (I guess that contradicts the above caption.) You really can't tell the difference unless you look at the other PSX RPGs which have full blown 3D Polygons and 3D Backgrounds. All Grandia has are 3D Backgrounds with 2D sprites (of course, you could tell just by looking at the screenshots.) The cutscenes, however, are stunning, like the Homecoming Queen that isn't a tramp. The introduction movie alone is more superior than all of the cutscenes in Final Fantasy VII combined, and I can say with a straight face... or faces.
The characters mugshots really bring out the emotions. Some range from really funny to just plain silly. It's just so cool to see detail like that.
Music to my ears!
The music composed by Noriyuki Iwadare is, without a doubt, one of the most atmospherically amazing soundtracks in gaming history. The tracks fit with each location and give an epic feel that can make your spines tingle when you hear them. From the nautical feel of your hometown, Parm, the didgeridoos of the Virgin Forest, the chapel bells of the Twin Towers... just listening to the music makes me want to play the game allllll over again. It's that honest-to-god pleasurable. God bless ya, Iwadare.
Move over, Uematsu. This is the REAL video game composer God.
Not everything can be perfect...
Though I consider Grandia to be absolutely flawless, it's not without it's drawbacks. For one, the voice acting. The voice acting doesn't bother me one bit (I actually kind it finda funny... I mean... find it kinda funny), but it is said that people loathed it. During events when characters talk, there are occasional pauses, and sometimes it's cheesy. No biggie for me, but there is one flaw...
Just pretend the above screenshot is the game when it freezes.
When you play the game on a PlayStation 2, the game will occasionally crash like Crash Bandicoot sliding onto Nitro crates. It occurs mostly during battle, but it can occur pretty much anywhere. Outside of battle, and on rare occasions, on the Data Selection screen. By going into the PlayStation Driver in the BIOS screen, setting the Disc Speed to Fast and Texture Mapping to Smooth, not only can it reduce the chance of crashes, but it can make the game look better, too. Of course, you can pretty much cure the freezing problem by playing it on a PSX.
All good things must come to an end...
So lessee... I talked about my memories and the game itself... I think that pretty much covers it.
So ends my article on a piece of RPG pie. If you are interested in having a slice, track down this game. You'll want to eat it over and over again, until the day you get married (or buried.) I thank thee for reading. Now go play it!
What lies ahead in the future? That's for them to find out.
(C) Game Arts
Pics came from various sites.