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Grandia 2 gets everything right in an RPG and is one of my favourites in the genre. Great story, great gameplay, great soundtrack and great characters what more could you ask for? Though it falls a bit short of a masterpiece, it's still is an amazing game in it's own right and any JRPG fan should play it asap.
This image is relevant don't ask why...
The story of the game is nothing new to todays standards, the funny thing is, if you've played Devil May Cry 4 (of all games) you pretty much have the plot summed up to a T, sorry if I spoiled it for you but it's true, Devil May Cry 4 directly ripped off this game's plot. Basically you play as Ryudo who just happens to be the most sarcastic main protagonist in JRPG history (and the most badass), i'm sick and tired of all these "heroic" protagonists in games that want to protect everyone right from the get go. Thankfully Ryudo's character was a nice change from the typical cliché main protagonist, he's a geohound (a mercenary) and all he cares about is kicking ass and getting paid. Due to this attitude, he has earned a bad reputation amongst the populace but he doesn't care, i mean why should he? Who cares what some peasant has to say when you're a geohound? They'll only crawl back to you when monsters start invading their town eh? Anyways, Ryudo gets a message from the church to go on a mission, and Ryudo being a total atheist is skeptical at first but as long as he gets paid, he doesn't care.
Anyways he makes his way to the village where he makes his first sarcastic remark about a group of church girls asking for donations. Ryudo then makes his way to the church and interrupts a songstress in the middle of the song, he then begins to encourage her in a sarcastic tone and she gets angry and tells him to leave, Ryudo makes another sarcastic remark when the priest walks in, who just happens to be the guy who hired Ryudo. The church guy doesn't seem to show any offense to Ryudo's sarcasm statement, though he does show a sign of contempt towards Ryudo but Ryudo doesn't care because he is a geohound and all he cares about is gold. Anyways he gets his job to protect the songstress, Elena who is put simply an innocent do gooder and a theist, essentially the polar opposite of Ryudo, who mocks her throughout the game which is quite amusing at times. Ryudo sets off to a strange tower but something goes wrong and Elena gets posessed by some kind of demon and they have to go to the St Heim capital which is miles away to visit the cathedral which sets up the initial plot.
One of the things I like about the story I might add is that the characters, though detached somewhat are developed rather well, specifically Elena, Ryudo and another character that I haven't mentioned but not only that, I also like how they implemented the humor in the game as it isn't used during certain intervals like most games, instead it comes out of the blue, usually when it is least expected. Despite this, it always seems to fit itself in with every scene no matter what the situation it may be. The sheer astonishment of the games implementation of the humor makes the game all the more fun and enjoyable, you never know what they'll come up with next.
I think because of this they implemented the humor perfectly and it wasn't laugh out loud humor either, it was more so Ryudo's sarcastic comments to everyone and Skye's (Ryudo's sidekick) comments towards Ryudo and their banter between each other once one of them steps out of line (gotta love those two). The game does have it's serious moments though and there are parts where the game goes light on the humor for the right reasons, so don't expect the humor to ruin the tone of the game. This game has some very surprising scenes, Ryudo's actions in particular are rather questionable at some points which makes the game rather unpredictable and another character, Milennia can be rather unpredictable at times too, these are the things that make the game's storyline enjoyable.
I forgot to mention, the face sets are somewhat hilarious and help illustrate the characters emotions well.
One of the Grandia series' most memorable features is it's dinner scenes which work similarly to skits from the Tales series as they are occasionally funny and offer additional character development. In Grandia 2, dinner scenes can be accessed by spending the night at the inn. Some dinner scenes are missable and you will be required to backtrack to differrent towns if you want to see all of them (which thankfully gives some incentive to backtrack). Be careful though, as there are many points of no return in this game so you will have to make sure to backtrack to each inn with every plot interval before progressing with the plot.
The art design is bright and colorful giving it a lighthearted atmosphere, despite this, some of the textures feel a bit lazy but this is likely due to budget constraints plus the awkward camera doesn't help make the level design commendable. You will often find yourself lost at certain points simply due to the confusing camera and i will also point out that some of the sound effects can be jarring, particularly when walking around the dungeons/field areas.
On another note, since i have my capture card up and running i can make video's again, i will make use of this by adding video's to some of my reviews to provide relevant examples of a games features, or just to show some gameplay footage. I have done this in my previous reviews, however i only used footage from my old video's. Now that I'm able to make new video's i am able to add video's to my reviews easier. I believe video's will give people a good picture of what the game is like and how it plays.
Now on to the gameplay, Grandia 2 uses somewhat of an active time battle system that is very much like Final Fantasy X-2 in which you wait to make a move and wait for the move to be used but there's a twist, enemies and allies can be intercepted from the atb bar through the use of cancelling, this can be very satisfying when pulled off and can make even the hardest of battles seem way too easy. Combat feels very laid back compared to most games and if you can master the cancelling, you will pretty much beat just about every enemy in the game easily, nevertheless the combat is really fun and the battle theme is just amazing, so much so that you can't wait for the next battle. Essentially, Grandia 2 is a simple and somewhat easy RPG that anyone can pick up and play, though it's lack of a challenge may be slightly off putting to the hardcore RPG player, I myself managed to enjoy it as I decided to challenge myself to with battles flawlessly and for doing so, you aren't rewarded with much but you get a different victory theme and win quotes to commend you which is satisfying in itself.
Character management is simple and easy. By fighting battles you are rewarded with special coins and magic coins. These coins can be used to learn and improve your characters skills. One of the things i like about this is that Grandia 2 gives you total freedom of your characters growth whilst keeping is simple and easy to grasp for newcomers. Sadly this does come at a price, if you watched my game play video then you will have noticed that Ryudo dealt a whopping 2000 damage on an enemy early on. This is because i upgraded flying tenseiken to it's maximum potential. Once a move is fully upgraded, it's cast time is lowered drastically and it's power is increased also. This is a problem as you can simply invest your special coins into a single skill very early in the game and curb stomp every single enemy you come across with a single skill. I'm guessing the game expects you to spread your special coins between each character and ability, though it's nice that they added the freedom of building your character but it can lead to some extreme exploits early on.
Even worse is that some characters have attacks that are so powerful, it renders their other attacks near or completely useless. Ryudo is one of the characters to have this due to his moves being horribly imbalanced. Though there are skills which can be used for cancelling which can give the game a little more variety. Most of these overpowered skills can only be obtained during the end game but some characters such as Elena can learn theirs really early should you choose to invest points into it. Another thing that leads to imbalances is that the game literally throws items and gold at you, half of them you won't even use and if you have tonnes of gold, you can buy most important items from the shop. There are tonnes of hidden treasure littered all over the map so if you are a completionist you will have to search every nook and cranny to find them.
Magic works in a similar fashion, though to use it you need to equip magic eggs. Magic eggs work similar to materia in Final Fantasy VII but on a larger scale. Each egg comes with a variety of spells which can either be used to harm enemies or buff your team and other effects. Learning spells is slightly more linear as you cannot learn the best spells in the game right from the get go, you first need to upgrade the base spell to it's maximum. In other words to obtain burnstrike you need to upgrade burn to it's maximum. However you could instead choose to upgrade a new spell such as wow which boosts your attack power. Doing so unlocks differrent spells, some spells such as hellburner are harder to obtain and require you to master a combination of different spells to unlock.
Thankfully the magic system does not fall into the same traps as moves and for the most part it is balanced. However there are a few issues, mainly with the buffs. Buffs are completely useless in Grandia 2 as they only give you +1 to each stat. Seriously, what's the deal with that? Also, buffs are easily substituted by nuts which you can find all over the place and require no mp cost to use. Buffs are a complete waste of your time in Grandia 2, unless you use them repeatedly. Overall the magic system, despite having it's imbalances is a vast improvement over it's predecessor which follows the same magic system as Final Fantasy II which was horrible due to the massive amounts of menial grinding you had to do to level up spells. Oh god it took foreeeeeeever to learn spells in that game.
I think we can all agree on this one...
Out of battle, the towns are filled with NPC's in which the characters all interact with, it's great to see some proper interaction between the characters and random NPC's (especially Ryudo) instead of the NPC's just talking to you as you walk away rudely and it's nice to see that the ending itself is interactive and allows you to communicate with NPC's, it's as if the game knows what it does right and focuses on it's strongest points rather than trying to improve it's negative points and yes, this game does have a few negative points, though they aren't major negatives. For starters the game is ridiculously linear, i counted 5 points of no return in the entire game and it revolves around going from place to place, blocking off areas as you go on, there is no backtracking to and from certain area's, it's kind of annoying sometimes, especially when you want to train up and you can't because you simply can't go back.
Only 3 areas on the map? Are you serious!?
There are also dungeons where you simply can't leave which would be rather aggravating if the game was hard but fortunately, Grandia 2 isn't really frustrating, I never got a single game over in my whole play through it was just way too easy but I had fun nonetheless, just don't expect a challenge in this game, you won't get it. Another issue I noticed is that the game froze on me twice before entering a battle, it might just be the PS2 version though.
The last one is a nit pick of mine, I find that Grandia 2 doesn't have enough characters, I mean the characters that are there are fine and all but if just feels like there's something missing and with one character sharing a body with another, it can feel as if there isn't much interaction at some points as there is only a maximum of 4 characters in the party at a time which means characters can annoying leave the party immediately and don't return for a long time or ever. by the end of the game, you have 3 characters to work with, and they just happen to be the 3 main characters, i think they should have either removed half the cast or added more since the other half of the cast seems to be scrimping for some basic interaction, kinda sad really since this game focuses on character interaction.
On the bright side, the voice acting is fantastic especially considering that it is a sequel to a poorly dubbed game. The voice acting makes every scene in this game feel extra emotional and even though some scenes may seem cliché to today's standards, the way that they are portrayed is excellent. it's soundtrack is really great, especially the battle themes and the field songs, even some of the event music is really good though the cave theme with the annoying ticking noise is kind of repetitive. Overall though I would say it's a great soundtrack and the battle themes are especially satisfying if nothing else, I will openly say that i purchased this game just for the battle theme itself as it is definitely one of the best battle themes in an RPG ever.
In any case, Grandia 2 is a fantastic RPG that every JRPG fan should own. If you're new to RPG's there couldn't be a better place to start as Grandia 2 has a very simple learning curve and storytelling which doesn't follow the generic flow of most JRPG's and offers an interesting and entertaining experience, despite a few flaws.
Lifespan: Decent Length
Would you replay? Yes