RPG Retrospective - Grandia, Pt. 2

Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6199 posts) -

Hey folks! Welcome back to the second and final part of my look at Grandia. Thanks for all the comments last week - that was certainly an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

When I left off last week, I said that Grandia was hit-and-miss. I've since finished the game in a couple of marathon sessions. According to the save file, I played for approximately 52 hours, though that's admittedly not a very accurate figure as I often take short breaks with the PS3 on. One of my thoughts from last week, that the story and characters grow better as the game goes on, definitely holds true throughout the rest of the game. There's an exception in the very last part of the game, at the Gaia Core. I don't want to go into many spoilers, but the last boss doesn't have quite the likability of the Garlyle forces and devolves into some pretty tired environmental jibber-jabber.

Anyways, let's get on with the rest of the Retrospective!

RPG Cheese

From last week's Retrospective, this should be the part where I blast Grandia for layering on the JRPG cheese. There are kids fighting to save the world from threats. Apparently, the world's military forces just aren't good enough, you know? In battle, characters shout out move names and squeal with delight each time a battle is won. I should shudder at the eye-rollingly awful early sexual jokes between Feena and Justin.

But here's the odd thing - in Grandia, it all kind of works.

The funniest thing about playing Grandia is how quietly all of its cheesy elements start to fade into the background. Oh, they're still there, but they become part of the irrefutable charm of the game. Some parts are always irritating and awful - anything involving Sue, in particular - but for the most part, the game is never all that obnoxious. Having the protagonists be kids actually helps the plot at several points, as you really get the sense that they're discovering the world alongside of the player. It's kind of a delight to watch these kids grow up a little along the way. Mind you, it's not Tolkien-esque character changes, but for a JRPG of the era, this is delightfully charming.

There are going to be some snobs who turn their nose up at such things. Usually, I'm one of them. Give me an adult-oriented RPG any day. But you'd have to be a cold-hearted person not to get 40 hours into this game and still think that its Japanese-ness is a negative. Unlike Tales of the Abyss, it's negotiable and even eventually works to its favor when the plot starts to become a little darker.

Replayabilty

The replayability of Grandia is really dependent on one thing - how much you love exploring in an RPG. For the most part, the game is relatively straightforward in where you can go and what you can do. There are a handful of optional dungeons (I missed these due to advancing the plot too far, so be careful about that if you're looking to do a completionist's run-through your first time). The regular dungeons are pretty sprawling, so you'll have plenty to explore your second time through. There's no New Game Plus or similar feature, but for a game of that period, that's not unexpected.

I'd like to revisit it at some point, if just because I think it's ridiculously fun. It's a bread-and-butter RPG, but that bread is a delicious, home-made loaf and the butter has a bit of honey. I'd also really like to see what's up with those secret dungeons, but given my poor track record with optional dungeons in the past, odds are they'd be more of a curious gander than a full-blown runthrough.

Overall Quality, Then and Now

I didn't play Grandia when it came out, unfortunately. If it helps at all, the graphics are about on par with the original Wild ARMs (save for ARMs' fugly combat). The gameplay holds up remarkably well today, as it was crafted on a solid foundation of turn-based combat combined with a pretty nifty gauge for measuring the turns of combatants. The cast of characters isn't quite as memorable as some of its peers, but they're certainly not bad by any stretch of the imagination. Except Sue. Stupid Sue.

Today, you just don't see sprawling RPG's like this outside of something made by Mistwalker. It's sort of a shame, really, because every now and again, this is precisely what I crave from a turn-based RPG - rock solid methodical combat, a great leveling system that rewards experimentation, a colorful world to explore, and characters that seem invested in the adventure as thoroughly as me. Get past the dated looks, graphics whores, and you've got a quality RPG on your hands.

Total Value Versus Accessibility

The game is available on PSN for chump change (around $7), which makes it both highly accessible and cheap. Anyone hankering for a cheap, huge RPG with buckets of charm and only a few minor, skin-deep flaws would do well to pick this one up. For $7, you'll get a ton of gameplay, a few ridiculously cheesy moments, and a warm, friendly game. Modernists might not like it much, but anyone who can appreciate a good, well-aged RPG should definitely pick this one up.

Moderator
#1 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6199 posts) -

Hey folks! Welcome back to the second and final part of my look at Grandia. Thanks for all the comments last week - that was certainly an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

When I left off last week, I said that Grandia was hit-and-miss. I've since finished the game in a couple of marathon sessions. According to the save file, I played for approximately 52 hours, though that's admittedly not a very accurate figure as I often take short breaks with the PS3 on. One of my thoughts from last week, that the story and characters grow better as the game goes on, definitely holds true throughout the rest of the game. There's an exception in the very last part of the game, at the Gaia Core. I don't want to go into many spoilers, but the last boss doesn't have quite the likability of the Garlyle forces and devolves into some pretty tired environmental jibber-jabber.

Anyways, let's get on with the rest of the Retrospective!

RPG Cheese

From last week's Retrospective, this should be the part where I blast Grandia for layering on the JRPG cheese. There are kids fighting to save the world from threats. Apparently, the world's military forces just aren't good enough, you know? In battle, characters shout out move names and squeal with delight each time a battle is won. I should shudder at the eye-rollingly awful early sexual jokes between Feena and Justin.

But here's the odd thing - in Grandia, it all kind of works.

The funniest thing about playing Grandia is how quietly all of its cheesy elements start to fade into the background. Oh, they're still there, but they become part of the irrefutable charm of the game. Some parts are always irritating and awful - anything involving Sue, in particular - but for the most part, the game is never all that obnoxious. Having the protagonists be kids actually helps the plot at several points, as you really get the sense that they're discovering the world alongside of the player. It's kind of a delight to watch these kids grow up a little along the way. Mind you, it's not Tolkien-esque character changes, but for a JRPG of the era, this is delightfully charming.

There are going to be some snobs who turn their nose up at such things. Usually, I'm one of them. Give me an adult-oriented RPG any day. But you'd have to be a cold-hearted person not to get 40 hours into this game and still think that its Japanese-ness is a negative. Unlike Tales of the Abyss, it's negotiable and even eventually works to its favor when the plot starts to become a little darker.

Replayabilty

The replayability of Grandia is really dependent on one thing - how much you love exploring in an RPG. For the most part, the game is relatively straightforward in where you can go and what you can do. There are a handful of optional dungeons (I missed these due to advancing the plot too far, so be careful about that if you're looking to do a completionist's run-through your first time). The regular dungeons are pretty sprawling, so you'll have plenty to explore your second time through. There's no New Game Plus or similar feature, but for a game of that period, that's not unexpected.

I'd like to revisit it at some point, if just because I think it's ridiculously fun. It's a bread-and-butter RPG, but that bread is a delicious, home-made loaf and the butter has a bit of honey. I'd also really like to see what's up with those secret dungeons, but given my poor track record with optional dungeons in the past, odds are they'd be more of a curious gander than a full-blown runthrough.

Overall Quality, Then and Now

I didn't play Grandia when it came out, unfortunately. If it helps at all, the graphics are about on par with the original Wild ARMs (save for ARMs' fugly combat). The gameplay holds up remarkably well today, as it was crafted on a solid foundation of turn-based combat combined with a pretty nifty gauge for measuring the turns of combatants. The cast of characters isn't quite as memorable as some of its peers, but they're certainly not bad by any stretch of the imagination. Except Sue. Stupid Sue.

Today, you just don't see sprawling RPG's like this outside of something made by Mistwalker. It's sort of a shame, really, because every now and again, this is precisely what I crave from a turn-based RPG - rock solid methodical combat, a great leveling system that rewards experimentation, a colorful world to explore, and characters that seem invested in the adventure as thoroughly as me. Get past the dated looks, graphics whores, and you've got a quality RPG on your hands.

Total Value Versus Accessibility

The game is available on PSN for chump change (around $7), which makes it both highly accessible and cheap. Anyone hankering for a cheap, huge RPG with buckets of charm and only a few minor, skin-deep flaws would do well to pick this one up. For $7, you'll get a ton of gameplay, a few ridiculously cheesy moments, and a warm, friendly game. Modernists might not like it much, but anyone who can appreciate a good, well-aged RPG should definitely pick this one up.

Moderator
#2 Edited by Jimi (1126 posts) -

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Grandia remains my favourite JRPG of the PSX era. Give 2 a chance if you have time, the combat system remains brilliant and the story gets very interesting in the second half.

I have yet to try 3, haven't heard good things though unfortunately.

#3 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6199 posts) -

@Jimi: I will definitely check it out if I can find it on the cheap. Thanks!

Moderator
#4 Posted by Slag (4409 posts) -

have you played Grandia III @Sparky_Buzzsaw ?

(fwiw I thought it was middle of the road, but since I like JRPGs in general that means I still enjoyed it. I haven't played any of the others in the series)

How does this one stack up in your opinion if you have?

#5 Posted by Huey2k2 (491 posts) -

@Jimi said:

Glad to hear you enjoyed it, Grandia remains my favourite JRPG of the PSX era. Give 2 a chance if you have time, the combat system remains brilliant and the story gets very interesting in the second half.

I have yet to try 3, haven't heard good things though unfortunately.

Agree completely with this. Grandia 2 is one of my favourite RPG's ever. Fantastic Game, great combat system, interesting story. Definitely worth a shot if you liked Grandia.

#6 Posted by casper_ (903 posts) -

very cool. you thinking about doing another one?

#7 Posted by Karkarov (3109 posts) -

Surprised I missed the part 2, need to pay more attention to blogs ;\

Nice write up. You definitely gave a fair look at the game and handed Sue what she deserved, though the puff puff thing is still hilarious. Some of the other posters are pimping Grandia 2 and while I think you will like it if you haven't seen it yet.... I feel Grandia 1 is the better game. Sadly after Grandia 2 the series sort of fell flat though. Grandia 3 just didn't have the panache the others did. It wasn't a bad game it just wasn't as charming as they were and the characters were weaker overall.

#8 Posted by Sparky_Buzzsaw (6199 posts) -

@Slag: Grandia has been my only experience with the series so far. I've got another Grandia game around here.... somewhere? I believe it's Grandia Xtreme. I have yet to play it, but will do so eventually as part of this blog series. I'll also be looking at the price of other Grandia games if I can swing the cost. Most likely, all Retrospective purchases save for great sales will have to wait until January or February. I've got stacks of other RPGs to play through. Not to shill one of my lists, but you can get a general idea of the games I've got on deck (eventually) in my RPG Retrospective list.

@Huey2k2: I'm really hoping to be able to pick it up at some point, as I've heard nothing but good things.

@casperhertzog: If by "another one" you mean either Grandia or a Retrospective, then yes on both accounts. I've just recently posted my thoughts on Quest for Glory, and plan on doing a great many more of these.

@Karkarov: Thanks! I appreciate the positive feedback. That's good to know about Grandia 3. I don't have plans to play it at this point, and since the general consensus seems to fall in line with your thoughts, I'll only consider playing it a long ways down the line.

Moderator
#9 Posted by Slag (4409 posts) -

@Sparky_Buzzsaw said:

@Slag: Grandia has been my only experience with the series so far. I've got another Grandia game around here.... somewhere? I believe it's Grandia Xtreme. I have yet to play it, but will do so eventually as part of this blog series. I'll also be looking at the price of other Grandia games if I can swing the cost. Most likely, all Retrospective purchases save for great sales will have to wait until January or February. I've got stacks of other RPGs to play through. Not to shill one of my lists, but you can get a general idea of the games I've got on deck (eventually) in my RPG Retrospective list.

Right on man thanks, lookin forward to your future retrospective blogs. Glancing at the list, looks you've got a lot on your plate.

heh nothing says late Nineties like "Xtreme". Ha!

Although I think Grandia Xtreme came out slightly after,which makes sense for a meetoo kind of franchise.

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