Good RPG with Great Battle Mechanics
Good RPGs rarely get the attention they deserve because they get trampled under the feet of the truly great.
This is a shame, for while the Final Fantasy series, for example, could get away with revamping its old formula over and over again, it was games like Grandia - third party marvels, joker cards, if you will - that really innovated, however cautiously, with novel game mechanics and thus helped make role playing games more fun in the long term. Today, remember, most gamers are bored of turn based battles of the old and tired variety, and it was thanks to Grandia and a few other innovators (including, let's not forget, PC RPGs like Diablo) that made "ATB" seem like a good idea for Square.
What is Grandia, though? It is a really good, some would say classic, role playing game of the quite traditional kind. Its innovations are local and minor, dealing with its battle mechanics. In fact, its battle system deserves double mention, and double credit: 1) On the level map one can see every single enemy before engaging them, so that one doesn't have to deal with "random encounters" in the traditional sense, at all. However, the enemies sometimes attack you, and of course some battles are unavoidable, but the ability to plan ahead and avoid excessive trouble is what makes this game so much fun and, considering the date of its release, such a liberating experience. 2) During battle, one can actually see the actions being performed in real time, and time is only stopped when one has to make a decision. This system is exciting compared to the static Final Fantasy model, and by and large it works really well. It was only in FFX-2 and FFXII that Squaresoft decided to take the necessary step towards breaking their traditions. Now, don't get me wrong, there's a place for traditional j-rpg turn-based random battles, but Grandia deserves credit for maintaining the core of these games while innovating just enough to make the battles seem much faster, more engaging and overall much more fun. These two points of Grandia's battle system - the lack of random encounters and the active element during battle itself - are the game's strength, and its main contribution to the development of the genre.
Other aspects of the game are, well, acceptable. Level design is good, but not great. Characters are somewhat forgettable. Music is adequate but not up there with the Square compositions. Graphics are fine but not mindblowing... Overall, the game offers little that is magnificient or SUPER FREAKING AMAZING, but it gives the player sufficient structure to keep him interested. There are secrets, too, and some levelling up to do. The story, however, is very linear and world exploration is nowhere near the freedom of FFVII-IX, for example. The game is really well balanced - thanks, again, largely to the fantastic battle system - and an entertaining package from start to finish. It can be recommended, even today, for fans of the genre, because it represents an example of a generic game done right. More than that, it spices things up just the right amount to make the soup all the more delicious.