Grandia II

2_1Grandia II was once one of the major role-playing games available on the Dreamcast console. While it was by no means perfect, it offered a fun combat system and an interesting take on character development. An otherwise solid game and good graphics certainly didn’t hurt. Grandia II’s story offers nothing new to fans of console role-playing games. You play Ryudo, a Geohound (think mercenary) who ends up taking a job where he must ultimately battle to save the world.

Game Arts decided on a path that more console role-playing game developers should consider—no random battles. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to search an area and running into one fight after another when you just want to explore. There are monsters everywhere, but you can run past them most of the time, or check a remote path in a forest without running into three fights. When you end up crossing paths with a monster or boss, you’re taken into a simple 3D battlefield on the spot. A gauge in the lower right corner of the screen displays when your characters and the monsters will next act.

Once a command is chosen it does not happen immediately—your character must charge up his act timer, which requires varying amounts of time depending on what you are doing and your ability with that skill. Whenever a character takes damage, they move down the gauge and are forced to wait a little longer for their turn. Timing becomes an important issue, because you can use a critical attack to interrupt an enemy in the process of charging their act timer, effectively canceling their turn. Of course, the enemy can do this to you as well. Characters run around on the battlefield and it is important to factor the distance to the target, along with any possible threats near you.

10_1At the end of each fight you’re rewarded the usual experience, gold, and items, as well as magic and skill coins. These coins are used to purchase skills from various sources. Skill coins are used to learn moves unique to a character and for special skill books. Magic coins are used to power up Mana Eggs. Each Mana Egg offers a selection of spells, unlocking more powerful spells as it increases in level and characters can only equip one Egg at a time (sometimes skill and magic coins have other uses, too).

So what’s the problem? Grandia II is older than the console version, so it’s perfectly reasonable to expect the PC version to offer some improvements. It does, including support for higher resolutions and configurable controls. Unfortunately, altering the controls is somewhat problematic. Movement defaults to the arrow keys, and they also control menu navigation. If you change them to something different (the “WASD” keys, for instance), it breaks your menu controls.

Compare the graphics side by side to the Dreamcast, and the PC is inferior, sporting blurry cut scenes and jagged edges. Increase the resolution to fix the problem and the actual dialogue text lags severely during close zooms, making the game unplayable. Turn the volume up to hear the music and the blaring sound effects will rupture your eardrums. There is no way to adjust volume levels independently. Little quirks like these go and on and on, and they make this version inferior to the console release.

System Requirements: Pentium II 233 MHz, 32 MB RAM, Win95

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