When I was a younger and aspiring gamer I used to search for gaming music back on the freshly discovered YouTube, and would look up top RPG soundtracks in the search bar. One of the many titles that kept popping up in peoples lists was a game called Grandia. After listening to its amazing soundtrack I realized I needed to own a copy of this game. So I grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down the name of the game I wanted to buy at my next convention.
Grandia is an RPG developed by Game Arts and published by Entertainment Software Publishing on the Sega Saturn. It was first released, exclusively in Japan, back in 1997 but was eventually ported to the PS1 in 1999. The game was created with most of the same staff that worked on the Lunar series, including the same producer Yoichi Miyagi and composer Noriyuki Iwadare. So if you ever feel like these games are similar that might answer one of your questions. Thankfully after several years this game still sits on an unforgotten pedestal and has been given an HD remaster for the PC and the Nintendo Switch (Editor’s Note: That I still have to play…).
The story focuses on a boy named Justin, who dreams of becoming the next big adventurer, like his deceased father before him. He believes there is a much bigger world beyond the End of the World, a insurmountable stone wall that surround most of the land, that no one has ever returned from. Together, Sue, his childhood friend, and Feena, a seasoned adventurer herself, they will discover the hidden secrets of their world and many new friends and enemies along the way.
Exploration of the World
The world in Grandia is quite massive. Though you don’t get the luxury to free-roam on the world map the game does make everything feel big with large towns and multi-layered fields and dungeons.
Villages and town are equipped with inns, shops and key story points throughout your adventure. While resting at Inns you’ll be able to rest and recover your party, go into your stashing bag where you can keep all your items that don’t require your immediate attention, since your on-person inventory is limited to 12 items per character, and Save your game progress, which I recommend doing frequently since there is no auto-save feature.
There’s always one shop in town that’ll sell you just about anything you need from weapons, armour, consumables and magic. Note that you can’t just buy magic freely, you will need what’s know as a Mana Egg in order to purchase types of magic. These Eggs are normally found in fields or dungeons so make sure to keep a close eye out for those blue crystal shaped Eggs. There are four types of elemental magic you can learn Fire, Water, Wind and Earth. All characters can eventually learn all four with time.
Sometimes the game won’t always point out your next objective in the story and being in town can make that difficult. Your given a compass that’ll normally point you to your next story point, however it doesn’t work in town. Talking to NPC seems to do the trick so make sure to chat to all those friendly faces. Once you have everything you need you’ll be set to take on the monster infested areas.
One of the biggest advantage to exploration is making sure you take the time to walk around any field or dungeon. There are items and coins everywhere and can sometimes be either strong weapons or helpful healing items. Remember that compass I mentioned? Well it’s super helpful while you’re exploring since it’ll always point you in the direction of your next objective. Your top-down camera can make things difficult though since it doesn’t always give you the best view. It can be a bit frustrating if you feel like your going in circles, the environment looks the same wherever you turn, but I find that sticking to a wall got me around pretty well. You”ll also notice a blue marker pop up once in a while. These markers will expand the camera, giving you a nice view of the area, so if you get claustrophobic try taking a peek through those markers.
Grandia’s combat is turn-based with enemy encounters. To start a fight simply run into a nearby enemy, but watch your back since the monster can get an ambush on you if you’re not prepared. Once the battle starts you’ll notice a small bar along the bottom right of the screen. This bar works as your turn count, showing you whose coming up next. There is a waiting period, command and action shown on the bar.
While enemies are waiting to take their turn it’s a great opportunity to knock them back on the scale by damaging them. Each time someone takes damage their icon will fall behind. This affects both monsters and party members.
In the Command area of the bar, you’ll be given access to a list of option such as Attack, Critical Attack (high chance of missing) Defend, Observe, Move, Flee, Items, and Specials. Depending on which option you choose they’ll either act on them immediately or have to charge up in order to use them. That’s where the Action comes in and allows you to preform your Command.
Commands such as Attack, Critical Attack, Defend, Observe, Move, Flee and Items are pretty self explanatory, however Specials are a bit more unique in this game. By selecting the Specials you’ll have access to a few choices like your Special Attacks and Magic Levels 1, 2 and 3. Special Attacks consume SP (Special Points) while magic eats up MP (Magic Points). All these attacks can be upgraded to something more powerful the more times you use them. Take Justin’s V-Slash, the more you use it the stronger it gets. You can find out how powerful your skill is with the star icons that are displayed below the Attack name. This also applies to all your magic spells. Along with strengthening these Attacks you will also level up your Weapon skills and Elemental Power. You can keep track of all these levels in the menu option, which will even show you what power level you’ll need to focus on in order to learn a new spell or skill.
I find you will have to juggle around a lot of different fighting styles during battle, but grinding is key to unlock new and more powerful techniques. Finally at the end of each battle you’ll gain EXP (Experience Points) that’ll help in levelling up your characters. EXP is pretty scarce in this game so remember to grind, grind, grind!
Visual and Music
Visually the graphics in this game blow me away. For a game that came out back in the late 90’s it’s one of the most artfully appealing titles to look at. The game was designed in a 2D style world, with a few exceptions of buildings and organic material being in 3D, it does a good job in holding its own.
Every character sprite is so expressive and colourful, even the environment doesn’t lack in standing out. It’s refreshing to see all the different stencils of each characters facial animation. They are adorable to watch during text conversations. Both the Japanese and English release of the game had voice acting that I found to be quite tasteful, grinning from ear-to-ear during all the comical scenes in the game.
The game does give us some animated cut-scenes that are beautifully hand drawn, accompanied with a LIVE ORCHESTRA! I hardly remember many titles back on the PS1 that had a fully orchestrated soundtrack. The music definitely pulls on my heart-strings, enhancing each moment in the game. The HD Remaster to the game really brings out all those colours and smooth away the hard pixelated edges, making everything crisp and clean.
Pros and Cons
To be honest the only issue I had while playing the game was that once in a while during a cut-scene, the character sprites would have a strange line running directly through them, moving half of their bodies two inches off. Exploration can be a bit dull at times, but if I don’t wanna get slammed by bosses and baddies I need to take the time to fight and collect items. Everything from the story to the combat, environment, music and general flow of the game is fun from start to finish.