RPGs are just one of many genres out there in the gaming world, but they have to be one of my favourite to play. Long stories, favourable characters and beautiful score pieces, Grandia 2 seems to fit perfectly into this category, but unlike the first Grandia, I didn’t get the pleasure of playing this title until much later in my life. Excited about another game being made for the series, I couldn’t wait to finally play my next adventure.
Grandia 2 was, once again, developed by Game Arts. Many of the original staff that worked on the first game, as well as the composer Noriyuki Iwadare, returned to create the second and was released in Japan on the Dreamcast back in 2000. In 2002, it was finally translated to English and released on the PS2 worldwide. However, this time around, the theme of the game decided to focus on a more mature and darker tone as well as the first fully 3D graphics in the series.
The story is set in another fantasy world thousands of years after a great battle between the God of Light, Granas, and the God of Darkness, Valmar, who shook the earth. Valmar nearly succeeded in destroying the planet, but was sealed away and his soul was split into pieces across the world. For years the church of Granas has worked to keep the seal on Valmar by preforming a sacred ritual. Unfortunately, our young protagonist Ryudo, the Geohound, finds that his escort mission to guide the lovely Elena, Songstress to the Church, doesn’t go the way they planned. Darkness is let loose once again and it is up to our new group of heroes to fight off the many forms of Valmar.
Exploration of the World
The world of Grandia 2 is massive, but unfortunately we still only get to pick and choose where to go. Option like towns, fields and dungeons are still our main source of exploration.
Your safe havens are the towns, which are chalk full of inns, save points and equipment shops. If your party is is running on fumes don’t hesitate to rest up or double back to stock up on useful items and armour. This time around your item capacity is shared throughout your party. Unlike in Grandia 1, where you had to jump from character to character to access items, the second game decided to just pool everything together into one giant bag of holding. Far more convenient now than before.
If you aren’t the type of person that likes long lengths of text box conversations or just can’t remember where you’re suppose to go next, don’t panic, because the game returns with the compass that’ll always point you to your next objective. This mechanic also came with an upgrade from the previous game. You’ll now have the option to choose different points of interest. This mainly appears in towns, pointing you to either the nearest hotel or shop, but it will also work in fields or dungeons in showing you where you entered from or where you need to exit. Not only that, but it’s equipped with a green circle that fades away the closer you get to your objective. Handy for those who have a hard time remembering things.
Field and dungeon traversing is pretty much the same from the first Grandia. Large open, maze-like, environments with plenty of hidden treasures to be found. Even with the 3D graphic upgrade I still tended to get lost sometimes, but taking the time to explore every nook and cranny might reward you with some nicer healing items, weapons or armour.
Grandia 2 has a turn-based combat system when you encounter enemies. Simply running into your enemies will active the fight, but make sure to watch your back as they can ambush you. You can also gain a preemptive strike if you sneak up on them first, this is very helpful in gaining the upper hand at the start of most fights (this will not work during boss fights).
Once you’ve entered a battle you’ll notice a bar on screen. This bar keeps track of enemies and party rotations on whose turn is coming up next. It works exactly the same as it did in the first Grandia. There’s a wait period, a command section and an action point. While the enemy is waiting for their turn you can use this opportunity to push them back further down the bar, but note they can do the same to you.
Command allows you to select your action of choice, either Attack, Skills/Magic, Defend, Item, Flee, Etc… After choosing what you’d like to preform it’ll either act immediately or take time to charge. While charging up an attack you are vulnerable to Counters and Cancels. Cancels are the worst since the enemy has a chance to completely knock you out of your concentration and send you flying all the way back to the end of the rotation. So take the time to think carefully where your enemies are and what their next move is.
Unlike in Grandia 1, you had to have Mana Eggs in order to buy new magic. However this was changed in the sense that as long as you hold a Mana Egg in your possession you’ll have access to its power… for a price. This time around, when you finish a fight, not only will you gain Money and EXP (Experience Points), you’ll also pick up MP and AP (Magic and Ability Points). These points can be converted into new spells and skills, which you can access in your menu page. As long as you have the points you can unlock new moves or even enhance old ones to make them stronger. I found this to be a far more practical system than having to wait to get back to a town in order to upgrade my magic.
There is one more bonus that may just be specific to this game. If you notice that you have the lovely Miss Millennia in your party you’re in for a treat. Each time she is attacked by a monster you’ll notice a green or red haze circling around her character portrait. Eventually it’ll spin out of control and she’ll enter Berserk Mode. During this mode she will become stronger, but you’ll lose the ability to control her as she will act on her own. This is both useful and annoying since it would be nice to use this mode during tougher fights, but it can be activated at any time, even during normal combat.
I did notice a small bug pop up when entering a battle. Some of the party members wouldn’t load properly on screen and they would be completely white from head to toe. It doesn’t happen often and looks to reset itself after the battle is over, but it did throw me for a loop when I’d start a fight and the character decided to cover themselves in flour… weird!?
Visual and Music
Since this is a next gen game, back when it first released, it’s graphics and music got a handsome upgrade along with it. As I mentioned earlier the composer from the original game has returned to deliver us another fantastic masterpiece of a soundtrack. Fully orchestrated and brimming with life to lift all the moments in the game. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that when a track plays I catch the effects of it fading away and then looping back to the start of the song. I never noticed this editing issue with the first title, which comes as a surprise when I seem to be catching these mistakes in the second game.
The sprites have been changed to 3D models that remind me of Final Fantasy 7’s (the original) cardboard bodies and thanks to the HD remaster the detail of each characters design are cleaner and more prominent. I do have a small issue with them having no mouth on their models (Even FF7 had months on their up close scenes) when I hear them talking to each other but no lips are seen. Hope they can get their message across through their eyes cause each scene looks more and more like a serious staring contest.
All map areas have been blandly designed equally the same as the first game. You’re in a forest. There’s a tree, here’s a tree and a dirt trail to guide you in possibly the wrong direction? Better check my compass. They’re not terrible just very generic. I was hoping with the second game they’d spice things up, but I mean, don’t fix what’s not broken, I guess?
Pros and Cons
There are more issues I have in Grandia 2, than I do with the first game. All minor faults, but they stick out to me none the less. Poor splicing of the music, no mouths on the characters, blank character models showing up in fights and bland repetitive environments. But we are gifted with a great dark and rich story telling, engaging combat and beautifully orchestrated music, to boot. So I find this game to be well balanced between the good and the bad.