-Console: Playstation 2
-ESRB Rating: Teen
-Genre: RPG (Role Playing Game)
-#Of Players: 1
-Difficulty: Above Average
-Published by: Square Enix
-Developed by: Game Arts
-Memory card usage: 85kb
-#Of Disks: 2
The Grandia Series has finally returned again to attempt to wow RPG fans with its story and splendid combat system. The presentation is pretty good with clear colorful menus, and somewhat helpful descriptions for each of the options available. All of the bars and stats that show up on battle menus are stylish and fit well with the overall game’s theme. I would have preferred an option for screen adjustment because T.V. screens can cut off vital information at times.
Players will find themselves in the shoes of Yuki. Yuki dreams of following in the footsteps of his icon Sky Captain Schmidt, by flying around the world in one of the planes he and his friend Rotts build. Though, his mother has other plans for him. She wants him to follow in the path of pottery specific to his village. On his maiden voyage of his 19th plane, his mother hides in the plane and causes it to crash. Before he crashes he sees a girl running from some soldiers and decides to help her upon their first meeting. She needs to be escorted to the holy temple where she was raised. She has special powers to communicate with the spirits that protect the world. By doing this, it pulls Yuki and the other friends he meets on his journey to the all too familiar world saving adventure. The one problem with that is that the same type of thing happened in Grandia II. A dark haired, sword-wielding boy escorts a blond haired staff-wielding girl who has some sort of strange ability to a holy temple, and their actions could save the world from some kind of sealed evil about to break free.
The story segments don’t come often enough to keep players interested. Outside of the “dinner table” and cut scene moments it was completely under whelming. Everything just feels so familiar, and yet worse than I remember. I didn’t even find myself caring in anyway about what was going on until the last 2 hours of the experience. Anytime before that I could have easily put down the game and never picked it up again.
The musical selection is good and fits the settings well, but there aren’t enough of them. It gets tiresome hearing the same 4 to 5 songs over and over again. Voice-overs are the shining star in a rather bland sound experience. The voice talent does a good job of matching the characters. All of the performances are quite believable. They were the only piece of the experience that managed to be compelling.
The graphics of Grandia III are a mixed bag. The cut scenes are wonderful, and really capture the artistic style of the game. They have a very high quality, are quite interesting to watch. The spell effects are beautiful too. Most of the environments look great. Everything else, well… It looks old. The character models are blocky and rigid. The enemy models are reused far too often, so players will be finding themselves fighting the same 15 or so monsters throughout the entire game. Also, there was only one design for each of the character’s weapons. The only difference from the first weapon and the last weapon is attack strength, and maybe it will have some sort of elemental effect that will show up on the weapon while fighting. For example, a fire elemental sword in battle will be “on fire”. The locations have their moments of beauty, but adventuring is so prohibitive, that players won’t be able to fully enjoy their surroundings.
The gameplay still remains basically unchanged this time around. Monsters still wander around on the field, and if a person runs up to them, the battle will start. Enemies are still avoidable, but players will quickly realize that they will have to fight everyone anyway, whether or not they want to. It will be the only way they can stand up to the boss at the end of the area. Depending on whether or not the monsters were stunned previously, gamers will be able to surround the enemies at the beginning. If you get surprised however, (by a monster tagging the main character from behind,) they surround you. What has always been nice about the Grandia series is how with proper timing of critical attacks or certain special moves enemies turns can be cancelled, forcing them to go back around the turn wheel for an attack. Though this time, enemies quite frequently show their moves long before their icon gets to the “Action” area on the Action Wheel, and while it is a help, canceling those moves doesn’t prevent them from doing them, it just postpones it for a while. Also, the battle arenas are so big, that the camera can’t keep up with all of the action even with the farthest distance selected.
The new additions are a mixed bag. Now players can launch up enemies into the air to perform aerial combos. It is a really cool ability, and finishing off an enemy with it can be very rewarding visually. Character skills return, but unlike the last numbered game in the series, they level up differently. Instead of enemies dropping coins that, when used allow players to speed/power up moves, they just level up randomly. Because of this change, it is far less enjoyable to simply clear out areas, because killing enemies just doesn’t feel as rewarding. Magic is extracted from mana eggs, which can be combined to make better eggs that can either increase the power of the 4 elements available, or be used to extract more spells. It can become quite fun experimenting with the various combinations available.
While there is a feature that allows other characters in the group to warn who ever is making a turn of an incoming attack, monsters seem to control the overall flow of battle. Instead of finding ways to truly experiment with the system, and make strategies, most of the time in battles is spent reacting only to the monster’s attacks. If a player chooses to experiment anyway, then they are likely to be punished by receiving extra damage, or just flat out getting killed. Some of the encounters can be so difficult due to monsters controlling the overall pace of battle, that the enemies can achieve a near “broken” level of cheapness.
One thing that really bothered me about how the game unfolded was the sheer linearity of it. There is no ability to walk off the beaten path. Every area, whether it is an outdoor area, or an indoor area, feels like walking through a mazelike set of hallways. Even towns fall under this problem with many areas that a player would think that would be accessible are not. The World Map is the biggest culprit. When players are actually able to fly around in their plane, they can ONLY go to the area that the story specified. If there is an interesting castle, or a city in the frozen mountains, players are out of luck. It will be off limits until the story puts them there. Also, when flying around in the plane, the world map doesn’t actually work like a planet would. If someone decides to fly to the edge of the map hoping that they will be transported to the opposite side, then they will find out that is not possible. The screen will get cloudy and then turn would be explorers back in the direction that they came from. It at least to me, defeats the entire purpose of a world map being there in the first place, especially if someone can’t explore it.
Outside of the main quest, there is almost nothing to do. There is a minigame called “Arranged Dice”, but that isn’t very much fun anyway. Since the story is so bland, only the most obsessed battle fanatics will find fun in the constant battles.
Final Score: 5.5/10
I was greatly disappointed by this game. While some of the improvements are very nice, like aerial combos, and the treasure detector that will search the area for important objects anytime with the press of the square button, there is too much wrong with this game. At first players will feel like they can avoid battles, but they will quickly realize that they will have to fight nearly everyone to actually move forward. The game feels like a boring dungeon crawler. The experience as a whole is far too prohibitive in this day and age where we have greater games like Dragon Quest VIII that have actual worlds that can be adventured through. Players will probably get tired of being lead around on such a short leash.
By Plumbum Sol