The Grandia series has been much loved by RPG fans up until now, and this is its first appearance on the Playstation 2. With over a year since its release on the Dreamcast and rather dubious timing given the release of Final Fantasy X, you'd wonder what Grandia had to offer that other games hadn't offered before or would offer in the very near future.
Welcome to a rather familiar story line. You are Ryudo, the central swordsman character, escorting Elana to the Cathedral of Grandia to purge her of her evil alter ego Millennia. Its once again to the battle between good and evil, or in this case, Granus the God of Light and Valmar Lord of Darkness. With hot new games about to be released they surely have something up their sleeve?
Game Arts trademark cute and cheery characters don't push the power of the Playstation. Back drops and character designs are colourful without being flashy. Graphics aren't inspiring but they are easy on the eye. There are 1000 characters to interact with and six playable characters specialising in certain areas. But Grandia 2's strongest element has to be the pseudo real-time battle system.
Taking the best of turn based and real time systems Grandia 2's battle system encourages you to think carefully before making any move. Its not basic but lends its self to intuitive play, and it doesn't take much to manipulate it to make sure you get the upper hand when it comes to taking turns. Battles grow increasingly complex with larger monsters as the story progresses and you have more allies in tow.
Winning battles gains you character experience points. Its possible to develop each character in any way you want, so each can have strengths and weaknesses and between them the group grows stronger. Magic use is not character specific though so you can alter your set up before battle commence. For each battle you win a number of coins, skill coins, magic coins and gold to buy new equipment. Despite the excellent battle system it's easy to avoid the fights if you want, Grandia 2 isn't all conflict.
As with any good AI you can play virtually on cruise control, for an RPG Grandia 2 is exceptionally well paced. Narrative boxes do get samey but the writing is smart, a lot of time has been taken to translate it accurately. At times it can even be funny, moves are predicated by a small speech, such as Millennia's burn spell where you can hear her cry "Is it just me or is this place getting warm?"
Narrative might be intrusive but it adds much to the character development and the individuals are customisable and hook you into their quirky world and romantic interactions. A fully isometric perspective makes the characters and the world they inhabit fully negotiable and you are not stuck in some blinkered view but at liberty to take in everything that is going on.
Slowdown and glitching are unfortunate issues with Grandia 2, perhaps a legacy from its Dreamcast roots. Shadows go haywire and sometimes the scene becomes jagged and malformed, the conversion to Playstation is not seamless. Repetition of monsters even from the beginning of the game is an early clue to the general lack of difficulty in Grandia 2, its a good job the story and characters are compelling.
Given that its not the hardest game in the world there is still over 30 hours of game play. Fans of Japanese cuteness and veteran gamers will not be disappointed, it could even be the game to hook you into RPG's if up until now you have been a non-believer, as Grandia 2 does do most things better than the average RPG.Overall score: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Players: 1 or 2
Recommended Price: £34.99
Available: NowBuy Grandia 2 for the PlayStation 2 from Amazon