If there is one thing I have rarely seen about this Dreamcast port, it is a fair review. Most reviews (magazine and website) have usually compared it to the DC version. Well, I haven't played the DC version, so I don't have any complaints about how good of a port it is because I wouldn't know. In other words, this is a 75% completely unbiased review (75% because the first Grandia is on of my favorite games of all time). So, saying all of that, now for the review.
In my opinion, Grandia II had a tough act to follow, considering the first Grandia was one of the best PSX RPGs. Does it live up to Grandia's legacy? Read on to find out...
When the world was still young and yawned at every dawn's waking, Granas, the God of light, came. All was bathed in the holy light of Heaven. Thus those were the days of marvel.
Yet, there were those who sought the power to resist Granas; they found power in Valmar, the God of Darkness. Power to release the energy bound up in life. Power to unmake the world...
While it has nothing truly from the first game (save for some music), it still has an awesome story. The game starts with the protagonist, Ryudo, on a job to kill off some lizard men. He then goes to get his pay and afterwards, is insulted by the client. You see, Ryudo is a GeoHound, a much-hated group of mercenaries. Ryudo's misanthropic personality really doesn't help him much either. He is rather much like Final Fantasy VIII's Squall. The only person willing to stand him is actually not a person. It is an eagle named Skye.
Well, Ryudo's next job is to escort the songstress Elena to a nearby tower. Upon getting there, she is possesed by the wings of Valmar in a disastrous occurrence, thus giving her an 'evil' side, Millenia. Over the course of the game, you must guide Elena to locations around the world to get the rest of Valmar's parts in order to destroy him, thus gaining Millenia new summons. Soon Ryudo falls for both of the girls and can't make up his mind as both girls fight for him (not unlike Ayeka and Ryoko of the Tenchi Muyo/Universe/in Tokyo TV shows). Soon he learns that both are to die in order to kill Valmar. Yes, I know that sounds familiar...say...Final Fantasy X...strange. Also there is a blue haired psycho who wants to fuse with Valmar and at one point kills of many of the people of the spear-wielding beastman that is in your party. It also turns out that the main church everyone believes in is corrupt. Take note that this game was originally released a year or two ago (my only reference to the DC version) and thus had the idea first. Makes you wonder....
It plays mostly the same as Grandia 1. Enemies can be seen on the map still and you still can get the initiative if you sneak up behind them. The battle system keeps the IP Gauge that the icons move along. When that icon gets to the COM point, you can enter a command, and when it reaches ACT, that command is executed. It might sound complicated, but it's not. There are two types of physical attacks, combo and critical. Combo hits the enemy for less damage but twice or more if you are equipped with certain items. Critical hits the enemy for more damage but once. This attack is probably ignored by many due to combos do more overall, but there is one advantage to using a critical. It has a high chance of canceling the enemy's attack and trust me, that is a lot more handy than most would think in later boss battles. Next up is the magic/special system. Nothing really complicated here, just equip Mana eggs for magic and spend Special Coins to gain new specials. In battle you pick them and then your icon will move to ACT based on your skill with that attack and what abilities you have equipped to your character. Abilities? New to the Grandia series are skills that enhance your character based on what it is. For example, you can increase HP, MP, and/or SP or other stats. Skills can also effect how fast you can use certain spells thus cutting charge time greatly.
The only bad thing about the gameplay is that there is slowdown in towns and dungeons, which can be rather annoying. This must be one of the things that everyone is complaining about. What many people don't remember however is that the first Grandia was plagued by the same exact problems that this one has, yet they really didn't care--which is unfair to GII. Also many people have played the import only Saturn version of Grandia, which I heard was just like the DC version of GII, better.
Graphically, Grandia II is no Final Fantasy X killer, but was the original any better? The characters are deformed and mainly ugly. The monsters aren't really scary. The final boss is as scary as FFX's final boss. That is saying something as that boss wasn't at all scary. However, the scenery is beautiful and breathtaking. The worldmap is like the first Grandia but looks much better and more detailed. The villages all fit in with their locations. The spells are just gorgeous! They easily slaughter the best looking spells of Final Fantasy X. They even use FMV in some of them. Let me give the layout of one, Meteor. It cuts to FMV and moves out into outer space where you see a rather large meteor falling towards the planet. You think it is going to hit and do massive damage. Not quite. Just then.... A HUGE meteor 10 times the size of the original slams right through the first one, blasting it to pieces, and falls right on top of the enemy (it's a single target attack). That reall!y didn't do the spell justice, but I did my best, you'll have to see it yourself. There are however some rather annoying graphical glitches in battle and in battle only. Sometimes when a character warps, their color is completely lost leaving you with a 'platinum' looking character, which actually looks pretty cool if you ask me. Also in some of the battles, the ground will start flashing and flickering. That is not cool like the former glitch, but it is rare.
Like almost every GameArts game, the music rocks. If I could find the soundtrack, I'd buy it (I am not going to order it or import it, however). If you were a fan of the original Grandia's soundtrack, you will go gaga over GII's. It is in all ways better. It even remixed some of the old songs and put them in. The disc one battle theme of Grandia even comes in as a mini-game theme. GII's battle theme is just plain awesome. I used to think almost nothing could top Grandia's disc 2 battle theme. Well, GII's battle theme is even better than it. I really can't describe it but you can probably find it at this great website if you look. The voices top G1's easily. The beast man doesn't sound like he has a stuffy nose like Gadwin. Ryudo doesn't sound girlie like Justin. I would prefer that the female leads sounded more like Feena as Elena can sound annoying at times and so can Millenia. Roan's voice is the only thing keeping him from appearing as a girl especially in his second form! . Teo's voice is fitting as it sound like a robot and she is a robot. The other voices are all very well acted. Skye sounds like a stuck-up snob (yes, he's a talking bird). The sound effects are a fitting but can be lacking at times.
No, overall it isn't better than Grandia. Yes, it is glitchy. Yes, you should buy it IF you don't have the DC version. Also, if you are looking for a PS2 RPG and have FFX, then I would recommend getting it. Also, remember, no port is really perfect (except Breath of Fire 2 on GBA which actually is perfect). Chrono Trigger had horrible loading time, Final Fantasy V had a crappy translation (what's odd is how a group of fans did a better translation than the company who made the game--I am telling the truth too!). So go easy on Ubisoft, they could have done better, but it is hard porting. The companies should just take a note from Enix and remake instead of porting, and then it is more like a new game. Oops...there I go again! Sorry! Back to GII. If you can overlook the shoddy porting job, then it is one of the best PS2 RPGs currently.