Grandia 2 was touted as one of the best RPGs on the Dreamcast, next to Skies of Arcadia. A year later, it is to no surprise that a PlayStation 2 port of the game is released for a wider audience to enjoy. Ubi Soft has kept almost everything in the localization intact, so the game’s story will be well told to those who missed out on this gem earlier.
Grandia 2’s story takes a slightly ‘darker’ approach than the first Grandia, though I do spot certain similarities in plot layout and certain events unique to the Grandia series. While the first Grandia focused on the sense of Adventure, Grandia 2’s story focuses more on Hope and Change.
The story begins with a tale from long ago, in an age where the Light of Granas blessed the world. The dreams of the people took form and desires ceased to exist. However, there were some that hated the Light, and thus was born the Darkness of Valmar. The world fell into war, and eventually Granas and Valmar came to a resolution. With a final blow, Granas impaled Valmar with the Granasaber, and rent the earth asunder, creating the Granacliffs. However, Valmar seeks to return, and leaves behind a grim reminder in the skies, a moon of crimson red, known as Valmar’s Moon.
A thousand or so years later, the world has not healed from the Battle of Light and Darkness. The Moon of Valmar yet shines, and the Granacliffs remain a terrible scar on the surface of the world. The people of the land whisper of the Day of Darkness, the revival of Valmar, and rumors spread like wildfire. Monster attacks become ever more frequent and dark powers begin to play into the world.
It is in such dark times that players are introduced to Ryudo, a Geohound and his avian companion, Skye. Ryudo is a famous Geohound, a mercenary for hire. Upon finishing a job, he receives another, in the form of protecting a Songstress of Granas, Elena, on her way to an exorcism ritual. Things promptly go wrong, and Ryudo is thrown into a journey of discovery, friendship, adventure and hope, a journey against time, to stop the coming of the Day of Darkness. The story progresses in a very linear fashion, but the character development and the fact that the story is gripping more than makes up for that.
Game Art’s games have always had the reputation of impressionable and well-developed characters, evident in the Lunar games and the first Grandia. Grandia 2 is no exception. Ryudo is the cynical and pessimistic Geohound, who eventually opens up to face his past. Skye is his avian companion and sole confidant, who seeks to refine Ryudo’s harsh outlook of life. In addition to that, Skye and Ryudo share what may be the more interesting quarrels in the story. Elena is the Songstress of Granas whom Ryudo is charged to protect; she is a devout follower of Granas and extremely naïve, seeking to bring Light to the hearts of people. Millenia is a mysterious girl who is also an incarnation of the Wings of Valmar. Cruel and insensitive as she may seem, she slowly learns what it is to be human in her journey with Ryudo. In their journey, they meet with Roan, an optimistic boy searching for a lost family treasure, Mareg, a beast-man seeking revenge on the man who destroyed his home village, and Tio, an Automaton who searches for her ‘heart’ and ‘soul’. Ubi Soft simply sums up their quests pretty well, in the phrase of: “Each Shall Rise To Face Their Destiny.”
Grandia 2’s story progresses in the same linear fashion as in the first Grandia. Players progress by moving to new locations highlighted on the World Map. Selecting a location then brings the player to either a Town/Village field or a Dungeon field. There are no mini-maps to aid players in any of the fields; players keep their bearings on a compass displayed on the top-right corner of the screen. The needle of the compass will most of the time point to the place where the player needs to go. The compass can be toggled for backtracking, as well as locating specific places in Towns/Villages like Inns or a special location. Things that can be climbed or interacted with will be displayed with icons when Ryudo is near them; this usually takes effect in the dungeons.
Enemies in dungeons are viewable, so players can attempt to avoid them if they choose to. There are also traps in the dungeons, slowing Ryudo and gang down, damaging them or putting them in the brunt of an ambush.
Character growth is carried out in the traditional Level Up system as well as a Power Up system. In addition to Experience Points, players also get Special Coins and Magic Coins to power up the characters. Special Coins are used to power up a character’s Moves and Magic Coins are use to power up Mana Egg spells. Special Coins and Magic Coins are also used to learn new Spells and Moves, as well as Skills.
Skills are learned from Skill Books found in the game. They are equipped like Weapons and Armor, and the number of Skills a character can equip will increase as they attain higher Levels. Skills are used mainly to boost status or give specific strengths, for instance, the Skill Life Up boosts the HP of the character equipped with it. Each Book has its own Skills and they are learned and powered up using either Special Coins or Magic Coins. Each skill can only be equipped to one character at a time, so if one character has a certain Skill equipped, no other characters can equip that Skill until the equipped character removes it.
Battles in Grandia were known for the IP [Initiative Point] Gauge System. Grandia 2 utilizes the same system to great effect as well. The system is simple enough and is represented as a gauge with icons at the bottom of the Battle Screen. The IP Gauge simply determines the order in which each character acts. Each character and enemy is represented by a marker that moves along the gauge. When a character’s marker hits the COM Point of the gauge, battle commands for that character can be entered and the action will then be executed when the marker hits the ACT Point located at the end of the IP Gauge.
The speed of the marker towards the COM Point, is determined by the character’s Agility, and the time it takes to execute a command is determined by the complexity of the command. Commands like Combo, Critical and Use Items have quick to moderate speed. Commands like Evade and Defend are almost instantaneous. Moves and Magic is another story altogether. The speed in which Moves and Magic are executed depends on the character’s mastery of the particular Move or Magic. The more skilled the character is at the Move or magic, the faster it reaches the ACT Point of the IP gauge.
The IP Gauge also has another unique effect in battle. As a character or enemy is preparing for an action, when their marker is moving from the COM to ACT Points of the Gauge, the action can be cancelled. Using a Critical Hit or certain Moves can knock a character’s marker before the COM Point, resulting in a Cancel. This may not seem important, but it opens up many strategic options as well as proving to be a potential life saver, since it is possible to know what move the enemy plans to execute and on whom merely by selecting the enemy. Canceling may be the only way to save a weakened character when there is no time left to heal or use items, to avert potentially devastating attacks or to buy some time for another character to cast a Spell or unleash a Move.
The controls in the game are smooth. Navigating Ryudo and gang around is a breeze. Camera angles can be rotated to get a better view in the surroundings as well, though no zooming out feature seems to exist in this game. Icons represent objects that can be climbed, jumped across, pushed or destroyed allowing players to execute relevant actions merely by standing near where the icon appears and pushing a button. Menus in the game are easily navigated and names of locations are displayed before entering them, and as mentioned earlier, the compass does a good job most of the time in helping players where to go next.
Graphics in the game remain relatively unchanged from the Dreamcast version, aside from some changed scenes shown at different angles. Character portraits convey the feelings of the characters effectively and character models are sufficiently detailed. The main draw, like in the first Grandia, may very well be the unique architecture in the Towns and Villages, as well as the dungeons in the game. Each Town and Village has its own unique layout and architecture, making Grandia 2’s Towns and Villages some of the most fun to explore, and that doesn’t include all the things that can be interacted with! The dungeons are also large and mostly unique as well, though some can get rather frustrating to navigate. Battle animations are smooth and some of the more powerful spells utilize FMV or Anime cut-scenes, which are pleasant to watch and fast to execute. FMV/Anime sequences in the game, though rare, are also a pleasant addition and helps move the story forward.
Noriyuki Iwadare has out done himself once more in the game’s soundtrack. Tunes are atmospheric and also attune to the environments. Many tunes also effectively convey feelings and general mood of the people in the events. The Vocals done for the songs remain intact and are pleasant to listen to. Battle music also has a slight inspirational push to it as well.
Sound effects in the game are varied, ranging from swinging weapons to monster calls. All are audible and pleasant, except maybe for the high pitched beeps when selecting options in the Menu Screen. Spells in the game also have spectacular aural effects accompanying them. Cracking electricity, rumbling earthquakes, howling winds and scorching fire, all are done to near aural perfection.
The main issue of voice acting has also been solved. Ubi Soft wisely took to the complaints of the hack job Sony did to Grandia’s voice acting and hired Kris Zimmerman as Voice Director. Most who have played Metal Gear will know of Kris Zimmerman’s voice directing work. Thanks to that, Grandia 2’s voice acting is top notch and impressive.
The downside to this PlayStation 2 port of Grandia 2 is that the flaws show; in fact, they can even be felt! It would have been great if Rocket Studio Inc, who converted the game for the Playstation 2, spent more time fine tuning and improving the frame rate and graphical glitches that plague the game. Certain large and detailed areas in the game suffer from some serious slowdown; events can sometimes drop to a crawl! Some battlefields and areas are plagued by white static lines and some character models look really glitchy, especially Zera’s cloak and epilogue Elena. Gold coins dropped by enemies also suffer as most of the time they look like black blobs on the ground instead of the gold or silver color they are supposed to be. Music in some scenes also sounds slightly buggy and is sometimes even cut off. Voices in battle can get glitched as well, looping softly in the music.
Grandia 2 was great on the Dreamcast, and by all means, I’d still recommend the Dreamcast version if fans can get it. Even with all the glitches in the Playstation 2 port of game, it is still fortunately playable. For Grandia fans who don’t have a Dreamcast or missed out, the Playstation 2 port gives the same story and character development that made Grandia 2 a great RPG and it offers some redone scenes, which are either better or worse, but only the player can decide eventually.
Overall, I can conclude the PlayStation 2 port of Grandia 2 could have been better. I still recommend it if you have never played the Dreamcast version or if you are as hardcore a Grandia fan as I am, as Grandia 2 is still a stellar masterpiece to experience. Otherwise the glitches in the game will eventually take their toll on the average player. Much like Valmar’s evil festering in the hearts of the weak…