Retro Encounter Final Thoughts

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts: Grandia II

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts Grandia II

Claton Stevenson

My first impressions of Grandia II was initially to cringe, particularly at the abrasive and often misogynistic sass coming out of main protagonist Ryudo’s mouth. Thankfully, though, Ryudo is quickly given opportunities to soften and grow, as the narrative reveals more about his life and relationship to the conflict between Valmar and Granas.

I enjoyed the good vs. evil love triangle between Ryudo, Elena and Millenia, but always had my money on the perky succubus. The battle system is dynamic and engaging, a stand out amongst its peers. Progression via skill and magic upgrades always feels rewarding, and their impact is immediately noticeable when you enter the next battle.

Grandia II is a fairly standard world tour adventure: find the 8 things, beat the big evil, yada yada… but I genuinely enjoyed the experience of playing it. There is a little bit of cosmic intrigue by way of the origins of Valmar and Granas, as well as hints of complex and secret technology, all of which appealed to the part of me that grew up loving Star Trek and Stargate SG-1.

Grandia II is a great game, if a bit overlong, and not quite a classic in my opinion. However, it’s definitely a playable title for those wanting to experience all that early 2000s JRPG energy.

A screenshot of Ryudo holding a sword up in Grandia II

Ben Love

Returning to Grandia II gave me new appreciation for a game I already held near and dear to my heart. During my first experience with the game a few years ago, I was mainly taken with the snappy and inventive battle system, Ryudo’s snarky demeanor, and the way the relationship develops between Ryudo, Elena, and Millenia. All those elements are as strong as they ever were, but returning to the game has given me new appreciation for the game’s thematic depth and rich environments.

The central theme of Grandia II is resistance against authority and dogma, making your own way in the world by following your own sense of morality even if that conflicts with the teachings of those in power. Each character struggles with their own source of authority and power: Elena against the church, Ryudo against the ostracism from his community, Roan against tradition and national identity, Mareg against his desire for revenge, and Tio against her programming. While the game can beat you over the head with this concept, it does a fantastic job of introducing these various struggles and tying them into the struggles of the party.

This holds true for the environments as well, which are rich with detail, full of fleshed out NPCs who will react to the party and have their own stories. These side conversations often relate back to the central conflict in each location, and give the world more texture.

Grandia II was already one of my favorite RPGs, and that love has only grown after playing alongside Claton and Zach. I couldn’t recommend it more!

A screenshot of Ryudo talking in Grandia II

Zach Wilkerson

Grandia II is brimming with polish. Does it do anything truly new? Absolutely not. But it brings together concepts from the first Grandia game, notably the battle system and the dynamic NPC interactions, marrying them to the kind of story we often saw in the late 90s, and then tying it all together with one of my favorite JRPG protagonists of all time: Ryudo.

Ryudo is such a striking character: witty, sarcastic and sardonic in equal turns (though let’s leave out the unfortunate misogyny). But, while I was laughing at his lines, I couldn’t help but just feel bad for him during this playthrough. Knowing what he’s gone through to make him so caustic, so stand-offish makes the early hours a study in the impact that trauma can have on a person. When I was younger, I certainly identified with him, but now, looking at him as an older person, I just see a kid who is lost, who needs to push people away. Is it still amusing? Absolutely. But my new perspective made me appreciate his growth, maturity, and dare I say, almost Justin-esque optimism in the closing hours. He learns to believe in himself, what he wants, what he wants to fight for. 

While I definitely have some quibbles with the closing hours of Grandia II, notably with its overlong denouement, I stayed invested the whole way through so I could see Ryudo’s journey through. That, coupled with everything my colleagues have said make Grandia II a game that absolutely stands the test of time, and one that I’d recommend to anyone with even a passing interest in JRPGs.

Zach Wilkerson

Zach Wilkerson

After avidly following RPGFan for years, Zach joined as a Reviews Editor in 2018, and somehow finds himself helping manage the Features department now. When he's not educating the youth of America, he can often be heard loudly clamoring for Lunar 3 and Suikoden VI.