|By Zach Patterson||Wednesday, 27 Jan 2010|
I wanted to like this game so much. The first two games in the series are two of my favorite RPGs, and I was glad just to see a third game in the series when this was released in 2006. However, after several months of playing this game off and on and trying to look over its flaws, I hit a breaking point this week and formally gave up. But, this game has one of my favorite battle systems of all time, a pretty cool inventory/magic/skill system, so what went wrong? Well, quite simply, this game has a wonderful battle system surrounded by a pile of crap. The story is so incredibly boring. The characters are derivative of many characters from the past Grandia games, but blander. There’s very few towns to visit. There’s seemingly endless battle fields to clear in order to advance the story. The difficulty ramps up significantly for certain battles with no warning. The music and graphics are very generic. Nothing awful, but does not stand out either. Well, I take that back. The j-pop teenybopper intro song is absolutely awful. But here’s why this game fails in comparison to the other Grandia games. At its core, this game isn’t much different from I and II. Same basic structure is there, same traditions, same general ideas. But the story here is just garbage. You start out as a young adventurer named Yuki, who is a mix of Justin and Ryudo from the previous games, but much less interesting. You establish early on that he wants to be a pilot. You meet his mom (who joins your party), a chick in the woods (Alfina, who is extremely similar to Elena from Grandia II, but without any of the interesting split personality stuff), and later a sea captain named Alonso. Then for about 10 or 12 hours of this game, the general plot is “let’s go across the sea, and take Alfina where she needs to go! Also, I want to meet my idol, a legendary pilot!” In other words, this is ungodly boring. I spent most of that time questioning why there was no plot and what the point of the game was. One of the highlights of the series is that it manages to build up to an epic plot but you feel like your party is family, as there are interactive dinners with the party and you get to learn and care a lot more about your team members. While I can see that this was the goal of the beginning of the game, you never get much of any feel for these characters, as they are all rather shallow, one dimensional characters. After the game finally gets around to giving you a plot about 20 hours in, it’s about the most disappointing thing ever. It’s so…lame. The main villains spout off about ridding the world of love (eyeroll) and killing these god-like guardian creatures, which your party fails miserably at protecting, then they leave you for a few hours and you are dumped into a bunch of dungeons and battle fields for no apparent reason. It briefly gives you glimpses of what could be a slightly more interesting
game with some decent cinemas here and there, but it almost always follows it up with hours of mindnumbing dungeons with zero plot advancement. Sadly, this game seems like a bad mix of generic plot mixed with a bland translation. Which frankly really hurts the game, because when I want to play an RPG, I want an intriguing plot to make the battling worthwhile. Instead, the game heavily frontloads the game with battles and trickles a poor story to you at a snail’s pace. I don’t understand why there’s so much battle busywork in this game. Going from a town to a dungeon in some instances has 6 big fields of battle just to reach this long dungeon, with no story and only basic puzzle solving, if any at all. Maybe I’m just getting old. I used to be
able to put up with more bullshit in my role playing games, like long battle sequences, long dungeons, level grinding, and mediocre story. But for this game, I hit a boss around 35 hours in, where I had been pretty much cruising the entire game, that absolutely destroyed me. Several times. After looking online, most guides recommended I be a full 10-15 levels over what I currently was at. After grinding for an hour in the toughest area I could find, I gained a level and a half. It’s not hard to do the math and figure out I was likely looking at about 10 hours of grinding to stand a chance. And, as I read, my reward for beating this boss was….another long dungeon! It was at this point I realized it was time to quit. There is no reward for me to waste this time in my life when I have about an hour or so a night to play games. Quite simply, I figured out this was a mediocre game, I had beaten probably 80% of it, and the pointless difficulty spike to make me grind in order to extend the game time (perhaps to make up for the lack of towns and additional party members the game appeared to be missing) was not worth my time when I can just hit Youtube for the cinemas and consider it “done”. I’m sure some would not approve of this tactic, but there comes a time when you realize that there are better games to be played and you are truly wasting your time, even if you really love the series. It’s a shame too, because the battle system in the game is so much fun. Everyone is on an active time dial of sorts, and it’s much like previous games in that you can cancel enemy attacks and they can cancel yours based on when an attack is made and how long it takes you to get to an enemy (range and distance is also a factor here). The only downside of the system is that occasionally, you are essentially locked into what the computer recommends you do, unless you want to be slaughtered by enemy spells. So sometimes you really can’t do what you want, and you have to be much more defensive and preventative than most would be comfortable with. Another issue (and one of the reasons I quit) is that if you face an enemy thats stronger than you, they can essentially keep you from attacking because their attack meter moves faster than yours and they can cancel you over and over again with punishing attacks. It screams unfair when the enemy just gets to attack endlessly with spells while your characters keep having their meters reset. I mentioned the graphics and sound earlier, and I’ll elaborate, but keep it brief. Grandia had a great art style, and a nice mix of 2D sprites on a 3D plane. Grandia II had colorful graphics, slightly deformed stylized characters, and great character designs. Grandia III has more realistic human bodies with anime faces and less interesting character designs (seriously, these could background characters in any random anime show), subdued colors and towns, and a thoroughly uninteresting graphical style. Add in overly enthusiastic or dramatic voicework to a bad script and it’s a clunker all around. It’s really sad that the game is so bleh to look at and listen to considering its pedigree (Grandia II had teriffic voicework). The music ranges from terrible (the aforementioned opening song) to generic (essentially everything else). Most of the music is appropriate (Baccula Settlement comes to mind) but very little of it is memorable at all. And sadly, “not memorable at all” is the best way to describe this game. It’s technically sound with its battle system, and sadly, that’s about all it has to lean on. And you will be using it a lot. Battle battle battle, small bit of a derivative and sometimes laughable story, battle battle battle. I may have persevered through this 10 years ago, but I can see pretty clearly now that this is not a good game, and it is not worth wasting anymore time playing or writing about. I would avoid.