In many ways, Grandia III was the best of the series. It did a lot of things right. But, what it did wrong was so terrible that there hasn’t been a new Grandia game for over nine years (not including the MMO). The developers did a great job with gameplay, creating what just might be the best game mechanics I’ve ever seen for turn-based combat. Where the game fell apart was the story. It had no redeeming value to it. At all.
Grandia III should serve as a warning to RPG developers everywhere that great gameplay is not enough to carry a video game. You need a phenomenal story to accompany it.
PlayStation 2 exclusive
Game Arts – Developer
All Grandia games are turn based combat, using an active time battle system. This was a beautiful system. Depending on the character’s stats and level, it takes a certain amount of time for the character to be able to pick an action… the higher the stats/level, the faster it will be for the character to pick. Then when the character picks, it takes a little bit of time for the action to go off. During the time it takes for an action to go off, it’s possible for that action to be cancelled with a powerful hit. It adds another level of strategy. That same hit can be used to delay a character from even picking an action!
And to add to the complexity, every character has special moves that can damage the opponent and/or delay actions. The special moves could also heal or even increase an ally’s action bar so they go faster. Sometimes, these special moves can be combined with other characters, making them far more powerful. If you keep in mind that some characters are naturally faster and some are naturally stronger, you’ll get an idea of how in depth the strategy is for a single battle.
There are far more neat, intuitive details to keep the player engaged, like aerial combos and using mana eggs to design spells. It was enough to keep the player entertained, but not enough to overwhelm them with detail.
The enemies can be seen on the field before combat begins. They could charge the player or stand around. It’s possible to hit the enemy to stun them! You can avoid combat completely or attack them while they are stunned. The enemy could surprise attack the player, making combat a bit more difficult.
Really, the game had the same interface as the rest of the Grandia series, just refined in a lot of ways. It’s just like a lot of other games out there. The company continues to improve on their product until they perfect it. For pure gameplay, Game Arts achieved perfection.
Wooden doesn’t even begin to describe it. The actors were bored and uninspired, sounding like they were reading off a script.
They used a J-Pop song for the opening…. ‘In The Sky’ by Miz. The tone of this song feels artificially happy and bubbly, something for pre-teens, teenybopper or children rather than for a serious game. It doesn’t do justice for a high fantasy game like Grandia. The rest of the music was forgettable. Nothing about it will stick with you
The game follows a young man named Yuki and his quest to…. do something. First, he wants to fly a plane like his hero Sky Captain Schmidt. His mom, Miranda, who for some reason looks the same age as Yuki, doesn’t want her son flying through the sky. Turns out, Yuki’s crashed the previous 18 planes in an attempt to find the right design. He’s his own test pilot. Yeah, Miranda raised a crash test dummy for a son.
But that’s okay. He goes flying anyways. Miranda sneaks onto the plane to fly with her son in order to stop him from flying (yeah, try to figure that one out). So while flying, they see a young blond girl get attacked. Yuki crashes intentionally to get to the ground faster, because he’s crashed so many times that he can crash safely (yeah, try to fight that one out as well). They save the girl, Alfina, and then help escort her. She’s something called a ‘Communicator’ or something like that. She’s able to talk with Guardians, which are the planet’s deity/protectors. They look like giant animals.
Alfina’s brother, Emelious (he could talk to Guardians too), disappeared before the game began very ‘mysteriously.’ At the same time, a strange powerful man showed up and started killing the Guardians with a sword so large and unwieldy that even Cloud would be left scratching his head. To the surprise of the heroes (and NOBODY ELSE), it was Emelious killing the Guardians because he felt empty inside and didn’t want to talk to the Guardians. You’d think him leaving would have been enough to not talk with them, but nope. Have to kill them off.
Of course, there’s an evil Guardian behind this all named Xorn. Xorn hates love. That’s why he wants to kill the rest of the Guardians and then turn the world into glass. Because he hates love. We know this because this is what he says. This seems to be all he says. He hates love. It doesn’t get any more complex than that.
The game’s story drags you from point A to point B, no matter if you want to or not. The story relied on cliches to motivate the characters from point A to point B. We had the drunk hero that gave up, only to be motivated by his spunky fan. We had the thief fall in love, becoming a father figure for…. some reason. We had half-dressed gypsy women because gypsy women like being half-dressed. There’s just no way to truly encapsulate how uncreative the story progression is. But I can promise you, if you play this game, you can easily call everything that happens in the game!
Well, except for one thing. The game’s narrative progression has a very serious flaw to it. There are a few Boss battles that are impossibly difficult. They require all the player’s wits and cunning to win. You may want to add in a little luck too. The player has to win these battles in order for the game to progress. It’s possible to win them, just very difficult. The problem is this.
The story plays out as if the player lost rather than won. One battle against Emelious took around 30 minutes to win. But after I won, it shows every character laying on the ground as if they were beaten to a pulp and Emelious standing there…. looking almost bored. He walks over and kidnaps Alfina. That’s right. I won the battle and the story progresses as if I lost the battle. That’s not how narrative progression works. If I win the battle, that win should be reflected in the story. This is a very serious flaw in the game’s narrative progression.
Grandia III has easily the best battle mechanics in any of the Grandia games. The game should be worth playing for that alone. But everything surrounding the game drags the mechanics down. The game falls far short of the ideal that it should have hit. Grandia III should have been a break-out hit.
It should have been a lot of things rather than a forgotten relic of yet another abandoned franchise.