Review: Grandia II Anniversary Edition (Computer)

Grandia II Anniversary Edition: Member Review

Computer 2,630 views 2 likes 29 comments
Reviewed by Dominik Dudek, posted Aug 26, 2015
Aug 26, 2015
  • Release Date (NA): August 24, 2015
  • Release Date (EU): August 24, 2015
  • Publisher: Gongho Online Entertainment
  • Developer: Game Arts
  • Genres: J-RPG
  • Also For: Retro
  • Single player
    Local Multiplayer
    Online Multiplayer
    Co-operative
Grandia II was probably one of the best games you could get when you had a Dreamcast back in the day. However the PS2 and PC ports of this game always were flawed in one way or another which resulted in players from this generation being unable to fully enjoy this game. Grandia II Anniversary Edition is supposed to celebrate Grandia II's 15th birthday and provide a widely accessible version of the game that that everyone can pick up and play.
Dominik Dudek
Introduction

The first Grandia for the Sega Saturn and PS1 was my first J-RPG ever. When I was a kid I loved the sh*t out of it and still do to this day. However I never liked Grandia II when it came out. It was just so different to the predecessor in every possible way. Almost everything that made the first Grandia special was simply not there anymore. But as I grew older I started accepting 'change' as a part of my life I found Grandia II to be actually a pretty good game. However PC gamers had to deal with a broken mess back in the day. The old PC port was filled with technical difficulties and aged so poorly that It's almost unplayable nowadays. To celebrate Grandia II's 15th Birthday Gungho Online Entertainment decided, after overwhelming response from a survey, to re-release Grandia II on PC "Enhanced and better than ever". This won't be a simple port report though as I will review the whole game.

Story

In the ancient times the good and evil clashed together. Valmar, the god of darkness, and Granas, the god of light, had fought over the world in a huge battle that left many scars.
Valmar was defeated but not destroyed and his body parts were sealed away to prevent another apocalypse from happening.
People started worshiping Granas and built an religion in his name. However the sealed body parts need to be resealed from time to time by the sisters of the church of Granas.
Ryudo, a geohound accepts a job where he has to escort one of these sisters, Elena, to the Garmia tower. Unfortunately the sealing ceremony fails and the wings of Valmar posses Elena, causing her to transform into Milenia from time to time.
Not knowing what to do the father of a local church decides that Elena should be escorted to the Cathedral where she could hopefully be purified by pope Zera.
However he's unable to do so but he sends Ryudo on a mission to find the Granasaber to kill Valmar fast enough before Elena gets completely possessed by the wings of Valmar and Valmar potentially ressurected.

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Let's put a smile on that face​

The story isn't particularly complicated and is very straight forward. Some crazy reveals can be seen from a mile away but that's not the strength of this story.
What is the Strength of this game however are it's characters and the group dynamic. Over the course of the adventure Elena starts becoming quite attached to Ryudo but Milenia keeps coming in between them.
It's also very cool to see a demon lady actually not being purely evil since Milenia will act demonic when it comes to Granas and absorbing other parts of Valmar but her attachment to Ryudo forces her to do good things... in her own evil way.
Ryudo himself also has a dark past with his brother who got possessed by the horn of Valmar, turning into a cold blooded murderer. Mareg, a beastman, and Tio, a automata, also have a very interesting dynamic.
Tio sees Mareg as her master/owner after being rescued from the claws of Valmar. Mareg however want's Tio to develop a soul and keeps teaching her what it means to be free and take actions on your own.
The game has the smallest amount of protagonists in a Grandia game but each character feels equally as important as everyone else, which I can't say about the other titles, especially Grandia Xtreme, and it hurts even more if one of them has to go.
In some Areas of the game the atmosphere is also really eerie. Coupled with Noriyuki Iwadare's great soundtrack makes for some really good video game moments.

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Gameplay

The Gameplay is the exact same as in the previous Grandia titles.
It's turn based but incorporates many action time elements. Your characters aren't planted to a spot on the map, they have to run around the field if they want their attacks to reach the enemy (with the exception of spells but these often are bound to AoE).
If a unit charges an attack, a special move or a spell, you can cancel him out of this attack by using abilities that allow you to do that. Not only that but you can see what attacks your enemies are going to use so you can plan your moves accordingly.
Sometimes it's more optimal to use the block function, and Grandia so far is the only J-RPG where I see that a viable option that does not require crazy prediction work, and sometimes it's better to simply command your character to move out of the way because many spells have an area of effect. Preventing your entire party from being hit is key.
Level progression is very different compared to Grandia 1. In previous the Grandia game each character had a element/weapon level. Using said element/weapon would level it up and you would learn new special moves/spells that way.
Now after each battle you get Special Coins and Magic Coins additionally to your regular EXP that you can spend on skills, special moves and spells. It's a much better way to power up your party without sacrificing too much resources into a character that might or might not leave your party at some point, which was a huge issue in the previous Grandia. However it also doesn't feel very original and was further improved in Grandia III and Grandia Xtreme.

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How to kill an enemy with style~
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Presentation

The game looks alright for it's time.
It's an early Dreamcast game so it's not particularly the prettiest game but for it's time and coming from Grandia 1 it was really good. This new port however brings along a new shadow engine and AA to make this game look at least a little better.
During a battle, spells and special moves will often make use of overlayed transparent video files to make more impressive looking spells/moves with the hardware limitations the game had to work with.
The soundtrack really makes the scenery alive. Like I said before, Noriyuki Iwadare is a great video game music composer and his Grandia battle themes are some of my favorite tracks.

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Just a example of the overlayed transparent video's in action
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So how is the new port then?

So far it leaves A LOT to be desired.
It promises visual upgrades to textures, lighting, and shadows although I haven't noticed improved textures.
It has original Japanese voice option however the text and voices are not synced, it just replaces the voice files without changing the timing of the text, which is rather lazy.
It has additional difficulty level but I found it not to be that hard. Even on Hard party Members often end up one shotting the enemies.
There is gamepad support, mainly for X-input gamepads because my D-Input gamepad won't work. And because this game features a launcher, instead of in-game options menu, x360ce doesn't work. I have to play this game with keyboard or accept the fucked up button placement which makes me a sad panda.
Steam trading cards, Steam achievements and Steam cloud save support which are nice additions.
Selectable video options which are very lackluster.
Remapable keyboard & gamepad support which shouldn't be considered a feature but rather a must have on PC.
100 save file slots even though I have no Idea why you would need that many.
Dreamcast VMS save file support which is a little side effect of this game being based around the Dreamcast code. You can import your Dreamcast save files if you want.
The game is locked at 30 frames per second however. Even the old port ran at 60 FPS during battles. Not that this would be a big deal in turn based RPG's but I know a few PC gamers who find this kind of frame rate inexcusable.
The game also doesn't support 16:9 resolutions. You can choose to stretch the game, which would make it look really ugly but other than that you will be seeing 2 black borders on the left and right.
The 2D assets also were not redrawn making everything looking very blurry on 1080p resolutions instead of crispy and sharp.
Also I'm not entirely sure what's wrong with those PC spec requirements. 4Gigs of ram, 2.5Ghz dual core processor and Direct X10? For a early dreamcast game? Something went wrong.
Also other users report many, mostly tame, bugs but the developer does check the steam forums and assures to release patches to fix it. To be honest with you I didn't encounter even the half of what's listed on the list.
It was also confirmed by some Neogaf users that this game is easily mod-able so you can expect some mods in the future that might improve your experience.

Final Toughs

While this port certainly is an improvement over the last one it is not perfect.
If you are a veteran Grandia player look at what this port doesn't do and decide whenever you care or not.
If you never played the game I would strongly suggest you trying this game out. It 25% cheaper until the 30th August on both Steam and Good old games.
Verdict
Pros
+ Great game
+ Great characters
+ Great music
+ Great battlesystem
Cons
- Lazy port
- Predictable story
- Low difficulty
7 Presentation
10 Gameplay
7 Lasting Appeal
8
out of 10
Overall (not an average)
This is a score for the game itself. The port sits at 6.5/10.
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