Grandia II | Game Arts / Square Enix
IT'S TIME FOR ANOTHER GRANDIA, NOW MORE THAN EVER
It's time for the classic franchise to make a comeback.
by Felipe Parada
Lately we have been seeing huge a resurgence of old "JRPG style" games like I Am Setsuna, No No Kuni, and most recently, Lost Sphear. Considering how far the gaming landscape has evolved, it's nice to see that the old JRPG genre can still hold its own in an industry plagued by lootboxes and microtransactions. I recently had a chance to sit down and get hands on with Tokyo RPG Factory's Lost Sphere, you can see out hands-on impression here, and as I played through the short demo I couldn't help feeling a rush of nostalgia that I haven't felt in a really long time. The zoomed out overworld, active battle system and pages upon pages of text brought me back to a simpler time where games were beginning to take on a new form of media. Games aren't just games anymore, they have transcended what it means to experience a story. They can take us to places we've only dreamt of visiting and make allow us to feel things we've never felt before. And yes, I am referring to the death of Aerith Gainsborough in Final Fantasy VII and if you didn't anything after that then you have no soul.
Then I got to thinking, "What if some of our most beloved JRPG franchises make a triumphant return?" Well we all know that the Final Fantasy VII Remake is in development but I am not sure if can re-live the death of Aerith again, I just can't. Then I thought of one game that desperately needs another installment and that game is Grandia 4. I'm not talking about a re-release or a remake, I'm talking about a new installment or a spiritual successor (which seems to be popular nowadays). It could definitely work because the Grandia Series never followed just one set of characters over the course of multiple titles, each new entry in the franchise introduced you to a new setting and new sets of characters so there's no need to play the previous titles to get caught up. Plus with the added bump up in audio and visuals, there is no reason why not to continue with the franchise.
Thinking back to Grandia's debut in 1997, the franchise lasted for over the course of 10 years (I'm not counting 2009's Grandia Online) and I don't ever remember playing a title that was considered "average". The lowest rated game in the series was Grandia Extreme (2002) with a metacritic score of 68 but the score doesn't mean its a bad game. The entire franchise averages a metacritic score of 81 but many wouldn't even consider the franchise to be on the "Top 10 RPG Franchises" of all time. But if you take the time and look at the forums plus factor in the reviews, they will paint a completely different picture of how important Grandia is to the genre. I mean come on, Capcom was able to bring Mega Man back from the dead and everyone cheered Capcom. Although I really liked the inside joke of Megaman 11 being the "spiritual successor" to Mighty No.9. You see I told you spiritual successors are very popular genre in this day and age.
Grandia II | Game Arts / Square Enix
The Active Combat System was very engaging. Just make sure not to blink.
At the time, Grandia sported one of the most unique battle system in any RPG. Many of us were used to the turn-based battle system which was made very popular by the Final Fantasy series but that wasn't the case in Grandia. The game supported limited movement during battle where the Characters can run around or strike opponents and then retreat within a short amount of time. Depending on the timing, any character or enemy can "cancel" an opponent's move. This changed the way that you approached battle because you didn't just have to wait anymore. There was planning, there was positioning and if you timed it just right you can end a battle without having a single scratch on you. Just describing it alone gives me a sense of euphoria as I vividly remember seeing all the characters run around on the screen to see who can get a better position for a massive "Critical Hit!".
The battle system also used Initiative Points, Magic Points, Hit Points, and special points which allows for combo attacks to land two hits on an enemy. The hits can be increased with certain accessories, up to four hits per combo. Additionally, if the combo kills the intended target before reaching the final blow, the character will attack the closest enemy to complete the combo. It took some time to get used to but once you got going the combat was fast and fluid. Switching from a turn-based style to a free flowing system brought the Grandia Series to the new forefront of new JRPG's. Many gamers still prefer the classic turn-based system because it allows for a more strategic approach to combat. I'll be the first one to admit that I turned on "Wait Mode" in Final Fantasy XV for a better strategic advantage in combat but having a free flow system just makes for a better experience.
Combat and impressive visuals aside, the soundtrack had the best musical scores in any video game at the time. Composed and arranged by Noriyuki Iwadare, the soundtrack was published by TWOFIVE and had 46 tracks split up into sections (Deus and Povo). Grandia II was the first game I experienced that used a classical score to compose the entire game and I was so impressed with the soundtrack that I actually purchased the soundtrack. If you weren't familiar with the series and heard the music for the first time you would never associate such a rich soundtrack with a video game.
With an impressive number of legendary franchises celebrating their 30th anniversary last year, including Mega Man and Final Fantasy, it only makes sense to throw in Grandia to that list. Square Enix has been on a roll as of late with releasing good games and I don't see them slowing down any time soon. I'm sure I am not the only one who wishes to have this franchise resurrected and I'm sure that Square Enix has thought about it on multiple occasions. It seems like retro is in as of late so please Square Enix, pretty please bring back Grandia back and let us experience this beautiful world all over again.