GungHo offers us a remastering of two classic JRPGs in one collection: Grandia and Grandia II. First released on the Sega Saturn in 1997, the original Grandia follows Justin, Sue and Fina on a grand adventure around the world in search of Angelou’s lost civilization. Grandia II first appeared on Dreamcast in 2000 and follows Ryudo and Elena in their attempt to finish off the dark god Valmar. Both adventures are now available on the Switch via the Grandia HD Collection, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a mix.
Since Grandia is one of my favorite JRPGs, I would have gladly accepted the HD collection when it was announced. At the time, combat was one of the most complex and unique systems in the game, encouraging players to do more than just constantly attack. It’s a funny and charming story that started as a children’s story, but turned into a great story by the end with the characters.
The story begins with Justin (age 14) and Sue (age 8) playing a game with another city boy named Ganz. If Justin and Sue don’t find the legendary armor (dirty apron), ghost sword (wooden sword), helmet (old pot) and light shield (pot lid) before sunset, Sue will have to marry Gantz. It’s cute and fun in its own way, but it will turn into bigger adventures over time.
Early on we learn that Sue is an orphan and Justin’s father died, leaving Justin with a ghost rock. Ghost stones are supposed to be a myth, but during a trip to an archaeological dig by the military, Justin’s ghost stone activates a doorway deep within the ruins. Here you meet Lita, who tells you that there is an ancient Angelou civilization to explore, and on this journey across the ocean you meet Fina, another adventurer. The relationship between the two will develop and mature over the course of history.
As mentioned, the combat system is one of the most unique for its time. At the bottom of the screen is an action indicator. It presents a portrait of each unit in combat. Your portrait moves along the path until it reaches COM (or command). At this point, the player can enter an order for this character. The portrait then moves along the path until ACT, where (you guessed it) the action takes place. Basic attacks are executed immediately, but the abilities are not. When they use a skill or magic, their portrait slowly changes from COM to ACT. Next to each ability and spell are stars. When used, the stars fill up, and the more stars there are, the faster your character will act.
Each weapon type has its own experience point system. The higher the level of the weapon, the more the character has to use it to level up. Every 100 points earned increases the weapon’s level and new moves can be learned. Some moves require different levels in different weapons.
The same mechanics exist for magic. Mana eggs are scattered throughout the world and can be traded to allow a character to learn one of the elements of magic: Water, earth, wind or fire. When you use magic in battle, you can also gain experience in this element of magic. As with weapons, you learn new spells as you level up your items. Eventually, you’ll even be able to combine different elements to create new attacks. For example, if you combine earth and fire, you form a magical explosion, while wind and water create ice.
The Grandia HD collection does a good job of updating the original game. The backgrounds and magic effects are rendered in 3D, and the characters are elves. The early films also seem to have been affected. Textures and sprites have been updated and seem smoother. The sound is still great, but a few microphones have crept into the room. Things like skipping pictures and playing two songs during the boss fight got a little boring, but nothing that disrupted the game. One minor visual issue is that the screen flashes black for a moment when you enter a fight, which is odd and hopefully easy to fix. All in all, Grandia remains one of the best JRPGs of its time, easily enjoyed over the years.
Grandia II follows the story of Ryudo, his falcon Skye and Elena as they travel the world to seal the god of evil. Ryudo is a geo-dog, a kind of mercenary who only accepts unwanted missions. He is treated very badly. He’s kind of a jerk to most of the people he meets, especially the people from the church of Granis (God of Goodness). The game is more mature than the original, and the main character, at 17, has a very provocative attitude. Early in the game, his attitude can rub people the wrong way. In most JRPGs of this type, the main character is a bastion of kindness and self-sacrifice. That’s not the case here, where Ryodo is only interested in the money he makes from his work.
The fighting system is very similar to that in the first game. The action bar is at the bottom, the stars on abilities and magic are there, but the way to win more is completely different. As the game progresses, players will again receive mana eggs, but in these they will be equipped and characters will then be equipped with spells. During battles, enemies drop special and magic coins that you can use to upgrade mana orbs to learn new skills and spells, as well as increase their attributes.
Unlike the first title, few changes have been made in this game. The introductory video is extremely pixelated, almost to the point where you don’t know what’s going on. Some of the game effects are just videos displayed in the game. Additionally, using these special spells, enemies can disappear from the screen after being hit. Other spells, such as burn, create a fireball over the character’s head, and the lighting is simply poor and could have been used for this version. It’s rather frustrating that Grandia II doesn’t seem to have received the care that the first volume received in this collection.
The voice acting in both games is available in English and Japanese. As with most games of this era, the English voice acting can be poor or downright painful. The Japanese voice plays much better. In the game selection menu, the player can choose between the two. However, there is a big problem. It is not possible to switch from one game to another without leaving the entire Grandia HD collection and restarting. To make matters worse, if the player wants to switch to Japanese in Grandia II, they have to leave the collection once again. At least the original game has a game option.
All in all, Grandia’s HD collection is always great fun. The first game is of course the biggest attraction that attracts the most attention. The suite has not received the same number of updates and features as the original, although Japanese voices are available as an option. It would have been a great collection if they had shown more love for Grandia II, but unfortunately the sequel drags the whole collection down instead of taking it to new heights. Buy the original and you’ll be happy.
Overview of the Grandia HDCollection
- Charts – 8/10
- Sound – 8/10
- Gameplay – 9.5/10
- Late Call – 7/10
Final thoughts : GOOD PAGE
I would have preferred Grandia and Grandia II to be published separately, as the former is much better than the latter in this collection. The updated graphics really enhance the original game, and it’s still a lot of fun to play today. The sequel didn’t get the same attention, leaving this collection on the ground instead of as high as it should have been.
Chris is passionate about video and board games. JRPGs are close to his heart and he loves listening to quality game soundtracks!
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