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 Justin, Sue and Fina follows on a great 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 shut down 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.
As Grandia is one of my favorite JRPGs, I would have liked to have accepted the HD collection when it was announced. At that time, the battle 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 at the end with the characters turned into a great story.
The story begins with Justin (14 years old) and Sue (8 years old) playing a game with another city boy named Ganz. If Justin and Sue don’t find the legendary armour (dirty apron), the ghost sword (wooden sword), the helmet (old pot) and the light shield (pot lid) before sunset, Sue will have to marry Gantz. It’s cute and fun in its own way, but over time it will turn into bigger adventures.
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 excavation by the army, Justin’s ghost stone activates a doorway deep into the ruins. Here you meet Lita, who tells you 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 said, the combat system is one of the most unique for its time. There is an action indicator at the bottom of the screen. It presents a portrait of every unit in the battle. 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 to ACT, where (you guessed it) the action takes place. Basic attacks are carried out immediately, but the possibilities are not. When they use a skill or magic, their portrait slowly changes from COM to ACT. Next to every power and every spell there are stars. When they are used, the stars fill up, and the more stars there are, the faster your character will act.
Each type of weapon has its own experience point system. The higher the level of the weapon, the more the character has to use it to level it. Every 100 earned points raise the level of the weapon and new movements can be learned. Some movements require different levels in different weapons.
The same mechanics exist for magic. Mana eggs are scattered around 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’ll learn new spells as you take your objects to the next level. Eventually you will 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 by updating the original game. The backgrounds and magical effects are displayed in 3D, and the characters are elves. Early films also seem to have been affected. Textures and sprites have been updated and appear smoother. The sound is still fantastic, but a few microphones have crawled into the room. Things like skipping pictures and playing two songs during the bosses’ fight became a bit boring, but nothing that disturbs the game. A small visual problem is that the screen blinks black for a moment when you engage in a fight, which is strange and hopefully easy to solve. All in all, Grandia remains one of the best JRPGs of its time, which one can easily enjoy 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’s being treated very badly. He is a bit of a fool for most of the people he meets, especially the people of the Church of Granis (God of Goodness). The game is more mature than the original, and the main character, at the age of 17, has a very provocative attitude. At the beginning of the game, his posture can rub people in the wrong direction. In most JRPGs of this type, the protagonist is a bastion of kindness and self-sacrifice. This is not the case here, where Ryodo is only interested in the money he makes with 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 totally different. As the game progresses, the players will get mana eggs again, but in these they will be equipped and the characters will be equipped with spells. During battles, enemies drop special and magical coins that you can use to upgrade mana orbs to learn new skills and spells, as well as to increase their attributes.
Unlike the first title, there have been few changes in this game. The introductory video is extremely pixellated, almost to the point where you don’t know what’s going on anymore. Some of the game effects are only videos displayed in the game. In addition, using these special spells, enemies can disappear from the screen after they have been hit. Other spells, such as burn, create a fireball over the character’s head, and the lighting is simply bad and could have been used for this version. It is rather frustrating that Grandia II in this collection does not seem to have received the care that the first part has.
The voice playing in both games is available in English and Japanese. As with most games of this era, the English voting 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 it. To make matters worse, if the player wants to switch to Japanese in Grandia II, he has to leave the collection again. The original game has at least one game option.
All in all, Grandia’s HD collection is always a lot of 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
- Graphs – 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, because the first is much better than the second in this collection. The updated graphics really improve the original game, and it’s still a lot of fun to play today. The sequel did not receive the same attention, so that this collection remained 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 to listen to quality soundtracks for games!
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