March 1, 2001
It took a long time for the original Grandia to be ported from the Sega Saturn to the Playstation and the game was only released here in Australia last July. Many people have said that Grandia is the greatest RPG of all time, even surpassing Square's magnificent Final Fantasy series. Game Arts began development on this sequel before the Dreamcast even hit the shelves, much to the relief of Sega fans worldwide. The game has been available in Japan for several months now and has been reviewed as one of the top games of 2000. Hopefully the English translation, which has been handled by UbiSoft, will retain the games high quality.
Game Arts were one of the first companies to receive Dreamcast development kits and have been working on Grandia II since November 1997, immediately after they finished developing the original game. As with all RPG development, it took a lot of time to complete the title with a Japanese release in October 2000. While an action game may take 5-10 hours to complete, most RPG's keep players going for 50-100 hours. As a result RPG's they suffer a lengthy development period compared to other genres for testing and the detailed storyline in the game. Speaking of stories Grandia II is one of the most engrossing.
Grandia II's story takes place in a completely new and different world from the original Grandia. Players start off in a magical place entitled Shurisen on the continent of Granacliff, which has a giant earthquake-like crack through its center. It has been over 10,000 years since the Battle of Good and Evil has taken place. Now Valmar, the Devil that tried to destroy the world, is about to awaken and complete his original goal. As Valmar's Moon casts a sinister glow, the time of valiant and unexpected heroes has begun. Upon receiving an assignment from the Church of Granus, Geohound, Ryudo and his partner Skye set out to chaperone the young priestess-in-training, Elena, to a religious ceremony to be held at the Tower of Garmia. However, the ceremony fails and Valmar's dark descent upon the land thrusts the fragile world in the midst of the war between the gods of good and evil. Ryudo finds himself accompanied by friends and newfound allies, as he must come to terms with himself and his destiny, so that he may rescue the land from peril.
As with most Japanese RPG's Grandia II has the usual elements such as battling monsters to increase players experience and magic points. But it's the story line that separates and average RPG from a great one. Do you think that Final Fantasy 7 would have been as emotional if Ariel never died? While Grandia II is set in the same universe and in the same time line as the original game, the stories are very much separate between the two games.
One thing that makes this game stand out from the crowd is the stunning visuals. Usually RPG's have some bland dungeons and towns or poor animations during the battle sequences, not so in this game. The colours are vibrant and the characters are well animated. Many people have said that this is the best looking RPG ever, and I tend to agree, until Square's Final Fantasy X finally arrives in a year or so. The music in Grandia II is also very impressive with orchestral pieces suitable for an epic motion picture let alone a video game.
Thanks to Ubisoft & ESP, who are handling the conversion to English, Grandia II should be released in Australia sometime in March. Reports from the American version, which was released just prior to Christmas, are that the game has been converted to English quite brilliantly. Don't expect any poor Japlish translations here (Japlish is when the English port has a lot of Japanese nonsensical phrases and words). With an engrossing storyline, hours of gameplay and Ubisoft's publishing know-how this game should be huge when it is released.