As fun as Grandia III is, it lacks in depth and game time; the game lasts anywhere between 30 and 40 hours depending on how long your battles last and how much you run around building up your characters (which you won’t need to do as the battles are not challenging). On the other hand, you will want to do plenty of battling once you have had the pleasure of using the combat system. Pleasure it is, as this game has one of the best combat systems of any RPG game, anywhere. Before we get to that though, we’ll look at what else Grandia III has to offer.
We first meet Yuki, the main hero, in his hometown. He is a younger boy who is completely obsessed with building a plane and becoming a pilot. His mother, yes, his mother, climbs aboard his newest plane without him knowing. The trouble begins when her weight, which the plane was not built to handle, drags the plane down and they crash smack dab in the middle of trouble. Of all the games ever made, not one comes to mind where the mother and the son are fighting alongside each other. Miranda is younger – in fact she looks like she could be Yuki’s sister – and there are some really great moments of her showing why she is the mother. Already this game is different. Or so you think. In the beginning the game has a lot of great storylines, which seem very off the beaten path. As the game plays on, the story slowly starts to become more and more standard. Common elements, such as the young guy forced to be the hero, the girl who needs extra protection, good versus evil, and saving the world (that may not even know it’s in trouble), eventually prevail. There are some interesting ways in which the story is told though, such as conversations around the dinner table, which allow you to choose the order of who speaks and when. What is most disappointing is the introduction of characters who you think are going to be major players, that never show up again. There are holes in the storyline and there is no depth to it at all; it leaves you to imagine a lot, and unfortunately, those things you are forced to imagine should be presented to you in the game.
Like many other RPGs this game has a lot of focus on presentation. The characters themselves are animated very well. While every once in a while their mouths don’t go with their words, they are still really well done. The environments are beautiful at times, with perfectly placed rays of light or a setting sun. The cutscenes are incredible and this is one of the places where the game really shines. They are perfectly executed and full of excitement or emotion. The way they are directed tells the story well and the graphics are outstanding. The music is well chosen for each stage of the game, and while not completely out of the norm, it is well done just the same.
Another downfall to this game is the length. As mentioned before the playtime is around 30 hours. Part of this comes from the fact that the game is completely linear. In the early stage of the game there are few – maybe only one – minigames and side quests. As the game goes on, it gets even worse. While in most RPGs you can wander around for hours fighting and completing other quests, most of the time in Grandia you can’t leave the storyline. In fact your character will say something to get the team to turn around and get back on track. There are no chances – especially in the beginning – to explore. Once you move on to disc 2 you can fly around in the plane and explore a little more, but there is not really much to see. It has become the norm for a RPG to be replayable, choosing different quests, adventures, and doing things in a different order. There isn’t much replayability in Grandia III. Once you are done, you are done. Unless of course you just really like the combat system.
The combat system in this game sets the game far and above the rest. It gives you so many different creative options when in the midst of a battle that every battle can be completely different than the previous, if that is what you desire. The system works by watching a circle at the top left hand corner of the screen. There is a circle in the middle of the bigger circle, on which your characters’ faces will move around. On the outer ring, the enemies follow their circle, and if you pay careful attention to them and what they are doing you can stop them right in their tracks. There are three sections to this IP gauge. The first is the command phase. This is the phase where you will decide which action you are going to take. The next phase is the execution phase and this is when that action is carried out. Once your character hits this line, he or she uses the magic, attack, or item usage that you have chosen. The third area is a waiting period that is stuck between the other two phases. This works the same for the monsters, and in fact this is where the battle gets fun.
During the time the monster is waiting to reach the execution phase, you can cancel its attack by using either a critical attack or a special attack. This will stop the monster’s attack and move it back a little on the IP gauge (or a lot) depending on which attack you used to cancel. If you use simple attacks, you will build up your skill points for your special attacks. The combo attack will not cancel the monster’s attack so just be forewarned! Keep a close eye on that monster because you can actually know ahead of time what monster is doing what attack. Be careful! The monsters can also cancel your attacks. In some cases this can make a battle very long, especially when you are up against a boss; it may be because you spend too much time canceling their attacks and defending rather than being on the offensive. So just pay special attention to that IP gage. If you time your attacks right you may even get an aerial attack that happens when a character hits a monster into the air and another character attacks that same monster while it is still up there. This does more damage and looks really cool! If you can finish a battle without taking any damage, it will add extra skill points to your gauge. For those people who like less the battles and cringe at the word strategy, you can turn on an option where the other characters help to tell the character who is taking his turn what he should do to be most effective. This is actually really cool, as it makes battles a little easier and more enjoyable for those of us out there that may be new to gaming or just really stink at strategy.
As far as items go, you can equip mana eggs, which help to amplify your magic. You can also extract the magic from the egg and equip it to yourself to give your character a new magic skill. The same goes for books. You can equip the books to improve strength, health, etc. Or you can extract a new skill from the books to add to your arsenal. The only disappointment here is that there is not an abundance of items to be found in the game. This can be major downer for RPGers who lust after stronger weapons, and just plain cool armor.
This game has mild language usage and a little drinking as well, but when it comes to RPGs this may be a really great game for younger players. It is not nearly as deep and dark as some of its counterparts, and with its talk of dreams and aspirations, it may be one that parents won’t shudder at the thought of buying their children. Grandia III is a fun game, with its quirky characters, great graphics and awesome battle system. It may not be for the serious RPG player, but it definitely has some great elements and is worth the buy.
RATING: 4 out of 5
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