Mon, 07 Mar 2005

Grandia II

Wow. Grandia II is now probably one of my favorite video games.

Let's see... It's a console (Dreamcast) role playing game, one of my most-preferred genres. While the gameplay is rather overly linear, the battle system is at least interesting, and the characters and plot development are both excellent.

Linear gameplay, yes. There's pretty much none of the wandering off to do side quests that other console RPGs have, nor is there much real exploring to do. You'll see pretty much everything in the game because you have to go through it to progress. There are branchings in the paths available, but almost without fail, one branch is a dead end resulting in some treasure while the other proceeds onward.

I won't describe the battle system; there are certainly enough other places that do. Suffice it to say that it has an interesting design that I found useful and reasonably fun, both of which are important in a console RPG.

Ah, the characters. Ryudo is the main character, and he's got an attitude. He's not shy about letting people know exactly what he thinks, and he generally put things in amusing (if not necessarily so to the recipient) ways. I've a host of screenshots of amusing dialog, including stuff like, "Well, I guess you'd better get back to praying with yourself," and, "I'm sorry. Were you waiting for me to give a damn?" Many of the other central characters are equally good. Milennia is a very fun (and cute) embodiment of evil; Elena is probably the blandest, though still likeable; and Mareg's blending of rough demeanor with verbose eloquence is usually interesting. The only one I didn't really like was Roan, mostly because I found him rather annoying.

There is also a host of minor characters, most of which you don't even have to interact with (villagers, onlookers, etc.) Nevertheless, the game designers wrote several different dialogues for each one. Unlike many console RPGs I've played, it takes a number of conversations with someone before you've exhausted their dialog, and this is true for everyone you meet in the game.

And the plot. I'll try not to spoil anything until I get below the spoiler barrier. The initial presentation seems simple enough: ages ago, there was a battle between Darkness and Light. Light won, but only sealed away the Darkness. Now the Darkness is gathering again, and the heroes must gather the power of the Light to stop it. (Even if Ryudo despises the church and is only doing it because they're paying him a lot.) As things progress, however, the plot takes a number of rather unexpected twists, some of them rather unconventional for a console RPG. I played through the last eight or so hours of the game continually expecting that I was just about to the end.

All in all, a very worthwhile game, and one I am immensely glad to have played.

Stuff I really enjoyed from the plot:

Roan leaving the party! Yeah! Wasn't so happy I had to take him back, especially after losing Mareg.

Though i was impressed that the game designers went and killed him off. Many games wouldn't do something like that.

The whole Elena/Millenia/Ryudo thing, with Ryudo realizing he really loved both of them.

At the end of the game, getting to fight the last battles with Ryudo, Elena, and Millenia.

The size of the Granasaber. "How're we gonna carry that?"

How they ended up carrying it.

"Yes, Granas lost that battle. He's dead."

While I can't say I liked it, really, the amazing degree to which the game designers were able to lay on the depression. Someone asking Elena what to do and Elena replying that she prayed to a deaf god. Seeing someone that had been slain by the Knights of Granas with a letter in his hand saying how he'd just managed to quit drinking and could see his son again. Many other things along those same lines.

Ryudo doing the whole introspection thing to try and master the Horns ... and losing. For a short while, I really thought I answered wrong and would have to see the world destroyed as we lost to Valmar.

Elena sprouting wings and, with Millenia, accompanying Ryudo to the planet's surface.

Millenia as a schoolteacher. Yeah, she's a game character, but in that outfit, I thought she was quite cute.

A bunch of other things that I can't remember right now.

Phil! Gold