I must admit, early on in the game, I wasn't overly impressed with Grandia. I liked the overall production values with the exception of the terrible voice acting, but I had issues with other elements. I found manually rotating the camera-angles to be an awkward and disorienting experience for a console RPG. I often found myself confused in the huge villages I was traveling through (the compass barely helped) due to the constant camera manipulation. Dialogue between characters seemed to drag on too long and required too many button clicks to hear the last sentence. The plot as well seemed riddled with too many anime cliches like decisively having an excess amount of females to boost the T&A factor. The combat engine didn't seem all that different from those that came before it either. I couldn't shake the feeling that I had played this game many times over.

It wasn't until after long-term playtime, did the strengths of Grandia (that Dale went at great lengths to emphasize) become more readily apparent. I would have thought for sure that the story would have taken another 'save the world' turn, but instead the story arc remained deeply focused on the 'adventuring' and 'exploring' exploits of the main characters, Justin, Sue and Leena. Aside from the main three, there's also huge cast of characters whose relationships rival those found in any Final Fantasy game. I liked the way the many personalities developed and interacted with one other as the story continually progressed. There's definitely a sense of wit and life to each of them. The combat engine, which also seemed typical, at first, started to shine as my characters developed new abilities in accordance with my choice of tactics and I began to recognize the subtle advantages of the IP gauge.

What also kept me playing was the finely streamlined gameplay. This is a later-generation RPG and it shows in the refinement of all its elements. Save points are provided at all the right places so that even if death befell my entire party, I didn't have to retread over too much of the same ground. The developers went further by removing many frustrating elements commonly found in the genre like requiring tents to recover at save points, random attack occurrences, and the need to stock up on new magic spells.

Grandia has a huge quest and, to its credit, I was never frustrated while playing it. The unique story-angle, convincing character interactions, and finely-tuned gameplay kept me coming back to Grandia. By the end of the first leg of Justin's quest, I was fairly involved and itching to discover what adventures lay ahead of him. Still, Grandia stands as an RPG remarkable for its evolutionary characteristics, but lacking anything truly revolutionary. Though I was never completely taken by Grandia, I truly enjoyed it. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Chi Kong Lui
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