With a total of 64 hours spread in more than two months of casual playing, plus a final binge of about 10 hours in a weekend, Grandia is now part of my backlog. I had already played it many years ago, but because of issues with the Slim PS2 model I was using at the time, I had to give up near the end. The PSP had no such issues. Mind, I was at 70 hours when I gave up back then, so that I was able to finish it in a shorter time and with actually less trouble is clearly testament to my amazing skills.
While I could spend a while talking about the game itself, I would rather say something about its playable characters. Because in the end, what’s a good JRPG without good party members? Maybe a Shin Megami Tensei game.
Spoilers will follow! Although to be fair, given the focus of the game is in the scenes and the combat, you might as well spoiler yourself the entire story and it would still be a fun experience.
So, the hero of the game. He gets all the character development, which is still not that much really. As the one who’ll always be in the party, I was giving him all the stat-enhancing items. By the end he was more steroided than Duke Nukem. His blacking out near the end feels borderline paradoxical given his behavior in the previous, oh, 60 hours? His entire life?
Rarely is a heroine more of a heroine than Feena. Her character flip-flops around a lot, but in the end she’s going to be your main healer anyway, so it’s good that she at least gets some screen time and plot relevance. Could do with a little less crying, for someone who’s introduced as the badassest ever. Her utter lack of good single-target spells is annoying though, so expect her to sit around a lot during boss fights. I suppose that could have its toll on your ego.
Fun to be around, but her stats progression is real slow, and a character who is stunned every time she’s hit is quite the annoyance. Still gets full mark from me due to having the only healing ability for the first ten or so hours of the game. I’m not exactly sure how she came back in the finale, but hey, a lot of things don’t make sense anymore by that point. Maybe the entire ending after Feena leaves, from his companions flipping out to the reunion, is all Justin’s imagination or something.
A lot stronger than my guys. But since I already knew he was going to leave, I didn’t bother leveling his skills. This made him eventually a lot weaker than my guys. What a sad fate. He doesn’t really get any character development either, but at least there are a few funny scenes where he talks about committing seppuku to make up for some mistake. He never does it, I’m afraid.
Justin-lite. His moves are good, but when you get a character so late into the game (we are talking at least 30 hours in, folks) you won’t feel like leveling his magic up. I still did it a little, whenever I had the chance. That’s probably more than he deserved, given that he’s mostly a flat character. For all his motivation for starting the journey, we never see his reaction in the end. A common problem with all the non-main trio characters in the game. I guess he could be randomly shipped with Liete.
Another throwaway character, this time without even any magic. She doesn’t stay with you for long, so no big deal. Her last speech before the final dungeon would probably count as politically incorrect today. Every woman’s wish is to be saved by her man? Ok, I guess. Many of the characters in this game are at least cute if not memorable, but Milda is the least memorable of all.
A rabbit man. Enough said. I really wonder how he spoke in the japanese version, because his semi-italian accent is downright irritating after a while. He also has no magic, but unlike Milda, he doesn’t even have any real good skills. Man, good thing he will only be around for a very short time.
So when you get Liete, you might think you have finally found a use for all those Mana Egss you have been hoarding. Well, she comes with her own magic. Too bad. Her character is pretty much left unexplored, but it’s funny how she goes from utterly inexpressive in her city, to completely bouncy and acting all cute as soon as she joins the party. Though that makes her kick-the-dog moment to Justin all the weirder. You get the feeling that the writers were running out of ideas by the end of the game. At least she’s got good healing magic and some decent AoE spells, and sticks with you until the end, so she’s not nearly as useless as the previous throwaway guys. Now if only we could have gotten her sooner.
Despite all of this, Grandia just works. It’s weird how well it works. Having one-dimensional characters can be a good thing sometimes, if you are trying to tell a one-dimensional story.
This must still be one of the best JRPGs around, because normally I give up on JRPGs after a few hours. It hasn’t been until Chrono Cross, more than a year ago, that I actually bothered playing one until the end. I have come to the conclusion that I prefer semi-easy JRPGs that don’t require you to grind forever. Because those are very uncommon, it’s hard to believe I’ll play another JRPG soon. Such is life when you grow too old. Maybe I’ll look around and see if I can find more like it.