June 10, 2009

hojo.artcore_as another RPG bites the proverbial dust, i feel obligated to post something about it. as the years go by and the body of work as it regards the RPG’s i’ve beat grows ever larger, i find the new entries into said body of work being more and more average. common logic would say “that’s probably because these games you’re playing ARE merely average games.” and common logic is probably right. but what if it’s not that…what if i’ve played so many RPG’s that my normally low-standards brain has simply subconciously raised my personal standard for games in the genre? or maybe these old RPG’s i’m playing simply haven’t aged well, and would’ve been better had i played them at the time of their release. or maybe i’m slowly becoming a hater, and all the soda i’ve been drinking has actually been Haterade in disguise…no, i’m pretty sure that these RPG’s are just merely average RPG’s and i’ve been playing them to the end. so…let’s delve into the most recent beat, Grandia, for the Playstation Home Game Console.

_beeeeeeeeewwwwwww, the PS1 logo…deen, dee dee…deeeee…a startup we’re all familiar with [all should be familiar with, anyways]. Game Arts logo…standard PS1 opening FMV. who whould’ve thought that 8-bit sprite character models would age better than 32-bit FMV’s? seriously, it’s easier to look at most NES sprites than it is most grainy-ass PS1-era FMV’s. although doubtful that any of the developers from either era were thinking about how their games would look in 2009, it’s something i think to myself when playing old games sometimes, and genuinely hope that it’s something that present day developers think about.

_so…game starts up…we’re treated to a rather excellent music number by Noriyuki Iwadare as the camera pans around the main character’s hometown, Parm. we see a little purple haired girl, Sue, running the streets, trying to find Justin, the aforementioned main character. after finding Justin, the wonderful music is interrupted by a horrible sound, as Sue utilizes the power of the PS1 and disc based media for evil by speaking out loud. now, as i first mentioned, the opening song is quite good, and throughout the game, Iwadare does a pretty good job with the score. the whole score is definitly one of the better aspects of the game. i think that’s one of the things that draws me to the genre…most of the best composers in gaming score RPG’s. on the flip-side of the audio coin, the voice___ in the game is rather awful. i put “voice___” because to actually refer to it as “acting” or even “work” would be an insult to the people that actually do voiceacting and voicework. and while there’s not a TON of voice overs in the game, they ALL come in important parts of the story, and effectivly ruin any chance the game has at having a story worth caring about. everytime a main character is introduced, they bring with them a bad enough voice over that you can’t take it seriously. at the very least, it’s bad enough to be humorous, and not bad enough to be awful. but it’s not bad enough to be terrible, and that terrible which the bad is itself terrible enough to be fantastic, like Baten Kaitos. i’ll touch a little more on the voice___ later.

_so…Sue finds Justin, and it seems that they’ve accepted the challenge of a local ruffian to find some “legendary” treasures, which are all a bunch of crap. but you know kids and their wild imaginations! anyways, the game starts off with a fetch quest…wonderful…thankfully there aren’t many of these in the game, but looking back, it’s a quite an awful way to start off an RPG. RPG’s that start off with overtly long cutscenes, or start you off with simple tasks as “go talk to the mayor of the town” are alright, although the “stick the player in piss-easy battles right off the bat that they couldn’t possibly lose unless they knew what they were doing enough to the point that they actively TRIED to lose it” are the best. actually, i think as long as the game starts off giving you a good idea of what to be prepared for for the next 30/40/100000 or so hours, that’s fine. if a game starts with a super-long cutscene, i expect a “cinematic RPG.” talk with the village head, i’ll expect to find the biggest/most colorful/most conpicuous house in every new town i visit to progress the story. battles, i’ll expect something with a focus on…yeah, combat. do all RPG’s follow these guidelines? nope. do MOST RPG’s follow these guidelines? again, no. but regardless, it gets me in that mindset. so when i play a game and the first thing i do is a fetch quest, i’m saying to myself “oh lord…this is gonna be a gameFAQs filled chore.” as previously stated, there isn’t much fetch questing for the rest of the game, but it’s a terrible mindset to be giving players right off the bat.

_so, in the midst of doing the opening fetch quest, you start to learn about the main characters. Justin is a young lad who dreams of adventure. Sue is Justin’s longtime best friend, and they do everything together. then, after a couple hours…that’s still their characters. Justin’s dream is to adventure across the ocean and see the new continent and to have great adventures there. Sue tags along while he settles for adventures on the old continent. they adventure into a cave which has been sealed for untold centuries, and lucky Justin happens to carry the stone that opens it. an image of a girl says “go to Alent. it’s across the ocean and far.” the image of a complete stranger told you to go somewhere? that’s all the motivation i need to follow my dream. when he does secure a way to get across the ocean, Justin tells Sue that this adventure is way too serious for a little girl like her to go along. Sue cries, then sneaks onto the boat Justin’s leaving on. shocking, i know. on the boat, Justin and Sue meet a female adventurer named Feena, and Justin drools at her and dreams about adventuring with her, only it’s far less sexual than that sentance would have you think, although it becomes more sexual as the game progresses to no one’s surprise. the party then treks to the “End of the World,” which is a big wall. nobody has ever gone over the wall and returned. sounds like an adventure. let’s do it. they do it. sweet adventure. Sue gets tired and goes back home. next, gotta sail further east. they do. on the way, Feena says “i’m falling for you Justin because you’re the male lead and i’m the female lead and we’ve hung out for a while now.” Justin is a complete moron and is oblivious to this fact, even when she asks him outright “Do you…love me?” lordy. anyways, they arrive at a new land. throw in some obligatory “help out trouble townsfolk for the sole reason that you were there while they had a problem” sections, and some “powerful corrupt leaders on the hunt for Justin and his powerful stone” story sequences, and that’s disc 1 in a nutshell. disc 1 was 25 hours. oi…

_does the story improve by the end? yeah, it does. disc 2’s “help out town people just because” sections end up mattering in the context of the main plot, the driving force of the story switches from “adventure to lost city” to “save world,” and while that’s not entirely original, it is better. but then…as the story attempts to become more serious, all of the “serious” scenes are completely ruined by the voice___. everytime something meant to be dramatic happened, i was often laughing at the horribly delivery of the lines [not that a lot of the lines were anything special…the game has a lot of corny dialog]. this makes the game hard to take seriously, because nobody recording the dialog for the game did. if you’re not going to even attempt to do it well, just leave them out and let me read the text myself. text has done an alright job on previous console and in those newfangled book things, i doubt “No bad voiceovers” is a complaint many people would’ve had.

_so…we’ve got a bland plot that becomes a “Par for the course” plot by the end with characters that have little-to-no growth outside of a love story, and sounds like it’s voiced by people that aren’t good actors even if they’re prepared reading lines blind.  while i’m pouring it on, let’s throw in multiple palette swaps for every enemy, including bosses. so…what is there to like besides the soundtrack? the battle system…kind of.

_the battle system isn’t actually bad. it’s actually rather good. a pretty neat spin on the turn-based format. it’s too much explaining in words, but it’s more ATB and characters position on the battle map change dynamically (dynamically…makes turn based combat sound exicitin, huh =D) and it’s good overall. the main problem i have is that the games breaks itself by the end. they’re rather liberal with the save points, and you can restore HP and SP/MP to full at save points for free. FOR FREE! no item needed, no “pay moneyz to rezt,” nothing. you just go “restore” and…you’re restored. so you can crawl around almost every dungeon, fight enemies, spam your strongest SP/MP draining moves, win easily, then go to the nearest save point and RESTORE, all better, time for more supermovespam. this is handy early on in the game, but isn’t really broken, due to your characters not having many great special moves. but by the end of the game…yeah, you do. so by the end of the game, you can run around dungeons, thrashing normal enemies with your most powerful moves, then go and restore all lost SP/MP, and continue through. and when you get to the next floor of a dungeon…there’s almost always another save point. so the normally good battle system is pretty much rendered null and void due to the easy design of the game.

_that’s most major aspects of the game, and the only one i say was really done well was the soundtrack. i didn’t touch on the graphics, but they’re not worth a full paragraph. average sprites, typical PS1 polygonal spell effects. all in all, Grandia was an intensely semi-average RPG that was too long for its own good. yeah, i don’t even think i mentioned that. my final save in Grandia was at 50 hours. all of the things i mentioned take place in a 50-hour gameplay timespan. maybe the overwhelming mediocrity wouldn’t have grated on me so bad if the game had simply ended sooner, not allowing me to dwell on all the sub-par aspects of it in the middle of the game. kinda of like when i played the Superman game for the 360. it wasn’t very good…but it was playable and it ended quickly. it was over before i could think to myself “How much more of this bland game do i have left?” in a world where a common complaint about games is length, i think that shorter is oftentimes better. we all wish that games we truly loved would never end, but how many of those games are out there? and if we really like them that much…can’t we just play it again? well, back to the topic at hand…

_Grandia gets a C-, which our school system tells us is slighty below-average, but tell me who wasn’t disappointed with a C?


One comment

  1. One of the strongest aspects for me in Grandia was the simple fact that every single town had its own distinct appearance and style, and that there is shit loads of detail… everywhere. I suppose this would have been a bit more impressive back, say, when this first released on the Sega Saturn way back when, but it’s still a feature that impresses me.

    Interestingly enough, the PS1 port is actually a bit stripped down compared to the Saturn version. The original Saturn version had better water graphics and also had a companion CD that included extra dungeons, a museum, et al. Just noting that because, usually, it’s the other way around…

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