GungHo gives us a remaster of two classic JRPGs in one collection: Grandia and Grandia II. First released on the Sega Saturn in 1997, the original Grandia follows Justin, Sue, and Feena on a grand adventure around the world searching for the lost civilization of Angelou. Grandia II originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000 and follows Ryudo and Elena as they attempt to seal away the dark god Valmar. Both adventures are now available on Switch via the Grandia HD Collection, but unfortunately it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
Being that Grandia is one of my all time favorite JRPGs, when the HD collection was announced I was excited to say the least. At the time, battling was one of the more complex and unique systems in a game, which encouraged players to do more than just attack all the time. It featured a fun and endearing story that started out childish, but grew alongside the characters into a grand tale by the end.
The story begins with Justin (14) and Sue (8) playing a game with another boy in town named Gantz. If Justin and Sue cannot find the Legendary Armor (a dirty apron), the Spirit Sword (a wooden sword), the Warrior’s Helmet (old pot), and the Shield of Light (pot lid) by sundown, Sue must marry Gantz. It’s cute and fun in its own way, but this will evolve into more grand adventures down the road.
Early on, we find out that Sue is an orphan and Justin’s father died, leaving Justin a spirit stone. Spirit stones are supposed to be a myth, but on a trip to an archeological dig site being run by the military, Justin’s spirit stone activates a door deep in the ruins. It’s here that you meet Liete, who explains and there was an ancient Angelou civilization that should be investigated, and it’s along this trip across the ocean you meet Feena, another adventurer. The relationships between each will evolve and mature as the story progresses.
As mentioned earlier, the battle system is one of the more unique for its time. There is an action gauge at the bottom of the screen. On it is a portrait of each unit in battle. Their portrait moves along the bar until it reaches COM (or command). At this point players can enter a command for that character. The portrait then moves along the bar until it reaches ACT, where (you guessed it) the action takes place. Basic attacks are instant, but abilities are not. When an ability or magic is used, their portrait moves slowly from COM to ACT. Each ability and magic spells have stars next to them. When they are used, the stars fill up and the more the stars an ability has the faster your character will act.
Each weapon type has its own experience point system. The higher the weapon level the more the character needs to use it to increase its level. Every 100 points earned will level up the weapon and new moves can be learned. Some moves require multiple levels in multiple weapons in order to utilize them.
The same sort of mechanic is in place for magic. Scattered throughout the world are Mana Eggs, which can be traded in so that a character can learn an element of magic: Water, Earth, Wind, or Fire. Using magic in battles also allows for experience to be gained in that element of magic. Just like with weapons, as you level up your elements you’ll learn new spells. Eventually you’ll even be able to combine various elements to create new attacks. For example, if you combine Earth and Fire you’ll form Explosion magic whereas Wind and Water creates Ice.
Grandia HD Collection does a good job of updating the original game. The backgrounds and spell effects are all rendered in 3D while the characters are sprites. The opening movies look like they have been touched up as well. The textures and sprites have all been updated and look smooth. The audio is still fantastic to listen to, but several glitches reared their ugly heads. Things like skipping beats and having two songs play over each other during a boss fight became slightly annoying, but nothing game breaking. A slight visual issue is that the screen blinks black for a second as you enter a battle, which is odd and hopefully can easily be fixed. Overall, Grandia still remains one of the best JRPGs of its age and is easily enjoyed all these years later.
Grandia II follows the story of Ryudo, his falcon Skye, and Elena as they travel the world to seal an evil god. Ryudo is a Geohound, a kind of mercenary that only takes up undesirable jobs. Thus, he is treated very poorly. He is kind of a jerk to most of the people he meets especially the people from the church of Granis (the god of good). The game is more mature than the original with the main character aged 17 featuring a very brash attitude. At the beginning of the game his attitude might rub people the wrong way. In most JRPGs of this type the main character is a bastion of good and self-sacrifice. Not so here, with Ryodo only concerned about the amount of money he’s gaining from his jobs.
The battle system is very similar to the first game. The action bar is at the bottom, the stars on the abilities and magic are there, however, the way you earn more is completely different. As the game progresses, players once again receive mana eggs, but in this one they are equipped, and spells are then given to the characters. During battles special and magic coins are dropped by enemies and can be used to upgrade mana eggs to not only learn new abilities and spells, but also increase their attributes.
Unlike the first title, this game didn’t get much of a touch-up. The intro video is extremely pixelated, almost to the point of not being able to tell what’s taking place. Some of the spell effects are just videos placed over the game. Also when these particular spells are used the enemies will sometimes disappear off the screen, even though they are being hit. Other spells such as Burn create a fireball over the character’s head and the lighting is just plain bad and it could have easily been touched up for this release. It is rather disappointing that Grandia II seems to not have gotten the care the first one did in this collection.
The voice acting in both games are available in both English and Japanese. As with most games of this era, the English voice acting can be bad to downright painful. The Japanese voice acting is much better. In the game selection menu players can choose between the two. However, there is a giant issue. There isn’t a way to switch between games without completely quitting and relaunching the full Grandia HD Collection. What’s even worse, if players want to change to Japanese in Grandia II they have to exit out of the collection again to switch. At least the original game has the option in game.
Overall the Grandia HD Collection is still a good deal of fun. The first game is obviously the biggest draw here with the most amount of care being dedicated to it. The sequel didn’t receive the same amount of upgrades and features as the original, although the Japanese voices are in place as an option. This would be a great collection if they showed more love to Grandia II, but unfortunately the sequel ends up dragging down the entire collection instead of raising it to new heights. Buy this for the original and you’ll be happy.
Grandia HD Collection Review
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 9.5/109.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
I would have preferred Grandia and Grandia II to be released separately, since the first one in this collection is so much better than the second one. Updated visuals really enhance the original game and it’s still so much fun to play today. The sequel didn’t receive the same amount of attention and as a result keeps this collection grounded instead of allowing it to soar high like it should have.