"Grandia"

Graphics: 8/10
Sprites on real time backgrounds. Much like Xenogears, or technically vice versa. The backgrounds can be rotated using the shoulder buttons. The sprites look very pixlelated close up, but decent while farther away. The towns each have their own unique look, which is a welcome from the standard towns in many other RPG's. Dungeons also have their own look, the cave's are dark and dreary, the jungles are filled with life. I really like the dungeons of this game, with only a couple of uninspired ones. Battle graphics use the same sprites, but their animations are actually well done. Each character has a slew of special attacks and each one is animated very well. One of the biggest problems is the slowdown, more noticably during battles, but also in larger towns Parm for instance. However, pleasing graphics all together.

Sound: 9/10
I love the sound of this game, music is above average with excellent themes, and vibrant battle music. My personal favorite being Mullen's Theme, which I think is a masterpiece in itself. Voices are what bring the score down a point. Sue's voice can be just plain annoying, other than that, pretty decent voice acting. Though nothing compared to Metal Gear Solid.

Story: 9/10
The theme is that of adventure, and you'll know it almost as soon as you start the game. In the basic rundown, our hero Justin gets a pass to visit the nearby ruins which is currently being excavated by the the Galaiel(sp?) army. He heads down and finds that his spirit stone opens a door that no one could get by. There he finds out about Alent and sets off for it. While at first the story is very lighthearted, almost childish it all changes very quickly. The story isn't revolutionary, but the characters are wonderfully done. Justin is very likeable as a hero, and after playing Final Fantasy 8, a welcome change indeed. Sue, the young child, also has a good role. Feena, the adventuress, who's my favorite character, is very well developed, and likeable. Pretty much every main character in the game is well developed. However a few characters will come and go rather quickly and they'll soon be forgotten. A few very unexpected twists are also added to keep you interested. The story alone is worth playing the game

Gameplay: 8/10
This is quite a long game, mainly due to the very large dungeons. The battle areas are large, wide and couldn't be any more confusing. Unfourtunately this is the complaint of many, and mine too. While I don't paticularily like short dungeons. These were just too big, you could easily get lost for hours as I did several times. Enemies are plentiful so luckily battles are a blast, and by far the best system I've seen to date. While it uses an active time bar, a small bar in the lower right corner shows who's going to be attacking next, if the attack is a magic attack/ special attack or regular attack. While this may seem useless it adds a lot of strategy, mainly due to the attacks available to you. You have Special attacks, magic, critical and quick attacks. Quick attacks usually do more damage than a critical as the character swings twice. However if you attack an enemy about to use a special ability with a critical blow you will cancle that attack and knock the enemy back on the mentioned bar. Or perhaps you think you can use your special attacks or magic quicker than the enemy and just kill it outright. While all this make it sound like battles will be easy, watch out as the enemy can do the exact same things to you, and the AI gets pretty smart as you face tougher enemies. Magic is earned a bit differently than in many RPG's, while exploring dungeons you may find Mana Eggs, take these to a magic shop and you can purchase fire, water, earth, or wind magic. What's unique is that you can combine magic, for instance if one character has both fire and wind magic you may learn lighting spells. Learning spells is also different, as you don't learn them by levelling up your character, but as you level up the magic itself. Use a fire spell over and over and it'll level up and you'll learn new fire attacks. Special abilities are acquired in the same way, use a certain weapon and as you fight it'll level up. You can see what level the magic or weapon needs to learn new abilities/spells in the menu. Lastly, sometimes magic and weapon's can be combined for a special attack, for instance Feena, who uses whips and daggers, if the whip is at a high enough level, and her fire magic is at a high enough level they will combine for a fire twirl special attack. Items can be a pain to organize, as each character can only carry a limited amount. Luckily storage blocks are placed in dungeons and each town. Equipment includes a weapon, sheild, armor, helmet, and accessories and can be found or bought as usual.

Replay Value (Lasting Value): 7/10
Replay value is decent as the game offers several secret areas that can be completed for fun. The game in itself is pretty long, thanks to the many large dungeons. I spent a good 60 hours total.

Difficulty: Medium-Hard
The challenge not only lies in finding a way out of the winding jungle or large mountains but also in many battles. Later on the enemies get tough and many bosses will give you quite a troublesome time. Many bosses have several parts, each that can use their own attacks, so expect a good beating. You can beat these parts if you want, but all you need to destroy is the main body. I suggest beating the separate parts first it means more money and less attacks.

Buy or Rent?
Rent it if you can't stand long confusing dungeons and see if this will annoy you or not. I suggest a buy unless you loathe RPG's. One of my favorites.

MY Score: 8/10

Review by: STARSCOP33