Grandia (PS1) – Part 1

Grandia (グランディア), developed by Entertainment Software Publishing, released 12/18/1997 for Saturn and 10/26/1999 for Playstation

This is a Playstation-era RPG that I’ve always heard good things about. It started out on the Saturn, and from what I understand the development team had also mostly worked on the Lunar series prior to this. From what I can tell, the Playstation port is essentially the same thing as the Saturn version; there were a few graphical changes and some bugs were fixed but there was no extra content or major upgrades.

The initial backstory involves godlike spirits called the Light Winged Ones using the power of the Spirit Stone to give blessings to people, but when the humans decided they wanted to become Winged Ones themselves, that darkened the spirit stone and broke it into seven pieces. Adventurers have sought out the ancient technology of the “Angelou” civilization that the Winged Ones used, but thwarted by a giant wall called the “End of the World” they’ve basically failed.

Our main character is Justin, a 15 year old who has a mom who was a former pirate but now runs a restaurant, and a deceased father who was an adventurer. His dad gave him a stone that he believed to be one of the seven Spirit Stones although most people now think that the spirit stones and Angelou are just legends. The beginning of the game involves Justin and his 8-year old friend Sue doing kid stuff with town bullies and such.

My biggest problem with this game by far is the 3D maps. I find them extremely difficult to navigate, and I am constantly getting lost, wandering in circles, and being unable to see where I can go. This game really needed an inset minimap — you can press select in town to zoom out like this:

But personally I do not find that sufficient to navigate the areas, and the dungeons don’t have that (they have designated spots where you can zoom the camera out). I’ve always had issues with 3D games; I was never able to get into Super Mario 64 or Ocarina of Time because I could not deal with the 3D environment.

Because of this it took me a long time just to clear this initial section where you are running around town trying to find things. In any case, once this is all done Justin wants to go to the nearby Sult Ruins to find out things about Angelou, and the museum curator gives him an intro letter to let him do so.

First we have to go through the Marna Road, and this introduces the battle system. Enemies are encountered on the map (symbol encounter) and you can get a surprise attack or be surprised. I believe that once you beat an enemy symbol it only reappears if you leave the map entirely, but I could be wrong about this.

The battles themselves are done in a kind of combination real-time and turn-based system. The bar at the bottom right shows the enemies and your characters, and they move right on the bar at a speed determined by their Action stat. When they reach COM you can give them a command, and then once they reach the end of the bar they will take the action. Being attacked can stop your bar movement temporarily or even return you more to the left (known as IP Damage). You can run into problems of stunlocking and being stunlocked, but I have only had this happen a few times so far.

The speed of Command->Action depends on the move, and the more you use moves the faster they will go off. A character who gets attacked when they are between COM and ACT will have their action cancelled and they’ll suffer IP damage. If they get hit when they are at the right of the bar but haven’t done their action yet they will be Countered for additional damage, but they will still get to do their action.

The basic actions you can take are Combo (two attacks; if you kill an enemy you will do an attack on another one), Critical (slower attack but can cancel enemy moves), Magic/Skill, Run, Item, Defend (either defense+ or evade+), and Look (see enemy stats and what they are doing).

Each character has weapon levels, and they gain XP from the levels by doing attacks or moves in battle. Levelling up the weapon levels gives you stat bonuses (i.e. a sword level gives +1 str and +2 speed), and if you reach certain levels you will unlock new moves.

For magic, you have to find a Mana Egg which you then take to a shop and use to give one type of elemental magic to a character (Fire, Wind, Earth, Water). There are three levels of magic spells each with their own spell point pool, and there are combinations of elementals as well.

So there is a lot going on in the fights. Overall I think it works fairly well; it feels fast paced and gives you more to do than just mash one button.

This is from a later scene

In the ruins we are introduced to three army women adversaries (Mio, Nana, and Saki); they’re also at the ruins searching for something on the orders of Mullen. They are part of the Garlyle Army, and they’re searching for some final piece to advance their nefarious plans.

When we reach the bottom, Justin’s spirit stone activates — it turns out that his dad did indeed give him a real spirit stone, and a mysterious woman named Liete appears, telling Justin to find Alent which is on the New Continent. So after escaping from the Garlyle women and Mullen, Justin decides to go to the New Continent. There’s a fetch event here where we have to clear out a mine of monsters to get a passport from an old adventurer, and then Justin tries to leave in the morning on his own, without telling anyone. But his mom realized what he was going to do and left a letter, and Sue sneaks on to the ship.

Also on the ship is Feena, an adventurer who is considered the best adventurer in new Parm. When the ship they are on encounters a “ghost ship”, Feena allows Justin and Sue to tag along to solve the mystery of that, which turns out to be just a big kraken:

Feena’s fire spells are deadly against the monster, and it goes down pretty quickly despite the tentacles. Now Feena sees that Justin and Sue have some real adventurer qualities, and tells them to visit her at her house.

In New Parm, Justin tries to join the adventurer’s guild with an introduction letter from his mom, but it turns out the head of the guild is the son of the old leader, and this guy is a complete tool who refuses to pay any attention to Justin. They go visit Feena, but then the new leader guy kidnaps Feena and tries to marry her by force. Of course we go save her.

We manage to save Feena, although she’s pretty worried about pissing off the adventurer guild because you can’t do adventures without their permission. But Justin helps her see the silliness of that idea and she tells the leader to screw off. She joins up with Justin to search for more information about the Angelou and try to bypass the World’s End, even though she’s skeptical that any of this is real.

First goal is the Dom Ruins, where Justin hopes he can learn more about the Angelou the same way he did at Sult Ruins.

Dom Ruins is a big place where you have to keep going back and forth between sides of it…I still find the maps hard to navigate.

The ruins boss was another enemy I didn’t find too hard, powerful spells and moves took it down pretty quickly.

After this, we do indeed get more information from Liete — it seems that Arent is on the other side of the huge wall so Justin is going to have to try to get past there. On the way out we find a child who is hurt on the ground; we try to help but it, but it needs some special herb to heal so this is another side fetch-quest. Once the herb is recovered, the child recovers but can’t speak to us because we don’t understand the language. Just then, then the Garlyle military shows up again. Apparently they’re the ones who hurt the child; they are chasing the “demi-human”(? I guess? I don’t know how the english translation deals with 亜人) for some reason. We’re all captured and set to be executed.

However, Mullen’s underling Leen appears to free us, or at least set things up so we can escape. On the way out, we have to fight each of the three military women.

They are all really fast and can often act multiple times for each action of yours. Saki was the easiest, I think. Nana is a little harder because she uses these yoyo attacks that hit a large area and are able to do IP damage so that it’s hard to get turns, but even so I was able to beat her fine. I think Mio is the hardest because you can get stunlocked if she decides to keep spamming her balloon move (that puts people to sleep) and the stungun move. But if you can start cancelling her attacks and get a bit lucky it’s not so bad.

We escape on a train, and the child (Rem) gives us some tree nuts that let us communicate with him. Unfortunately, the military is on the move.

But Justin manages to uncouple the train and disable the brakes so that the military people are sent forward while they can escape. Justin and the rest head for Rem’s village, hoping for some information.

This is as far as I got; it seems like this is only about a quarter of the way into the game. I think overall it’s fun but the 3D maps are really annoying. I believe that I will play Shining Force III this coming week and then return to Grandia the week after that.

One thought on “Grandia (PS1) – Part 1

  1. Atantuo

    Ah man, this makes me really nostalgic. Loved Grandia back in the day. Too bad the 3D maps dampen your enjoyment somewhat; I seem to remember having to rotate the camera a LOT while navigating, but thankfully it didn’t bother me too much.


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