Granhistoria (グランヒストリア 〜幻史世界記〜), released 6/30/1995, developed by J-Force, published by Banpresto
We’ve seen developer J-Force at least twice on this blog — for La Wares and Nekketsu Tairiku Burning Heroes. Neither of those were particularly good games (although Nekketsu is at least playable). They were also involved in one of the legendary kusoge of the Playstation, the RPG “Mystery of Satomi”. Probably their biggest success was Dragon Force, the Saturn strategy/SRPG game.
The basic concept of this game is that the main character is some kind of supernatural entity that inhabits a person in the continent of Grand, twenty years before the entire world will be destroyed. You can check the “Historical Record” and see all the things that will happen leading up to the destruction of the world. The goal is to prevent that from happening by changing history.
It’s an interesting premise, although perhaps somewhat limited by the very linear nature of the game. You occasionally are given choices that seem like they would cause a story branch but they really don’t; at most they change who will accompany you for the next dungeon.
There is also a huge amount of lengthy backtracking in the game, with no spells or items that let you warp to towns. As is very typical for this era the random encounter rate is quite high, and the dungeons themselves generally do not have any distinguishing features of interest.
The battle system is also pretty disappointing. There’s a system where enemies can appear in the sky or on sides of you (sort of like the Aretha games) but in the end you’re mashing the attack button until everything dies; it’s the same old Dragon Quest II system that game companies are still relying on. The only different feature is that depending on which god (of two) the character is aligned to, their spells will use either Stones or Spirit Points — but in practice this is just a regular SP system that makes no real difference other than a thin veneer of world building.
The one good design feature is that SP and Stone restoring items are plentiful and cheap, so it is possible to actually make use of the characters’ spells in battle. But since the encounter rate is so high and you can beat most battles just by mashing attack, it’s not really worth it.
Then we have the problem that once again, in June of 1995, you cannot see the stats of items when you’re buying things in shops. Why are game companies still treating this like it’s an optional feature that isn’t necessary?
The game begins with Kurisu getting ready for his wedding ceremony. But some evil bandits associated with the god Ge, lead by Tando, attack and kill Kurisu. The “world record” appears, depicted as a blue orb, and has an accompanying red orb take Kurisu’s body to try to stop the attack that the thieves will do the next day; the first step in stopping the destruction of the world.
You wander around the town for a while, rest, and then it’s time for the wedding ceremony. Unfortunately the bandits attack the ceremony and kill Kurisu again — they wanted to access this Za temple that only opens once every 10 years. He then revives in a nearby forest backwards in time; this is the one part of the story I didn’t understand. It never happens again, although I never got a game over so maybe if you game over there’s some kind of teleporting like this.
Kurisu reaches the bandits (this is before they attack the wedding ceremony) and for some reason they don’t kill him — they let him undergo the Ge initation. The ge “god” is obviously a computer of some kind, and we later learn that the “angels” are robots or mechs of some kind. But the god immediately accepts Kurisu, which surprises the thieves, and they let him join.
Now it’s time to attack a train. It’s a trap, and now Kurisu can choose to stay with the thieves or join the imperial forces that set the trap — this might seem like a big story branch but it’s not; I joined the imperial forces but even if you don’t, you end up joining them soon after.
Kurisu is able to put himself out as a “prophet” because he already knows what will happen via the World Record, so he quickly gets the trust of the imperial forces. But at the same time, there is a mysterious man in black named Cain that has underlings; the World Record does not recognize Cain or his minions.
It’s now 806, 19 years from world destruction. We need to try to save the crown prince from dying. This involves a plot by someone from the family that the current royal family supposedly deposed — but we stop him, and the Za “god” registers the baby in the computer system.
Next up, in 807 a Ge follower causes a bunch of Angels to go berserk, hoping to lower the Za god’s influence in the world, but we stop him. I was not always sure what stopping these things had to do with the end of the world — I think the idea is that the World Record is showing all the things that lead up to the final destruction (perhaps in a butterfly-effect way) and we hope that dealing with the most immediate one will eventually change the history.
Next up we have to help the Asashina king set him his marriage, but in the process the king gets killed an Kurisu is accused of the murder. This causes the entire World Record to get erased. But once Kurisu escapes from prison he becomes king himself, which restores the Record. Kurisu also gets 10,000,000 gold which basically solves the money issues for the rest of the game — you can by 99 of all the best healing items and there is no more challenge in any battles or dungeons.
Kurisu goes and cleans up a few things, then Cain appears again, suggesting that Kurisu put out an order to unseal 4 sealed temples around the world. Regardless of your choice, the game continues on for a while; we have to put down another attempt by the deposed former royal lineage. Eventually Cain shows back up with his minions — they claim to follow the Record of Destruction, and want to return history back to “normal”, by which they mean the destruction of Gran. Cain is able to steal Kurisu’s body from him, leaving the World Record and Kurisu to seek out a new host.
A year passes while Kurisu gets a new body; it’s now 817. However, Cain immediately shows up to steal the World Record from Kurisu when we try to stop a priest from getting assassinated. It turns out that Cain is the servant of a third god, Ma. Without the World Record, Kurisu is on his own and can’t check what’s going on anymore. Also with Cain now in the old body (which is the King), he’s been attacking the other countries, and he has also started unsealing the 4 temples, which will result in the destruction of the world.
Eventually Kurisu manages to reach the Sky Ship and then the Sky Country, where the people who made the Ma god live. They surround Gran with a barrier to protect it; but when the barrier was briefly removed so Kurisu could come down at the beginning, that’s what allowed Cain and his minions to come down as well.
Kurisu needs to have both the Ge and Za power, but he has to go back in time to get the second one; after this happens he tries to go back to the present but things get messed up and he arrives in 825, right before the destruction of the world.
Kurisu learns that the ancestors of the people on this planet came from the stars, although I didn’t see much more information about this or what the different gods are (maybe I didn’t talk to people I should have). In any case, we can stop the world from being destroyed by beating the Ma god itself.
The ending scene lets you choose one of two options — both of which lead to rather bad endings. The first one is that the Za god completely stops, causing all the Za priests to die, and that destabilizes the world. The second one is that the Za god’s Angels continue to spiral out of control, causing wars and chaos through the world. As far as I can tell from googling, there is no good ending.
There’s more to the story than the broad outlines I wrote; more side characters and such. Certainly the story and the setting is the strong point of the game, but it’s wrapped in such a boring system that it’s hard to get really immersed in it.
I’ve always been interested in this game, so it’s disappointing to hear it’s not good. Was there any detail in particular you thought was interesting about the story?
The whole premise of trying to change history is interesting, especially since you can see the entire timeline of what will happen, and as you do things the events will disappear and be replaced with different ones.
Wow, I wonder if this is what inspired Radiant Historia which literally shares the second half of the title with this game.
RH is of course pretty great and the story is fantastic – if you haven’t played it and want to see something similar in english, I can’t recommend it enough.
This is what I love about your blogs is the kind of unseen gems you find every so often.
Hahaha, I was going to mention exactly that same game! After reading the post, it certainly looks like the RH developers were influenced by many of the concepts taking place in this gane. For instance, RH also has two characters with object that let them go back in time (a white chronicle and a black one) fighting to undo each other changes to the timeline. Without spoiling anything, the identity of the Black Chronicle holder caught me completely by surprise, lol.
The premise of GH has piked my interest, so I hope it can be playable in English someday (doesn’t look like the kind of game with a story I could follow with just my level of Japanese).
Nice review, as always! Thanks a lot, Kurisu!
First, I’m announcing that AGTP is picking up Granhistoria. Note that the project descrpition is just a placeholder (for now.) Progress-wise, Liana (Metal Max Returns) translated the script some years ago but wants to give it a going-over, and there are still some menu-related things to work out, but it’s in reasonably good shape.
says 70% complete
Nice! It’s always good to see more classic RPGs get patches.
So all in all it’s true what they say about the game. Interesting concept, handled not too well. Burning Heroes also has an interesting promise with the result beeing disappointing. Never the less, I do hope one day we can get a translation of the game.
At least the graphics and design look solid. What about the soundtrack and the game design in general?
So, out of all three J-Force games for SFC I would guess you consider this their best effort? Is it a B or B- based on your inital rating system?
Hmm, that’s hard to say — it’s definitely not La Wares, which is garbage. Nekketsu is a strange game because you just play the same thing 8 times, and the battle system where everyone is AI-controlled was not all that fun. I guess I would probably say Granhistoria is the best of the three games as long as you can use a speedup key to get through the battles. The story is definitely the most entertaining of the three, and if the battle system had been better I think this could have been a classic game.
Now I should have pointed out that this wiki I often check for information on games (https://w.atwiki.jp/gcmatome/) has this listed as a good game, although they point out many of the same flaws I did in the post — I guess for some people the story was good enough to overcome the other flaws.
The story in this game, initially confusing, is such a great one to me. It’s very unique but not everything is explained well in the game. I really like the scene when much later you meet Toll’s fiancée Lou – from whose wedding you ran away from at the beginning – as now Gainastar’s wife in the country to the north.
“He then revives in a nearby forest backwards in time; this is the one part of the story I didn’t understand.”
Yeah, this part is very weird. Supposedly he is taken to the jungle by some sort of a flying dragon? The events don’t really make much sense here.
“Next up, in 807 a Ge follower causes a bunch of Angels to go berserk, hoping to lower the Za god’s influence in the world, but we stop him. I was not always sure what stopping these things had to do with the end of the world — I think the idea is that the World Record is showing all the things that lead up to the final destruction (perhaps in a butterfly-effect way) and we hope that dealing with the most immediate one will eventually change the history.”
Coincidentally, by saving the Za priest Lyzanne in 807 by preventing the assassin from blowing up the ship she is on, you appear to be changing history in a good direction at that moment – only for Lyzanne to eventually turn to Kain’s side near the end of the game. It’s always interesting to see everything you do influencing some future event in an unintended way, but that is the essence of the butterfly-effect in action.
Granhistoria has an incredible setting, and the sprites for the multiple important characters have a great amount of personality. Regrettably the gameplay is a total mess. The development studio ran into a lot of production problems and this game was ultimately released in a rushed state. They had a lot more cut story planned in the later half of the game, which is evidently void of content and the years seem to pass so much more quickly when you near the end of the game. One of the japanese strategy books has sketches which reveal that all the different regions were intended to have unique looking town npcs – not so in the released version, where all the townsfolk look identical to each other.
The composer Motoaki Takenouchi in an interview tells that he was first asked to create a much more varied soundtrack using all kinds of folklike instruments, but music engine coding issues, cart memory and funding problems led to the music being downsized to the point that the composer had a soured and terrible experience working with this project.
There is even a lengthy japanese novelization made by a fan that can be found online, which speaks to the effect this game’s story had despite the game itself having at times near unplayable gameplay issues.
Thanks for the additional detail — there are a lot of good points in the story that I didn’t mention.