Grandia II was released in August 2000 in Japan for the Sega Dreamcast. It follows the same template as the first Grandia game, except this time with full 3D graphics (the first Grandia mixed 2D and 3D). And – as Grandia II was made by many of the same people who made the first game – it’s not surprising that it’s similar.
The Grandia “template” is: real-time exploration; turn-based combat; spinning, ring-like menus; Initiative Points and a timeline of events in battle; linear conversations; simple puzzles (well, not always that simple); and constant grinding.
You play a “Geohound” (a sort of samurai for hire) called Ryudo. Ryudo starts the game at level ten, with a paid job: escorting the daughter of a local priest to a tower for a ceremony. Of course: everything goes wrong and evil is unleashed and you’re thrown into combat very quickly. Combat is turn-based in essence, but does have an element of real-time-y-ness to it. Like most level-grinders, you mostly get a choice of physical or magical attacks, although – to give the game its dues – it does have features that make the combat varied and interesting. Firstly: you can acquire these things called ‘Power Eggs’ that you can equip on certain characters to utilise their magical powers. What is unique and interesting about these is that it means you can swap around a suite of magical abilities between your party members. Individual characters can also ‘equip’ skills too, which unlock more advanced abilities, and these are interchangeable among your party members too. The only thing is: these special skills and abilities are rationed through the procurement of ‘Special Coins’, which are earned only through combat. So Grandia II‘s gameplay is highly geared towards grinding. Which is fine because the combat is quite lovely.
Grandia II is way better than the first Grandia – in my opinion. Presentation-wise it beats the first Grandia hands down, which you’d expect because the Dreamcast is so much more capable than the PlayStation. Gameplay-wise, this sequel also feels much more refined than the first Grandia. The story and dialogue – while not Shakespeare – are actually quite funny in places. Game Arts were obviously trying to make a game for the slightly older gamer (late teens/early twenties), what with the mild swearing in it, but that’s by-the-by. Grandia II is probably the best RPG on the Dreamcast and a classic still worth playing now. And it’s still available on GOG.com!