Nine things I noticed while playing Grandia II Anniversary Edition

Grandia II is a classic. Whether you were on team Sony, Sega or PC, there’s a good chance you played this JRPG back in the day. When GungHo Online Entertainment sent out a survey asking what Game Arts titles people would want to see again on PCs, it was the most requested game. Yet, as much as people may love and remember, there are things that might have been forgotten in the years between its 2000 Dreamcast debut and this Grandia II Anniversary Edition PC remaster.

I loved this game. I played it on the Dreamcast and PS2, and this marks my third journey with Ryudo, Elena and Millenia. Despite my familiarity, there were still things I noticed when coming back to it 13 years later.

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1. Grandia II has some seriously impressive lighting.

Look at the shadows in the Grandia II Anniversary Edition. Those are beautiful. You know a while back how everyone was talking about that guy who bought Wii U games, then talked about how the water looked in them on Miiverse? Somebody needs to do that with this game and its shadows. I want to see a Tumblr full of screenshots of various scenes, showing how the lighting varies indoors, outdoors and as time passes.

2. Let me skip the exposition. Please, let me skip it.

I have played Grandia II before. As I mentioned earlier, this is my third time. I know how the story goes. I’ve read all of the words in the text box, I promise. Don’t make me move at the same pace as the voice acting.

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3. PETA should have been all up on Game Arts.

Ryudo is making Skye, some sort of eagle, carry him to safety. That bird is one-fourth his size. Maybe a third at most. This is clearly animal abuse. If PETA gets upset about Pokemon and Mario’s tanooki suit, then the organization should have been mad about Skye being forced to carry Ryudo around.

4. Grandia II‘s English voice acting isn’t really that bad.

I mean, most of the main party’s performances are passable. Perhaps even better than that. Ryudo and Elena, the two characters we have to listen to the most, are quite good. We’ve certainly heard worse in a JRPG. It’s better than the voice acting in Valkyrie Profile, another game released around the same time.

It says something that Grandia II can still hold up in the modern era, when many companies bring in people like Christopher Lloyd, Ellen Page, Freddie Prinze Jr. and Nathan Fillion to star in their games. The English voice acting here isn’t extraordinary, but that some might choose it over the optional Japanese track says something.

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5. Skye is a pretentious jerk.

This game has good voice acting… except for Skye. Skye has a terrible voice actor. Listen to your voice, Skye. Think about the things you say in the game. You are in no position to judge people. Especially since you are not people. You are a bird. Know what? I take back number 3. Skye deserves whatever he gets. His behavior is probably why PETA was okay with Ryudo manhandling him.

6. Grandia II has above-average keyboard controls.

Ideally, you should be enjoying Anniversary Edition with a controller. That’s how the game was meant to be played, and this release does offer gamepad support. But if you do have to play it with a keyboard, it isn’t the end of the world. It works better than you’d expect. Of course, having a turn-based battle system helps.

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7. Games that let you save anywhere rock.

You have to remember that Grandia II Anniversary Edition is a game from another era. This was from a time when you couldn’t save anywhere you liked. You had to wait for specific points. I wish I could say those were the days, but being able to make a record of your journey at any time is much better.

Next time you’re talking to your kids or someone under the age of 20, fire this game up. “Remember when I told you we couldn’t save whenever we liked? You didn’t believe me. Well, see for yourself!” As an added bonus, maybe they’ll then believe you the next time you say you had to walk 20 miles uphill, both ways, in the snow to get to school every day.

8. Grandia II has a great turn-order indicator.

Grandia II Anniversary Edition has an active time battle system like the Final Fantasy series. Characters’ speed statistics determine how fast they can act in battle, with certain status effects altering their pace. Icons representing your party members scroll along the bottom of the bar, and enemies’ icons run along the top.

The closer the images representing participants get to the right, the sooner they’ll act. Once an icon hits the COM line, you choose commands for that character. That action will then be carried out when it gets to act. Say I have Ryudo inflict a critical hit, instead of a standard one. If it doesn’t defeat the enemy, it will push it further to the left and delay its action. If I have him use a combo when it looks like the enemy is about to act, he might counter and take no damage.

In short, it’s easy to understand and pretty great.

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9. There’s depth hidden in the campy goodness.

Most of the items on this list have been rather fluffy. I was easing you into the more substantial revelations. There’s a lot to this game hidden behind what appear to be standard JRPG tropes and lines like, “Excuses and women are equally tiring.” At a time when most games were about a young man and his friends saving the world, Grandia II dared to do things a little differently.

This game followed a group of people forced to go through the motions of resurrecting Valmar, an evil god. It’s hardly a heroic mission. It challenged the notion of someone being totally good or absolutely evil by placing Millenia, the personification of the wings of Valmar, inside the body of Elena, a songstress from the Church of Granas. It added twists to familiar archetypes, and the character development for Millenia in particular is one of the game’s highlights.

Grandia II Anniversary Edition is immediately available on both GOG and Steam. It is temporarily $14.99 until August 31, at which point the price will go up to $19.99. Play it again and see what you notice 15 years later.

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