An adventure is not always a great adventure.

For the two of you that read this blog, and myself included, it’s safe to say that we are not kids anymore. We have long pass those times of carefree days, we are older, and certainly not as excited about the world we live in as we might have been when we were younger. We are more aware of the uglyness of the world we live in, not to mention the one that habits in a lot of people in that very same world.

Japanese rpgs, as well as many books and movies, have a fixation with stories about kids, not even 15 year olds, but even younger than that. Kids going out to the world and explore it, getting into quests that will change the fate of their world, and all that jazz. It makes sense that these stories will appeal to anyone around that age group, but what happens when we get older? When we are certainly more aware that going out in a “big adventure” wouldn’t be a walk in the park, not to mention that is just not easy to sympathize with a lead character that is still facing puberty, and can’t think of anything else beyond “GEE IM GONNA BECOME A GREAT EXPLORER/PIRATE/ADVENTURER!”.

I can see why japanese rpgs love to tell this kind of stories, and have been using them as their template for such a long time, who wouldn’t like to be on a long adventure, exploring exotic locations, meeting colorful characters? I can also see the emphasis in using young characters in these kind of stories, but again, it’s no the what but the why that makes the difference. You may have the locations, the adventures and what not, but if you’re not making any of this interesting at all, what’s the point? Where’s the excitement in the adventure?

The first Grandia is a game that follows the “kid on a big adventure” template step by step, we have our lead character, a young kid called Justin that wants to be an adventurer just like his dad. His mind is on one track the entire time “i’m having an adventure and that’s all that matters” and hardly changes at all during the course of the game. Going along for the ride is Sue, a little girl who was written in full “kid with an attitude” mode. She’s energetic and always with a sharp comment towards anything, and she fancies herself as some sort of beauty. There are other characters coming along the ride, but these two are the main focus of the game. The story revolves around another ancient forgotten civilization, an empire/army trying to exploit the resources/tools of said civilization, and a magical stone that Justin has which belonged to his father. The stone has something to do with this ancient people and thus the reason he begins his journey.

All that sounds fairly average stuff, and the game just plays it all by the numbers. There’s a race of humanoid/animal people that are “in contact with earth”, there’s a good looking-with-honor villain, a girl adventurer/love interest for Justin and other stuff you come to expect if you had played enough rpgs in your life. Not a problem with this, but once you have seen the same thing so many times it’s hard to get excited, or that interested, in another story of more of the same, just with a different moustache. Justin is as one dimensional as it gets, he talks about nothing else besides “the adventure”. Talking about the adventure, considering that he has never gone outside his hometown and faced real danger the story is never interested in showing Justing struggling in any possible way with his quest. He does everything not like the amateur explorer he is, but like a seasoned one that never gets anything wrong. There’s no struggling involved, no learning curve for him. All that could had added a bit of texture to the story, it doesn’t have to be nerve-wracking story, but some actual sense of danger could actually make things more engaging. The rest of the cast is no more different, and overall there’s no real strong character anywhere to be found. Maybe Justin’s mom, but she gets very little to do or say.

The gameplay is certainly the real meat of this game, thanks to it’s dynamic pacing the battles deman plenty of attention from the player. It’s a rough sketch of what would become the more polished combat system of Grandia 2, but it has aged quite well neverless. Both your characters and the enemies share the same bar of actions, once it gets to a certain spot is the turn of either your party of the enemy. Deciding which course of action to take is vital, because everyone is moving on the battlefield, and trying to attack an enemy way too far from you can be a fatal decision. You have either two type of meele attacks to choose from, critical, or combo, apply the right one at the right moment and you can cancel the action of your enemy. Each character also have their own special attacks, as well as magic attacks. If there is anything that is a bit dated is the inventory, each character can carry an specific number of items, anything else needs to get stashed in a box that you can access near save spots, just like the old Resident Evil games.

If there is something that the game is doing as good as the battle system is the presentation, the towns are very detailed, and the dungeons well designed. There’s not much to do in terms of side-quests, or any particular secrets to discover within the towns, that said, the NPC’s have some humours talk to offer, and give the towns plenty of life. The overall flow of the game is just the right one, neither too fast or too slow. The soundtrack is ok without being particulary memorable, a bit generic at times, but nothing that could bother you, unless you’re really very picky with the music.

All this in consideration, Grandia is not a bad adventure, but it just feels like a rather “tame” adventure, a “been there, done that” type of game. I don’t mind a more of the same if it’s actually well done, and really trying to have an identity of it’s own. We are talking here about a 13 year old game, but there were other rpgs already out at the time with far more ambitious stories. It is safe to say that, thankfully, japanese rpgs have progressed more from what many give them credit for. With the Shin Megami Tensei series raising the bar for both writting and gameplay the genre, the genre is far from staying in a swamp of conformism. As for what it is, Grandia stands as game of it’s time, both for it’s good and bad reasons. If you can get hooked with the combat then you will be fine with this, but it’s not a must have, and if you are curious about trying this franchise, just go straight for the second game.

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3 Responses to “An adventure is not always a great adventure.”

  1. Justinzero Says:

    Nice review dude!

    I have the same problem with RPG’s now, which is probably why I’ve been into the Western side of things for a while. The only Mature JRPG I can think of is Hentai games, and those are usually dumber than most of the stuff coming out on consoles.

    Still, I can’t hate on a game who has a main character named Justin.

  2. ECM Says:

    Me either. But I can hate a man named Justin.

  3. The Wanderer Says:

    There is good stuff being made these days in terms of japanese rpgs: the megaten series, sting games, Valkyria Chronicles, Demons Souls, as usual is a matter of choosing well. I think that now that we have more experience with the genre it makes sense to be more picky about which games we want to play.

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