Well. I'm done with the recent and latest installment to the previously legendary Grandia series, folks. I've had it for all of 2 weeks, so I think this may be the fastest run I've had for a regular-sized RPG.
I'll tell you folks right now.
I'm not happy.
(SPOILERS, BIG TIME, BUT I PROMISE I'M NOT SPOILING ANYTHING YOU'D ACTUALLY ENJOY EXPERIENCING)
I have a lot to say on this matter, so I will do my best to progress from least important factors to most important. Before that, though, I'd like to apologize to SquareEnix. See, I mistakenly blamed them for a while for how this turned out, since they published the game, but upon further examination, it seems the game was still DEVELOPED by Game Arts, which means that this is a betrayal of the worst nature. You can't really blame me for thinking it's all Square's fault, what with the SquareEnix Essential Shitty Pop Music Video beginning that they've been sticking into everything lately.
Okay, so, the game.
Starting off: Graphics. Grandia 3 has fantastic graphics, and its cinemas are great. I can't complain about any of them, besides the fact that the spell effects are incredibly dull and lackluster compared to the gritty yet awesome look of spells in Grandia 2. But overall, graphics are good.
And, of course, utterly insignificant.
Music. The music in Grandia 3 is mildly disappointing. A few remixed old themes can be identified at times, but overall, the tunes are lackluster background noise, acknowledging a mood but never emphasizing or creating it. There's maybe one reasonably impressive tune in the lot, the epic-feeling Guardian theme, but aside from that, dullsville. I have mentioned that the main theme of the game is some shitty pop music. It could be shitty American pop in nature or it could just be a convincingly-dubbed shitty JPop tune. Either way, I don't feel I can emphasize the word "shitty" enough when describing it.
General Gameplay: Honestly, I got nothing to complain about here. The way you walk around and examine stuff and all is very Grandia-esque, it's easy, it's straightforward. The only small problem is that the camera sometimes is stubborn at inopportune times, but it's not like in Kingdom Hearts where you're actually in combat when it starts getting wonky, so it's no big deal. Dungeon settings are all VERY faithful to the feeling of Grandia, as well, from looks to treasures to sound effects and so on. No problem there.
Although I really miss the little rainbow save pyramid things. Why the hell did they get rid of those? I liked them.
Odd Moment: Okay, seriously, if sheep are sacred animals that Dahna's people won't eat, why is there a large conversation over dinner about how delicious the mutton kebobs are in her town? Is the innkeeper just the heretic of the town or what?
Battle: For a long while, battles are standard Grandia fun. The Grandia series has pretty much the unquestionably best standard RPG battle system in existence, and it seems to return here. For a while.
Then Disc 2 happens.
Now I admit. I was not fully prepared for the upgrade in combat. The game gives you options to cannibalize your skill books and mana eggs for new spells and skills, and I mostly ignored this, just because I had yet to really need to do this. So when I went into Disc 2, I didn't have the skill to increase my attacks in combat, and I didn't have the skill to do extra damage to evil enemies. I'm sure things could have gone better if I had invested in these things. But I must emphasize that until that moment, I had had no difficulty, only satisfying challenge.
On Disc 2, Grandia 3 went from being a fun game to being a very realistic simulator of what happens when demons rape you. It is fucking BULLSHIT. These enemies are suddenly taking forever to beat, and even the groups of the weakest ones can total your team if you don't watch yourself very carefully. And there's this ONE fucker, this black demon velociraptor dude? Holy SHIT, people. This guy is a fucking DRAGON BALL Z CHARACTER. I went to get a treasure chest and he fucking APPEARED next to me. Like, you know in DBZ, where to save themselves from actually doing work the animators make fighters do Zwee-fighting, where they teleport all over the place with those little fwooshy black lines to indicate it? That's what this fucking thing did. It is a Zwee-fighter, and in battle, it is so fucking fast that you may find yourself wishing you could be allowed a turn after it's taken, like, 4.
And after putting me through fucking hell on Disc 2, the game decided to INSULT me next. Because, as soon as I was out of the demon level with the fucking zwee-fighting raptor men, the very next area is populated by completely harmless bunnies and sheep. I'm not joking. After showing me what it was like to take it up the ass from shadowy demons, I got to find my next targets to be defenseless grazing critters. There is something WRONG with this.
Plot. Now we're getting to the meat of an RPG. Only "meat" is too kind a term for this story. This is like a vegetarian burger. It doesn't even TRY to be a decent substitute for the real thing.
Grandia 3 has a plot so immensely cliche and unimaginative, I would be shocked if you didn't get a very bored sense of deja vu at multiple parts. For any part of this thing to strike you as new or interesting, you probably would have to have never seen an anime or played an RPG before in your life.
What gets me most about this plot is the fact that it seems to confuse itself. Like, you know in Chrono Cross and Robotrek and Xenogears, the plots got so ridiculously stupid and complex that the game itself seemed to be stumbling over itself to keep up? It felt like the game was getting just as lost in the inexplicable contrived nonsense as you were at times. Well, Grandia 3 is like that, only YOU can follow the plot fine because it's simple and dull as anything. But the GAME seems to trip over itself all the same, unable to quite keep up with how Alfina feels about her evil brother at this second, completely unable to even figure out what it's supposed to be about. Like...you know how most RPGs will have at least one very major theme to them overall? Popular ones include hope, love, heroism, and so on? Up until the very end of the game, this one doesn't seem to have the faintest clue what its main theme is supposed to be. You just sort of go along, hear a wail or ellipses out of Alfina regularly, and watch stuff happen without really even considering it all very much.
Finally, at the end, the plot seems to have sorted itself out and the big, booming voice of PURE EVIL gives you a hint by ranting for like 5 minutes about how it wants to destroy love. It's just like the writers weren't even sure where the hell they were going until that very second.
Don't let this sudden understanding of their own direction fool you, though--the ending is just as boring and pointless as the game itself. I'm not going to get into too many specifics here, both because you still might conceivably play it some day and because I frankly want to recall as little of this game as possible starting now. But man, it's a very bad thing when I'm so bored with a game that I barely can manage to pay attention to an ending so short in its pointlessness as this one.
Characters: Here it is, folks. The worst part of this game, by far. Let's start with the best and work our way down.
First off, there's Ulf, whose basic job in the party is to provide a body with a high attack power to fill space. His characterization seems to mainly be an interest in meat--which I can appreciate! But aside from a very mild comical presence, Ulf doesn't really do much as a character. Sadly he seems to be the least annoying of the whole crew.
Miranda: Okay, so this is Yuki (main hero)'s mother. Now, I'll tell you right here, I really liked this idea originally. I mean, it's pretty totally original for your mom to be tagging along in the party in an RPG. Not counting Ma-cha from Chrono Cross, because, well, she got the same amount of development that all the other characters did in that game (which is to say 0).
Miranda, unfortunately, doesn't really do much with her potential. For starters, her physical appearance seems to suggest that she had Yuki when she was 6 years old. This is only supported by her development, which emphasizes that she's more like a big sister to Yuki than a mother. It's like they copped out of their own good idea, really. The instant they finally start getting to any sort of characterization involving how she feels to watch her son doing all this crap and growing up and all, oops, she leaves! How convenient.
Alonso: Like Miranda, Alonso is a fairly decent older (read: not possibly out of his 20s) character. His most important contribution to the plot, though, besides bumming Yuki a ride on a boat, is taking Miranda out of the picture. Apparently they get together or something, for the simple reason that Plot Demands It.
Hey, they're ADULTS, there's no real need to illustrate any sort of real relationship for THEM, right? Just say it's there and it must be there!
Dahna: Dahna has three very important roles in Grandia 3. First of all, she has an angsty, mostly dull role as the wife of the semi-bad guy who ditched her because he wanted to dress in black and do zwee-fighting sword battles with the main baddie. This affords Dahna about 2 real scenes of character development, both of them sad (for her; you may not end up caring very much) and having her for the rest of the time just be the encouraging type. Second, she plays the important role of being the only person really decent with magic in the party. Thirdly, and most vitally important, Dahna serves the role of Tit Transport. She moves her monstrous mammaries everywhere you go, ensuring you always get the all-important sight of them jutting so far out that you'll sometimes wonder if they're not just slowly falling off.
Hect: Just some emo fairy with a violin. You'd think that sort of combination would be more interesting, but, well, it isn't.
Bad Guys: Okay, seriously, this is just stupid. First off, the main bad fellow, Xorn, is just some random big evil monster dude who wants to destroy all life. No reason given, no history, no real explanation as to why having him shoot a root straight through your skull turns you to glass instead of just, y'know, killing you via hole in your brain. Yawn.
Next, we have the sorta main bad guy Emelious. He is (GASP) the BROTHER of the main chick! This, of course, leads her to mumble "Emelious..." all the fucking time to simulate characterization. But man oh man. This guy is so lame, even fucking SEPHIROTH looks decent in comparison. Sephiroth, after all, went insane because he had issues with his parents, which is stupid and lame, but still better than Emelious. Emelious goes insane and wants to kill everything because he was born as a part of a destined whole. Like, the fact that he shares his destiny with his sister rather than has one of his very own is the reason he goes evil. Now, if that isn't just plain fucktarded whine-eriffic stupidity, nothing is.
His journey BACK from evil is just as idiotic, I might add, because it seems that the ONLY thing that is needed to convince him to stop his madness is his sister telling him she loves him. All of a sudden things are clear to him! He suddenly cares about her safety once more, which, I dunno, I would normally figure he'd come to realize prior to setting her up as a human sacrifice. But whatever!
Then there's his assistant. Man, I don't even remember this guy's name. He has like 5 minutes of screen time, betrays Emelious for some reason, then gets killed. Was he manipulating things the whole time? Did he just do the betrayal cuz it seemed like a good idea right that moment? These are questions that will never be answered.
Also, there is General Grievous. I don't know what the guy's name really is, but for all intents and purposes, he's General Grievous. Seriously. Voice, look, coughing problem (though Grievous never actually coughed mucus up all over his mirror), it's all the same.
Violetta is a chick in love with Emelious for no discernable reason. In fact, the only time the game gives us any glimpse of her showing any approval of a specific action of his, it's her being impressed with his willingness to just throw her and her cohort's lives away at a whim. I know that these hopeless bad guy fangirls don't usually get a terrific deal, but come on, this is just plain lame.
Finally, there's Kornell, who, I dunno, he just sort of bumbles around like the muscle-bound idiot he is. What I particularly like is how he pretty much just disappears after a while. Like, he's there one cinema with Emelious's bunch, and then, after that, he just isn't there any more. No last battle with him, no scene of him actually walking out. He's just gone. Forgotten from memory. Like Rowd in Suikoden 2.
Yuki: Yuki, the main hero, is basically a Miyazaki character rip-off. He's eager, he likes airplanes, his dream is to fly an airplane. Once Disc 2 starts up, he mostly forgets his life's dream of being a pilot and instead begins to experiment with creating a new language made up entirely of different ways to mumble "Alfina..." Sorta like Alex from Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete in that regard.
Alfina: And here is the number one reason to hate this game. Alfina is joining Shana and Rinoa in the Hall of Shame representing female game characters. Good. Fucking. God. If you've seen the recent Penny Arcade comic on Grandia 3, know that their portrayal of Alfina, while totally accurate, only scratches the surface of how infuriatingly moronic she is. She faints. She cries. She wails. She mumbles people's names with ...'s after them as though it were somehow meaningful to do so. She constantly needs rescuing and protection. I'm actually not sure which is more painful and cheesy--her absolutely fucktarded dialogue, or her voice actress's stuttering attempts at reading it. Her eyes are perpetually mystically sad (which reinforces the terrible acting), regardless of what mood she's failing to properly convey. She will not shut the fuck up about the temperatures of people's hands. And to top it all off, OH BOY, it's the GREATEST REPEATING JOKE EVER. You see, Alfina likes to cook for people, but, get this...she's not a very good cook. As you can no doubt imagine, this leads to all KINDS of hilarity which I'm sure no one in the world has already seen dozens of times already in less lame circumstances.
She is one of the most irritating, whiny, useless, crappy characters of all time, and I'm convinced that this whole game might have been salvaged if she had not existed.
But, as it is, Grandia 3 is a mediocre, uninteresting, yawn-inspiring pile of cliched boredom as an RPG. And as a part of the Grandia series? It is possibly the most disappointing thing I have ever experienced. More than Chrono Cross, the recent Star Wars movies, anything. It's like the exact fucking polar opposite of Grandia 2's immense excellence, and I would advocate the purchase of almost any other RPG in existence over it.
Okay. I'm done. I think.