"Each shall rise to face their destiny" boasts this original Dreamcast release, which was later ported to the PC and Playstation 2.
The developer GameArts became a big console RPG fan favourite after the original Grandia was released for the Sega Saturn in 1997 and later for the PSX. That game boasted a very good storyline compared to what a normal console RPG storyline is like and a very nice, but rather typical battle system. Because of the original Grandia's qualities, Grandia II was a highly anticipated game to say the least, and when the first screenshots started rolling in from japan RPG fans went wild. In those screenshots the game looked absolutely wonderful and it looked like GameArts was sitting on a goldmine: another Final Fantasy franchise was in the works.
What Grandia II eventually turned out to be was pretty different from what I and many others were expecting. Because of Grandia's strong storyline, one would expect that some care would be put into making Grandia II an engrossing experience filled with wonderful characters that will rise to face their destiny, like it says on the box. One should not judge a book by its cover though, because the story is exactly where Grandia II fails. In the game you play Ryoudo, a young teenage boy who works as a Gehound, which is a some sort of Bounty Hunter, along with his trusty sarcastic eagle, Skye. Ryoudo has all the character traits of a typical console RPG hero i.e. he doesn't like contact with people and has a mysterious past. Soon Ryudo gets sucked into a 'save the world' situation where he has to recover some sword or the other to save the world from an evil force called Valmar. Along this path he meets some very forgetable characters that fight alongside him for justice, freedom and blah blah blah. The main female character is an extremely shy and religious girl with very high morals like all typical console RPG girls seem to be. This is the type of girl which would faint if somebody gave her a peck on the cheek so don't be expecting any anime sex in this one. All in all a pretty bad excuse for a story and probably the main reason the game wasn't as popular as it could've been.
Now you the reader must probably be thinking to yourself 'Boy, this game sure sounds like it's the horses rear-end', but in fact it's not that bad and where it glows it really does shine. Grandia II boasts some of the most wonderful graphics I have ever seen in a console game and the PC port is a very good one. Most of the music and voices are nice for a console RPG and the videos are very well done and colorful.
Where the game really shines though is through its brilliant battle system. Most console RPG's have a very typical random encounter battle system that becomes boring very, very quickly until you dread meeting another stupid monster. In this game, the battles are the moments you long for because they are so engaging and varied. First of all, there are no random encounters, which in my opinion is a very good thing. Instead you see all the monsters as your character walks around. If a monster touches you or you touch the monster a battle ensues. You can even sneak up on a monster and gain initiative for the fight. A character in a battle has a certain time between attacks based on his stats and so do the monsters. You can reduce the monsters time by hitting it a certain way which can be very rewarding especially when you are able to cancel its attacks at the same time.
There is plenty of magic and special tricks to mess around with and a lot of options when building your character, which is probably the single greatest thing in the game. You can give your character certain mana eggs and power up books that contain spells and certain character bonuses. After each fight you get experience, gold coins, special coins and magic coins. The special coins and the magic coins are used to power up the eggs, the books and the characters themselves, so there are a lot of character options to mess around with.
All in all Grandia II is a good game, but not a great one. It deserves a Top Dog status because it's one of the best console style RPGs available for the PC and because of its beautiful graphics and brilliant battle system. In my opinion only Final Fantasy VII and VIII are better choices for PC owners, not including all the emulated SNES and SEGA Genesis RPGs. For newcomers to the genre Grandia II is a good pick, because it's easy and very accessible. If only more thought were put into making the story and characters believable, the game would probably have been one of the greatest RPGs ever, but unfortunately you can't always get what you want.