Grandia II

Preview - Game Arts finally make good on their promise to convert this much-loved DC RPG to the PC, but will they stop there?

Rigid

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In retrospect I'm not sure 'low-res' does it justice...

I say 'remake', but honestly it's little more than a straight conversion at this stage. Granda II for the PC will join the recently released PlayStation 2 version on store shelves more than twelve months after its original Dreamcast release, and based on a quick stomp through the game things have hardly changed at all. In fact, although the visuals looked relatively snug behind the generous anti-aliasing effect of the average TV, they seem extremely archaic in this context, and the character animation in particular could do with a few more frames. Effects like water, trees and landscapes all seem fairly unexciting now, when they were vaguely impressive before, and the cutscenes - explosive in their realisation on the Dreamcast - appear in low resolutions and fail to impress. But like the rigid Final Fantasy PC conversions of yore, Grandia II is a console-style RPG for PC gamers, and it provides a welcome release from the hackandslash-style adventure that PC users have been subjected to without variation for quite some time, and the endless monotony and barren landscapes of massively multiplayer online RPGs. This is a content-laden adventure for PC owners who want to lose themselves to an RPG again. And of course as far as the wife's concerned, this is just some work you brought home with you.

Premise

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Super-sharp images - this is one for those new-fangled anti-aliasing video cards

If you missed Grandia II the first time round, the basic premise is thus. An apocalyptic battle between Valmar (baddie) and Granas (goodie) 10,000 years ago has ripped a great trench out of the surface of the continent Surisen, and it now divides the world in two. Since nobody can bridge the giant rift, known as Granacliff because good triumphed over evil, the two civilisations have grown apart, but find themselves eerily bound to the myth that the trench leads straight to hell. The heroes of this particular adventure are Ryudo and his trusty eagle Skye, who both sound particularly hammy thanks to the game's over-the-top voice-acting. Ryudo is a GeoHound, which means he's a mercenary and bodyguard for hire, and the game begins with his being assigned to protect the lovely Elena. Elena is a singer and apprentice priestess at Granas Church, and as you may already have guessed, we haven't seen the last of Granas and Valmar and their respective influences. Before long the group is plunged into difficulty, and the adventure begins in earnest. Grandia II gameplay consists of many dungeons and turn-based battles, much as you might expect, and although these can become fairly laborious after a while, it's possible to avoid battles by simply skirting round enemies whenever you encounter them. At the end of each battle you partake of, your party earns Skill Points (SP) and you can use this to improve your character attributes. The game also has its fair share of magic, which becomes available depending on skill levels and the like.

Conclusion

Grandia II was a fairly impressive RPG on the Dreamcast - certainly enjoyable - and stands to do fairly well on the PC and PS2. The only thing we're a touch concerned about is the rigidity of the conversion. In the preview copy of the game we played, there wasn't even an 'exit' button, meaning that we had to tap Alt-F4 to escape. Nevertheless, there's precious little else to satisfy PC gamers of those console RPG yearnings, so it's one to look out for.

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