Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 262021

Yesterday, I reached the end of my journey through Grandia, which I started back in September.

…September 2019, that is.

I didn’t play the remaster, but the original PS1 version available through PSN. I played it solidly for about a month, then took a break and didn’t get back to it until earlier this year. That long break is probably due to the game’s pacing.

Grandia follows a boy named Justin who wants to be an adventurer and who sets out to find the mythical city of Alent with the help of a mysterious artifact called the Spirit Stone. The main story deals with the search for Alent and Justin’s clashes with the Garlyle military leaders, who are also interested in Alent.

But that aspect of the plot often takes a backseat to adventure, with it largely being a story of Justin’s journey with his friends and smaller incidents they need to resolve along the way before they can continue.

So on one hand, Grandia has a slower, more relaxed pace for a good portion of the story… but on the other hand, there are almost no side quests (only a few optional dungeons late in the game) and you frequently reach points where you can’t backtrack to earlier areas, which somehow gives it this sense of a driving pace at the same time. It felt like the sort of story where I should be doing side quests, but instead I was always pushing forward into another section with minor plot progression.

That’s how it felt to me, at least, and that odd pacing is one of the reasons why I took a break for over a year.

The other reason is the dungeons, because Grandia is another game that used the philosophy of “just make everything a maze!” for its dungeon design. Trying to fully explore dungeons frustrated me, and when I came back after my break, I focused more on just getting through each dungeon and finding whatever side paths I’d happen to find.

Anyway, pacing and maze-like dungeons are my complaints, but now let’s move on to the positives.

Combat in Grandia is a pretty unique system. It’s turn-based, but the turn order is represented on a bar as characters and enemies slowly move toward their next action. Attacks slow down the target, and attacking right as they’re about to act can even cancel it. This gives it an additional layer of strategy where you’re trying to figure out how to delay your enemies’ moves.

I also really enjoyed the towns. Even though there aren’t side quests, there’s a ton of NPC dialogue that changes frequently as you progress through the plot and includes some pretty entertaining conversations, as well as worldbuilding.

From time to time, you also get special inn scenes where your party eats dinner. This gives you a chance to get optional dialogue from each character before continuing. I like those sorts of party interaction scenes, so it was a nice touch. The main cast is pretty likeable, too.

Overall, I enjoyed playing Grandia even though I had some issues with it, and I’m glad I finally came back to it. Grandia II is in my backlog, so I look forward to getting there to see how it compares!

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  4 Responses to “Grandia: An Oddly-Paced Adventure”

  1. I played Grandia as a kid and can hardly remember it but I guess I liked it well enough because I beat it without taking any big break. My brother loved it, but I do remember there were times where something about it was off-putting. I *think* I remember Grandia 2 being a bit disliked by my brother so it must be pretty different if I’m remembering that right.

    • Grandia 2 gets a lot of praise. I’ve mostly heard good things about it. I’ve also heard that it’s more serious, though, without that same lighthearted sense of adventure.

      Grandia 3, on the other hand, seems to be disliked by a lot of people.

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