Grandia III – PS2 – Preview

With dreams
of becoming a successful pilot, Yuki watches in awe as his hero takes flight.
The unnamed man is the star of what appears to be a documentary on flying.
He’s shown going through the trials of building a plane, his first of which
fails. He was a child at the time, destined for greatness and destined to
inspire others to follow in his footsteps. As he lay flat on the grass, he
clenches his goggles as a large bird passes. The shape of the bird apparently
gave the aspiring pilot an idea, and in the next scene we see him soaring to
the finish line during an aerial race. We see him save a damsel in distress,
and make it out of a rainstorm unscathed.

The view
changes and we see Yuki, the star of this adventure, wide-eyed and overly
eager to take flight. Fast forward ten years or so and the boy is all grown
up, ready with a new plane and as confident as ever. Though flying is
important, that’s not what this game or the story is about. An underlying evil
is eager as well, but it has nothing to do with the skies. With little
explanation as to why and no history explaining how, Yuki is thrust into
battle and manages to defend himself. Miranda and a long-eared mystery girl
named Alfina make up your preliminary party. You’ll have to wait till the game
is released to learn about their story.


III’s graphics are extremely surprising. Long-time fans of the series should
remember the first two Grandia games as being some of the most visually
impressive RPGs of their time. This new one comes at the very end of PS2’s
lifespan. Games will be made for it after 2006, but the best games will
undoubtedly appear on PlayStation 3.

That’s why –
despite the series’ grand history – Grandia III is so surprising. I
couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I began to explore Grandia III’s
world. The characters are purposely quirky and don’t look particularly
realistic, but if that’s not your thing it’ll be forgiven the moment you step
outside. Every town/village is populated by the most beautiful architecture.
Unique homes and shops have a great fictitious appearance to them. They’re
realistically detailed but do not look like something you would see on
modern-day Earth. The combination of bright colors, mood lighting, water, and
trees that fill the screen add to the feeling that you are in a fantasy. It’s
not Final Fantasy, but in fact a grand fantasy all its own. 

Players will
be especially impressed by that fact as soon as they get their hands on the
combat. It’s turn-based as most console RPGs are, and its core mechanics are a
lot like the genre that was more or less started by Final Fantasy and Dragon
Quest. There are some differences that prevent the game from feeling like
filler – a journey taken only to tide you over till FF XII arrives – turning
the game into a faster-paced adventure that’ll engage players from the start
of the first battle.


One button and the left analog
stick is all you need to make your selections. I know what you’re thinking,
and I wasn’t exactly blown away by this revelation either. Though I was
intrigued by the circular thing on the top left corner of the screen. As it
turns out that’s a battle meter that tells you exactly when you, your
teammates, and your opponents can attack. The beauty of this handy invention
is being able to time your attacks and strike at precisely the right moment.

In other
RPGs you can’t be certain of when your opponent will attack and may be
slaughtered at any time. [Cue the dramatic music; lead into triumphant
victory song.
] Since you know when your opponent will attack in Grandia
III, one strategy is to wait for the enemy’s meter to approach the point where
he will strike. Then, just before he makes his move, attack! This not only
deals damage but it also stops him from completing his life-threatening

Combo, Critical, Item, Strategy,
Flee, Defend, Special and Magic are the options listed in battle – Critical is
the one you want when trying to stop an enemy from attacking. Combo, which
allows your party members to attack with weak consecutive strikes, might work
some of the time. But if a monster is about to unleash a special attack, you’d
better preempt that move with a Critical hit.

Battles are
as fun to watch as they are to fight thanks to the array of large, Final
Fantasy-quality spells. Massive explosions, colorful fireballs, enormous
earthquakes – these are just a few of the exciting spells you’ll get to cast.


Call in sick, pack your bags and
kiss your family goodbye; Grandia III’s February release date is almost here.
You’ll be addicted to the gameplay, amused by the characters and enthused by
the music for quite some time. It’ll be hard to take your eyes off the
scenery, which has thus far made this the most graphically rich RPG since
Final Fantasy X. Be impressed. Be enamored. Just make sure you’re ready to be
owned by this game on February 15th.