RPG Review #133: Grandia III

NuMetalManiak Continuing along the Playstation I jump back into the Playstation 2 to play the third and final of the Grandia games: Grandia III. Again, like the previous games, there's barely any connection between them, but that's fine. That being said, I've already read reviews about this game being a disappointment, so my expectations were not that high. Surprisingly, this game has two discs. That being said, well, let's see what this game has to offer.

Gameplay: Those who are familiar with the previous Grandia games and their excellent battle system will find that the battle system here naturally takes after it. So in other words, this is the high aspect of the game. You've got your battle gauge, combo, critical, item, magic, and special moves at disposal, along with several hint pointers that may help when in trouble. New in Grandia III is that criticals and certain other moves now can launch enemies in the air, and if some other character combos the airborne enemy, this can create an aerial combo, or in some cases an aerial finisher. Also new is the magic, skill, and special point system. This more or less determines how many skills and magic a character can have equipped. One thing I have mixed feelings on, is how to get new special moves, as you just have to attack while at a certain special level or so to get a new one. And using that special move allows for secret methods, but it seems random whether or not that move can get its secret method or not. The other main issue I have is the apparent difficulty spike. How fast the characters move on the gauge tends to not be a stat that increases on level up, and needs equipment to raise more or less. Yet there are late-game enemies that for some reason, are incredibly fast on the battle gauge and can take several turns before other characters, really ramping up the frustration.

Navigation is slightly different than before. Characters no longer follow the main character on the field, it's just the main character going on the field. And in order to surprise enemies in battle, you press Circle to swing your sword to stun them, while they can surprise you by touching you from the sides or behind. The game does use Mana Eggs for magic enhancement, as well as Skill Books for enhancing skills. It's possible to burn or destroy eggs or books in order to extract the skills from them at their respective shops, and it's also possible to fuse Mana Eggs to make much stronger ones in order to get stronger magic early. It's pretty much necessary to do that as soon as possible, since magic makes all the difference in battles in the endgame. Oh, and you fly a plane in the overworld, which while neat and opens up the game quite a bit, is just okay at best. For some reason, Grandia III had a rushed development, so a lot of things were cut and there's actually not a single sidequest in the game. Sometimes sidequests can make all the difference. So this is fairly mixed, the combat remains good and other things are good too, but there's some frustration that was had. Grade: A-

Yuki: A young boy from Anfog Village who has a dream of flying airplanes. He apparently made several, but also crashed them all. In battle he's more of a Wind element, naturally, and wields a sword.
Miranda: Despite her young appearance, Miranda is actually Yuki's mother. Yet she looks and is treated like a big sister to Yuki, who doesn't even call her "mom". She fights with knives but also does not stick with Yuki for long.
Alfina: The main female lead, who's more of a cliche magical girl archetype whom the protagonist, Yuki, has to save every time. She has a brother Emelious, who's one of the villains, and cries an awful lot. She wields a staff in battle and is more proficient with magic of course.
Alonso: A ship captain and a gambler, he's somehow been stuffed in a barrel when you first meet him. He's an older character, but likes to portray himself as a ladies' man. He wields a spear in battle, and eventually falls for Miranda.
Ulf: A tough kid who is actually a member of a dragon riding clan. His pet dragon is Shiba and he also is a Fire elemental character. He's the best physical attacker and wields a morning star.
Dahna: A village chief and a wielder of tarot cards, she's the most proficient character in magic and has a past with a mysterious character who is often met.
Hect: A fairy-like character from a place called Terrarium, she's a mysterious woman who plays her violin in sorrow, but gets encouragement from the rest of the group and joins after Alfina is captured. She's proficient in magic and wields a baton in combat.

And aside from them, well I did mention a brother named Emelious, who's one of the villains, a man corrupted with power and wants to resurrect the main bad guy Xorn. Aside from them, there's also Kornell, a rough tough general who gets hilariously called out by Miranda, Kornell's partner Violetta who loves Emelious, some General Grievous-looking character called La Ilim, and some unfought guy with a red beret. Strangely aside from Emelious these characters aren't really memorable. Also present are these powerful Guardians who are beasts that Alfina, a Communicator, comes into contact with. Yuki's ambition of flying is inspired by a man named Schmidt, whom he eventually meets and gets help from. The characters overall have their own little niches, but the more I played, the more they resembled characters from previous Grandia games. Which is actually not a good thing. Grade: C+

Plot: Well, let's see. Grandia III's biggest problem may actually be its plot, because it sort of shifts focus from one thing to the next. The idea that Yuki wants to be a pilot is one plot in itself, and his constant failures are proof that he's still trying to reach that goal. The planes in this game require flight units, and once Yuki gets one from his house, he does manage to fly. Only for a little bit that is. First off, Miranda, his mother, somehow new he was gonna fly and snuck onboard his plane, then the other half of the plot, which involves Alfina, comes into play. In an effort to stop her attackers, which includes Kornell, Yuki crashes his plane again.

They find Alfina and manage to keep her safe from Kornell and his goons. Alfina is to go to Arcriff, which is actually her home. Yuki and Miranda promise to take her there safely, and along the way they meet Alonso, who has a gambling problem and was stuffed into a barrel. Although he loses his next gamble, he also knows that his opponent is a cheater, and he and Miranda work out a ruse that makes them win so that the group can leave the area by way of Alonso's own ship. They encounter Ulf and Shiba who let them know about Captain Schmidt, and that they need an offering. On their way, some sort of "Versphere" sucks both Alfina and Yuki in, where they find a strange world, but after talking to Hect they return. They make their way to the mainland, where Yuki wants to go see Captain Schmidt. Although initially reluctant, Schmidt helps him with his plane, and then there's a tearful goodbye as Yuki says his goodbye to Miranda and Alonso as he and Alfina take to the skies with his brand new plane.

Arriving at Arcriff, Alfina fulfills her role as a Communicator and talks to Gryph, however things go completely wrong as the corrupted Emelious shows up and beheads Gryph with this HUGE SWORD. Then, chaos ensues as lighting rains down, suddenly petrifying and becoming weird roots and destroys the entirety of Arcriff. Yuki and Alfina escape just in time. Yuki then gets Ulf's help with another offering to fix his plane, and they then go to Dragon Valley to speak with Drak, the Guardian of the valley. Afterwards, they go to see the next Guardian, Yoat, which is also where Dahna helps the group. They beat Violetta and Kornell and gain Yoat's power. Afterwards, they go to the Verse Realm, which ends Disc 1.

Disc 2 starts in Terrarium, Hect's hometown. The place has been in incredibly bad shape, with the surrounding environments and even some residents being turned permanently into glass, while the Verse Realm monsters continue to roam the depths. The party then meets Hect, who reveals her history with Emelious and Raven (Dahna's lover, a mysterious black swordsman). Emelious became corrupted, with Raven trying to stop him, and that's more or less been the plot we've been witnessing. Hey, remember when we were talking about flying with Yuki? Yeah, I missed that. Anyways so they leave the Verse Realm and fight La Ilim who runs afterwards. Then they meet the next Guardian, Seiba. Unfortunately this Guardian is also beheaded by Emelious (Yoat and Drak were apparently also killed offscreen). Alfina loses her consciousness, but recovers. Next they meet the final Guardian in a sky castle, a dolphin Guardian named Unama, and gain her power. This is when they attempt to go above the clouds to Surmania, this lost city once run by the corrupted Guardian Xorn. They battle Violetta, La Ilim, and finally Emelious, but Alfina is captured and the roots of Xorn cause destruction to the world, turning living things into glass as it does.

In what is a darkest hour of sorts, Yuki and his group crashland in an icy area, where he does meet his old friend Rotts along with Schmidt, and he attempts to fly again even though Xorn's roots have pretty much removed power to the flight units. First attempting a glider, then deciding to come into contact with Schmidt's old plane. This is Yuki's final plane though, and then goes right to the Xorn shell with Ulf, Dahna, and Hect, in order to stop Xorn and rescue Alfina. She of course joins for the final battle, not after Emelious has the realization of what he had been doing wrong. Emelious also sacrifices himself and his large dragon into the belly of Xorn before the main party has to defeat him. It seems senseless, and Alfina once again cries for her brother, but the battle is won. The epilogue shows that the world seems to be fine, and that Yuki and Alfina are married with one kid now. And of course, this kid dreams of flying.

Well, let's see, the first plot with flying was easy enough, but the idea of Guardians being met and also dying by Emelious while he's being corrupted seems to be sort of cliche. There's a number of similarities between the plot of Grandia III and the previous Grandia games, which sort of brings this one down quite a bit. Grade: B-

Music: The main theme of Grandia III is a song called "In the Sky" a pop tune by some pop artist named Miz. It's...okay I guess? Hardly has much of a connection with the second half of Grandia III's plot by then though. Other themes are okay, there's the overall ambience heard in most locations, and there's different battle and victory themes which I can appreciate. But a lot of them sound a bit like the other games and aren't as impressive as they ought to be. Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B-

I really should modify my Grandia II score for that game since I gave it a B- too, even though it is at worst an A. This B- is probably the best grade I can give Grandia III though, because let's face it, this game was disappointing. Its battle system remains good, but the difficulty spike sucks and the plot just sort of happens as you go. No sidequests either.