Having owned only two Dreamcast RPGs, Skies of Arcadia and Grandia II, I have often wondered which is better, and I always reach the same conclusion: the two games are hard to compare. Skies‘ number one failing point was load times. They are horrendous. All the while, Skies has a much better story. Grandia II is excellent with load times, but this advantage comes at a cost, which is simple graphics. Still, Grandia II shines with voice acting, FMV (full-motion video) cutscenes, and a brilliant battle system where you can delay and eliminate enemy attacks. They both belong on Dreamcast, though it’s nice to see Grandia II made it to PC as well. I still prefer Grandia II to Skies of Arcadia, different as they are.
The story is occasionally interesting, but generally boring. It has a lot to do with the church. Granas is like God in the game, although they occasionally call him Lord Granas. Valmar is the devil, and is called such in the text. Valmar becomes resurrected and dreams of filling the world with darkness. There is a priest who becomes corrupt, and a party member who has a Dr Jekyll & Mr. Hyde complex: She has a pure side that follows Granas named Elena, and a dark side that’s possessed by Valmar named Millenia. Pretty much everyone in your party speaks their mind about light overcoming darkness, but the game admits sooner or later that one can’t exist without the other. Voice acting is occasionally amateurish, but features real talent, like Jennifer Hale (from games like Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, BioShock, and more).
The game almost entirely progresses by visiting a town then a field or dungeon, then visiting a town, then a field or dungeon, ad nauseam. The field or dungeon is a lot of grinding, but the battle system is so good! I almost never got bored. You can see when your party will attack, and when the enemies will attack. If you time a “Critical” attack– within the attack time range – before the enemy has a chance to attack, you can “Cancel” the enemy’s attack, forcing the creature to wait again for a new chance at attacking. Some special attacks and magic attacks can also cancel enemy attacks, but it’s up to you to memorize this. What’s more, you can see your enemies in the field, and if you sneak up to them, you have initiative (more chances to strike before the enemy does). You can go an entire battle without the enemy getting a single attack on your party. It’s really cool.
As I said, the graphics are middling, which makes load times much faster, but we’ve seen better on Dreamcast. To the game’s credit, Dreamcast had excellent picture clarity and anti-aliasing, and I don’t recommend the later released PlayStation 2 version, because it wasn’t great at either of these things. There is a PC port released many years later, and it’s more or less the Dreamcast version. Just don’t forget, the PC version was ported up from the Dreamcast, and the Dreamcast version was not ported down from the PC. There are basically no enhancements on PC, with the exception of HD resolutions.
As much as Grandia II is a Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest copycat, it’s a pretty good one. You can get really lost in the menus for Special Moves and Magic Attacks, because they aren’t attributed to a character, but assigned manually. I didn’t do this on my first play-through. And by the way, this is the only Grandia game I’ve ever played. There is also Grandia III, Grandia Xtreme, and of course the original Grandia. I think that’s as much Grandia as the world needs.