It's been a long wait between Grandia titles, but the latest in Game Arts' fan-favorite RPG series has finally arrived. The good news is that Grandia III retains the great gameplay that's been a hallmark of these games, with a fun and dynamic battle system that makes every encounter strategic and fresh. The bad news is that the story's a bit uninspired, and the game itself doesn't last very long. Despite that, the experience is still sustained well by its character interactions and enjoyable combat, and it's a nice option for role-playing fans looking for something unique.
Yuki just wants to fly the friendly skies, but of course the world would have to be in peril. Pleasure cruises have to wait.
Young Yuki is a boy thoroughly wrapped up in his dreams of becoming a great pilot, soaring the open skies just like his idol, the dashing Sky Captain Schmidt. It's taken him a number of different models and lots of tinkering, but he's finally settled on an airplane design that he's sure will carry him off his native Titalos Island and into adventure on the mainland. When he tries to leave, he runs into two problems--for one, his devious mother, Miranda, stowed herself away on his plane, pushing it over the ideal weight limit. For another, he happens to fly over an elf-eared young lady being pursued by mysterious assailants. He can't just leave the poor damsel in distress; and besides, his overburdened plane crashes anyway. The girl is Alfina, the last member of the Communicator bloodline. Communicators are those individuals gifted with the ability to receive the words of the mighty Guardian Gryph and relay them to the people of the world. As it turns out, Alfina's older brother is a bit of a troublemaker, and instead of assuming his place as Communicator, he'd rather try to murder the Guardians and take over the world. This just won't do, of course, and Yuki and company move to stop him, earning some extra comrades along the way.
There's not a great deal of exposition into the background of the various characters, only a number of disjointed allusions for you to put together about their varied pasts and their motivations. They're pretty chatty with each other, though, and by the end you develop a good sense of their personalities and an affection for them. There's a fair amount of speech going on, and while it's decently delivered, some of the script is just awfully hokey. There's a lot of discussion about dreams and freedom that sounds like it's being read from an RPG self-help seminar. There's a good amount of other interaction to help balance that out somewhat, though, including lengthy discussions over meals and some battle interactions.
The IP gauge may look like a mysterious device, but it's surprisingly easy to adapt to.
The battle system itself is very similar to that in previous Grandia games, and the mechanics continue to hold up extremely well. When you enter a fight, you'll see a circular meter in the upper-right corner of the screen called the IP gauge. Icons representing each of your characters and each enemy present then slowly rotate around the gauge, passing through three phases. The first is the command-entry area, where enemies and allies will determine their next action. The second is the command-execution area, where you'll have to reach the command line to actually carry out your attack. The third area is a sort of waiting zone between the other two. The trick to Grandia's battle system is that attacking enemies will serve to delay their motion on the gauge slightly, and if certain special attacks hit people during the execution phase, you can actually cancel an enemy's attack altogether, knocking their initiative way back. Fights then rely on the delicate balance between your characters' turns, your enemies' turns, whether or not you have any special or critical attacks at your disposal when your foe's planning to smite you, and so forth.