Hey guys, I spent many hours this weekend finishing Grandia 2 off (DC), thought I'd give you guys a mini-review just in case you're interested in playing an RPG and would like some guidance on which one. I liked the first Grandia an awful lot--it was a charming game with great graphics (for the 32 bit generation, esp. on the Saturn). What I liked most of about it were the characters and the sense of adventure the game is so successful in imparting. I honest-to-God actually wanted to *see* what was over the great wall. Anyway, that was the first one. So as you can see, I had great expectations for the second. GRAPHICS Oh, the graphics are great! Don't let the opening scene and the first town fool you...the graphics in Grandia 2 are the nicest I've seen for RPGs, especially the towns. The towns are definitely Grandia 2's claim to fame in terms of graphics...it's unmatched by anything else I've seen. The attention to detail, the character, the colors, etc. The battle areas however, are only average to above average. My biggest complaint is Ryudo's character design...I really don't like it very much at all. He looks cheesy and...well, dorky. I give the graphics 4/5. They're nice enough. SOUND Some very nice tunes, some annoying tunes. Definitely above average, and you gotta love the main theme. I'm not sure I like Elena's theme song very much though (the song she sings at Mareg's village). GAMEPLAY I usually divide the gameplay of RPGs into two areas: battle and story; story because it is such an integral part of RPGs. First the battle system. It's great and it's probably the closest thing you'll have to a 3D fighting game type of system. Basically, moves have execution time in terms of when you input the action and when the move hits. Your characters have it and so does the enemy. Thus it is possible to actually counter the enemy (and to be countered) if you manage to hit the enemy while the enemy is executing the attack. You can even cancel it with a critical attack or a special attack. When you hit the enemy, the enemy "stuns" (i.e. it's guage does not move), giving time for your friends to gang up and hit the enemy some more. The battle system also makes use of movement and spatial attacks. You can run around and your positioning makes a great difference. Some special/magic attacks have a circular damage area, some are a straight line, some hit all, some hit one, etc. Essentially, the bottom line is that Grandia's battle system has many concepts we fighting fans are familiar with and are miles away better than anything else out there, FF included (haven't played PDS yet, so can't comment on that). I have no big complaints about Grandia's battle system; the only minor one that i have is that I wish there was more variety in the special attacks (Tenseken and Flying Tenseken? Woo-hoo). The magic attacks were on the whole good; some animations were annoying but none were excessively long (AHEM FF8). Most look great, although only a few were outstanding. What you guys will probably like most about G2 is that there are NO RANDOM BATTLES. Battles are incurred when you meet enemies walking around that you can see. Thus you can avoid them if you want and enemies are finite in a given area. If you're like me, I hate to explore without knowing what's there; I'm always afraid of missing something. G2 fits this personality perfectly because you can clear the area first (and built up your stats) and then proceed to explore at your leisure for treasures. Oh wait, I DO have a big gripe with G2's battle system, but that's mainly the battle areas. G2 is just not much of a dungeon crawler at all; the vast majority of the levels are very straightforward, no brain required stuff. It has the requisite switches and stuff like that, but they are laid out in such a way that it's impossible for you to miss it. Very linear stuff. The ironic thing is that because there are no random battles and enemies are finite, Gamearts should've made the stages/dungeons much more difficult, in a mental puzzle-solving sort of way. Anyway, aside from those things, the battle part of G2 is fine. Ahh, now the story, the first Grandia's strongest suit. Unfortunately and ironically, the story, the presentation of the story and the flow of the plot (and thus the flow of the game) are G2's greatest weaknesses. The story is not strong in plot. There's just not very much in there to make you want to keep going forward, to make you want to see what happens next. There are so many ways in which I thought they could've made the pull stronger by making things more suspenseful...I can't think of an idea right now off the top of my head but there were many instances throughout the game where I thought: "OK, they could have really built suspense here if they did this instead of just showing/telling us that." That sort of thing. The second annoying thing about the story is that its full of themes and morals...way too many. It's excessive to the point where you feel like the game is made for some naive 12 year old; its mish-mash of messages just makes the point of the story way, way waaay too confusing. You should never have more than 2 or 3 key messages, and G2 has half a dozen. Sure, the themes are related, but reality often works that way and good storytelling does not drown the reader. One thing I really, really liked about the first Grandia was the extensive dialogue and character development. Grandia 2 has extensive dialogue...but unfortunately it's mostly predictable, one-dimensional and repetitive dialogue. After you speak with one townsperson, yuu practically know what the rest will say. It really discourages you from bothering to talk to everyone, which is in direct contrast with the first Grandia, where I would take the time to talk to all the characters in the game. Also, the main characters do undergo change and the usual emotional trauma, but the thing is that the characters are also very predictable. They are very much run-of-the-mill, cut out of cardboard stereotypes. You just know how they're going to change. OK, I'm exaggerating, since the description applies mainly to Ryudo, Elena and Millenia. Tio, Mareg and Roan are more interesting. Mareg especially, since he embodies G2's driving theme. Overall, the story of the game is very disappointing. A somewhat interesting ending does save it a bit, and the game story does start of strong, but the middle bit really kills it. Probably the biggest complaint that can be leveled at G2 is that it just doesn't feel "epic" at all...as the player you feel you have very little control, and there's just not much of a "world" to explore (at least not in the Skies of Arcadia sense). The battle system is great, the story under-performs, but enough of the good outweigh the bad. I give the gameplay 4/5. For the "casual" RPG looking for an easy time, G2 is a great choice. And boy is the game easy. I only got 3 hits from the last, last boss. I only had a character dead twice, the first time because I was lazy and didn't bother to cure and the second time on the last boss (first form) that was surprisingly strong. Seriously, my characters were just too damn strong towards the end of the game, but then again, when is this not true for any RPG (Emerald and Ruby Weapons excluded).