|Grandia (Japanese: グランディア, Gurandia?) is a role-playing video game developed by Game Arts originally for the Sega Saturn console as the first game in their Grandia series. Initially released in Japan in January 1997, the game was later ported to the PlayStation in June 1999, with an English version of the game appearing on the platform in North America in the following September by SCEA, and later in Europe in March 2001 by Ubisoft. The game was produced by much of the same staff who worked on the company’s previous role-playing endeavor, the Lunar series, including producer Yoichi Miyagi and music composer Noriyuki Iwadare. Since its release, Grandia has become notable for its combat mechanics which have been carried over to future games within the franchise, and has spawned two spin-off titles – Grandia: Digital Museum and Grandia: Parallel Trippers – both released exclusively in Japan. In celebration of the announcement of renewing development on Grandia Online, which acts as a prequel to Grandia, the game was re-released on Sony’s PlayStation Network platform in Japan as a downloadable title in April 2009 and in North America on February 25, 2010. It was re-released in Europe on November 10, 2010.
The game is set in a fantasy world of emerging technology and exploration. A young boy named Justin inherits a magic stone that leads him on a journey around the world to uncover the mystery of a long-lost civilization. Along the way, he meets other adventurers who join him on his quest, which draws the attention of the militaristic Garlyle Forces who seek to uncover the secrets of the past as well. Grandia received a largely positive critical response during its original release, and was voted by readers of Japan’s highly-circulated Famitsu magazine as the 73rd greatest game of all time in a 2006 poll.
Grandia’s environments are depicted as three-dimensional maps, with characters represented by 2-D animated bitmap sprites. The camera is fully rotational and follows the party from an angled third-person perspective; it is often necessary to rotate the camera in order to see hidden items or passageways.
Grandia features a rotational party roster. The statistics of each party member increase each time they gain a new level by defeating enemies and earning experience points. Characters learn new abilities through the repeated use of weapons and spells. Once a particular weapon/magic spell is used a number of times in battle, its Skill Level is raised. Weapons are divided into different classes, including swords, maces, axes, whips and knives. Each party member’s potential abilities are listed on a Skill screen within the game’s main menu, as well as the Skill requirements that must be met in order to learn them. The game encourages players to periodically switch between weapons. When a weapon or magic element levels up, permanent stat points are added to that character as well. For example, when a character’s water skill levels up, they also receive +1 HP as well as +2 MP.
Monsters in Grandia are visible on the field and wander around aimlessly until the party gets close. A battle begins once the monster touches a party member. If the player manages to sneak up on the enemy and make contact from the rear, they gain a preemptive strike and attack first. Likewise, if an enemy touches the a party member from behind, they get the first strike. Combat is shown from a third-person overhead view. The IP bar at the bottom right corner of the screen displays a row of icons, which represent all party members and enemies on the screen. When an icon drifts to the mid-point of the IP Bar, that character can choose their next action. The IP Bar also shows the time it takes for enemies to attack; if the party manages to land a strike during the period where an enemy is preparing an attack, that enemy’s attack is canceled.
The story centers around Justin, an aspiring adventurer from Parm. He lives with his mother, Lilly, in their home in the upstairs floor of their family-owned restaurant. Justin’s father vanished years ago on an adventure, and his mother is worried that he will try to follow in her late husband’s footsteps, yet Justin, a romanticist, insists that there are still uncharted parts of the world, despite general perception that the “End of the World” — an insurmountable stone wall found on a newly-discovered continent — has closed the book on the age of adventuring. Other characters include Sue, a friend from his town who acts as a surrogate sister to Justin; Feena, a seasoned adventurer and Justin’s idol; Gadwin, a valiant knight who mentors Justin in the way of swordsmanship; Rapp, an ill-mannered youth from the village of Cafu; Milda, a feral giantess who, despite her volatile nature, has a sweet side, particularly for her husband; Guido, a traveling salesman and chieftain of a diminutive, rabbit-like clan called the Mogay; and Liete, a mysterious woman who contacts Justin inside the Sult Ruins. She resides in an ancient space station and serves as a living database of an ancient civilization.
The game’s main antagonist is General Baal, the calculating leader of the Garlyle Forces. Despite appearing to be involved in the excavation of ruins for purely philanthropic reasons, he has his own agenda. His son and second-in-command is Colonel Mullen, a tactician who is well liked by his subordinates. Alongside him is his aide-de-camp, Leen, a young soldier who has gained a special place in the military for reasons unknown. Nana, Saki, and Mio are three female commanders who are each assigned their own squadrons. Despite their best efforts, they often bungle important missions, particularly if Justin happens to be involved. Each one of them has a crush on Colonel Mullen and outwardly show their jealousy of Leen as a result.
Grandia is a set in a fantasy world where societies thrive in an era of increasing technological developments following the collapse of the ancient Angelou civilization centuries before. General Baal, leader of the militaristic Garlyle Forces, along with his son Colonel Mullen and Mullen’s love interest Lieutenant Leen, make their way to an arcaeological site where treasures of the ancient people are believed to be resting. Justin, a young boy keen on adventure who lives in the port town of Parm just outside the dig site, travels to the area along with his friend Sue to investigate, as well as gather clues about an artifact left by Justin’s missing father, the Spirit Stone. Slipping past the Garlyle soldiers into the ruins, Justin finds a holographic device that displays the image of a women named Liete, who tells him that his stone holds great power, and he must travel far to the east in search of Alent, the ancient city of knowledge, to learn of its true potential. Returning home, Justin avoids his mother and sneaks out to the docks early the next day to board a ship bound for the New World across the ocean while promising to become a great adventurer like his father.
Aboard the ship, Justin discovers Sue has stowed away, and meets with another young adventurer named Feena, who joins the two in saving the vessel from a haunted ship that appears in a fog. After a long journey, they arrive in the town of New Parm only to have Feena become kidnapped by the town’s mayor, who wants her as his wife. Stealing her away, the three travel to a nearby ruin where they once again meet Liete deep inside, who tells them that Alent lies further within the New World beyond a massive continent-spanning wall known as “The End of the World”. The Garlyle Forces intercept the three as they travel farther, and question Justin on his ability to manipulate ancient machinery within the ruins. Escaping their capture aboard a military train, the three make their way to a village at the foot of the great wall, where it is revealed that Leen is Feena’s long-lost sister. Resolving to continue their journey, the team make their way up the wall, setting up camps along the way before eventually reaching the top, gaining access to the remainder of the continent on the other side.
Making their way through a forest, the three meet Gadwin, a beast-man and seasoned knight who sees potential in Justin and leads the three to the ancient Twin Towers in order to contact Liete again. After being intercepted by the Garlyle Forces once again, they make their escape, only for Sue to fall ill as they near another village. Fearing for her safety, Justin leaves Sue in the care of the villagers and continues onward with Gadwin and Feena to the bounds of the continent and yet another ocean. Taking Gadwin’s ship to another island, Justin and Feena begin to express their feelings for one another. Landing on a beach outside a beast-man village, the three meet Rapp, asks them to help destroy a nearby tower that is emanating a dark energy and petrifying the land. Finding the tower to be controlled by the Garlyle Forces, the team meets with Milda, a beast-woman, inside and join her in destroying the source of the corruption, which turns out to be a plant-like creature known a “Gaia” being grown by Garlyle researchers under the orders of General Baal. After destroying the creature and taking a sample of its seeds, Justin is confronted by Leen who steals them back. Moving forward in search of Alent, the party meets a traveling merchant named Guido who leads them to his home town, where he acts as chieftain despite his young appearance, allowing them access to more ruins. It is here that Feena discovers innate magic powers that manifest in the form of wings when she is in trouble, and is promptly captured along with Justin’s Spirit Stone by invading Garlyle soldiers and taken aboard Baal’s flagship, the Grandeur. Baal reveals to her that he intends to revive a fully-powered Gaia using the stone to take over the world and remake it to his own design. Justin, Rapp, and Guido manage to board the Grandeur and engage the Garlyle troops aboard before confronting Baal. Due to the self-destruct mechanism being activated by accident, the ship starts to fall apart, and Guido and Rapp end up getting separated from Justin, leaving him to face Baal alone. The general forces Justin to hand over the Spirit Stone by threatening Feena, but Baal keeps her hostage anyway. Justin therefore is forced to fight Baal, but learns during the fight that the madman had fused with Gaia. He knocks Justin off the burning ship, but Feena breaks free from Baal and dives after Justin. The Grandeur subsequently breaks apart in the air, apparently taking Baal and the Spirit Stone with it.
After reuniting, the party finally reach Alent. Here, Justin meets Liete in person, who reveals to him that his stone is actually an ancient artifact forged by the Icarians, a race of powerful sorcerers who lived during the Angelou era, and was a gift to the humans who lived at the time to use as they pleased to bring prosperity, but when they became corrupted by dark desires, it instead gave birth to Gaia, who nearly destroyed the world. The Icarians sacrificed themselves to save the planet and humanity, and enacted a spell that two of their kind would be born into the world should Gaia ever be revived, destined to also sacrifice themselves to save the world until the next revival in an endless loop. Realizing Feena and Leen are the current revival of the Icarians, Justin sets off to save them from the Gaia-fused Baal, who now faces mutiny among his troops, including his son Mullen. With Gaia proving more than a match for the entire Garlyle army, Leen accepts her destiny and sacrifices herself to lower his defenses. Although Mullen pleads with Feena to finish Gaia, Justin argues that the problem can’t be solved with more sacrifice since Gaia will just revive later. Thus Gaia must be defeated outright to end the cycle. Though Gaia defeat the troops and spreads its corruption around the planet, Justin able to sum up the courage to face the evil with help from his friends, and travels to the underground heart of Gaia itself to destroy it and the Spirit Stone once and for all. With Gaia defeated permanently, the world experiences a new age of peace. Leen is also restored to life with Gaia’s destruction. In an epilogue ten years later, Sue, now a teenager, re-unites with Justin and Feena who arrive home after nearly a decade of adventure, with children in tow.