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Grandia HD Collection Review

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Grandia is an RPG that was released way back in the 1990’s, 1997 to be precise, on the original Sony PlayStation. Grandia II then launched a little later, in the year 2000, this time on Sega Saturn and PlayStation 2. Both these games received critical acclaim at the time, and have been firm favourites with RPG fans ever since. 

Now, even though I owned the consoles in question, I never played these games back in the day (blame Square and Final Fantasy VII/VIII for that) but now I am in luck – thanks to Sickhead Games and GungHo Online Entertainment, for they have remastered and released both games onto Xbox, under the name of the Grandia HD Collection.

Promising to just give the games a graphical tidy up, without messing with the original gameplay and every thing that made them great, this sounds like an enticing prospect. Of course, if I had known just how big these games were…

Grandia HD Collection review 1
A brilliant bit of retro RPG action

Having two RPGs to cover here, both of them being quite large games, means the review will be delivered in quite broad brushstrokes, all in order to not get bogged down in the minutiae of the games.  We will begin with the story of Grandia, and while the narratives found in Grandia I and Grandia II aren’t linked in any way, there are similarities when it comes to gameplay. 

In Grandia, we play the part of Justin; a young boy whose father was an adventurer. It is he who left him a spirit stone that would go on to lead him on an exciting adventure, one that focuses on the finding of the Angelou Civilisation. The journey takes him to new continents and even beyond the end of the world!

In Grandia II, we play as Ryudo, a Geohound (a kind of mercenary that are looked down on in polite company), as we find ourselves caught up in an apocalyptic scenario. You see, Valmar, the lord of all that is evil, is attempting to make his way back to the world and take over. Of course, this would be a bad thing, and so Ryudo, with the help of various and sundry supporting characters, must put a stop to it. 

The two tales found in each game are really engrossing and you will come to care for the characters.

And so we move on to the presentation of Grandia HD Collection – again, it is also quite varied. Starting with the first game, the backgrounds of the levels we find ourselves in are drawn in 3D, but the character and enemy guys are made up of pixelated sprites; it does look a little old fashioned judging by today’s standards. Refreshingly, the camera is fully controllable, so you can see what is happening, and the battle screens and animations are all very nice as well. Grandia II, being a little later, uses the same kind of backdrop, but the characters and enemies have been updated to be made of polygons. They have that lovely retro look, where everything looks a little bit triangular. This is all very nice in action, and that same style is also carried over to the battle screen and the close ups of the victory poses which will really take you back. 

Grandia HD Collection review 2
Obviously there’s combat…

We can say that the sound and voice acting in both games is pretty good as well, as is the music. Come to Grandia HD Collection like a trip down Memory Lane and you’ll be well catered for.  

Gameplay is the standard that we would expect from an RPG, and both games have common threads here. Starting with the combat screens, Grandia is based around a timing bar at the bottom of the screen – when it is your turn to choose what to do, there are a few options to pick from. You can action a regular attack, which hits an enemy twice, and you can also do a critical attack, which hits once but can interrupt an enemy on their turn, at least if you hit them at the right time. There are also special moves and magic to use, as well as having the option to pick from healing items or offensive items should you wish. 

The way the battles play out works really well, with the move selection being chosen from a wheel that rotates until you have your selection in hand. Different moves take different lengths of time to pull off, and the longer the wind up, the more danger that an enemy will hit you and cancel the attack. The risk/reward mechanic found in Grandia HD Collection is bang on. Of course, enemies have the same weakness, and this, combined with the movement mechanic where you can actually choose to evade and run away from attacks, makes the combat still feel fresh today. 

The rest of Grandia HD Collection is very much as you would expect. There is a world map with various locations on it, and choosing one of these takes you into it to explore. And the enemies that you can fight are visible on the screen, so if you are feeling a little bit fragile, you can try to outrun them; but be aware, if they catch you, they will get initiative and attack first. Running straight at the foes, in contrast, will sometimes give you the advantage, and since you really need to level up to have any chance later on in proceedings, the smart money is on fighting as much as you are able!

Grandia HD Collection review 3
Best do as you’re told!

There are various things to find while exploring too and that means you’ll be able to keep up to date with new bits of kit that need to be equipped – such as amulets that provide wind protection, helpful against foes that use that element. There is no shortage of things to do in Grandia HD Collection in fact. You should however be aware that if you are coming from a modern RPG background, then you will fast discover there are no autosaves, so every time you see a save point, make sure you save. Otherwise you’ll find yourself repeating chunks of the game. Ask me how I know…

All in all, the Grandia HD Collection is absolutely brilliant value for money. Two full length classic RPG adventures are included in the package, and that means there are many, many hours of gameplay to be sunk in. Best of all, the prevalence of hints and tips on the internet (what did we do before this, eh?) means that both Grandia and Grandia II have a bright future on the Xbox. 

Grandia HD Collection may not appeal to everyone, but those drawn to it will find this to be a great package. 

SUMMARY

Pros:
  • Two huge classic RPGs
  • Lots and lots of things to do
  • Great stories to follow
Cons:
  • I don’t like the camera in Grandia II
  • Don’t forget to manually save!
Info:
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GungHo
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review), PS4, PS5
  • Release date and price - 26 March 2024 | £33.49
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Two huge classic RPGs</li> <li>Lots and lots of things to do</li> <li>Great stories to follow</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>I don’t like the camera in Grandia II</li> <li>Don’t forget to manually save!</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, GungHo</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One (review), PS4, PS5 <li>Release date and price - 26 March 2024 | £33.49</li> </ul>Grandia HD Collection Review
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