Sunday, May 29, 2011

GRANDIA

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Grandia
Developer - Game Arts
Publisher - SCEA
Release date - October 26, 1999

Grandia is a role-playing video game, developed by Game Arts and published by ESP Software for the Sega Saturn console as the first game in their Grandia series. Initially released in Japan in 1997, the game was later ported to the PlayStation in 1999, with an English version of the game appearing on the platform in North America in the following September by Sony Computer Entertainment, and later in Europe in 2000 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 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.

Story
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 (Murren) and Mullen's love interest Lieutenant Leen, make their way to an archaeological 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 woman 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.


Characters
The story centers around Justin (
ジャスティン Jasutin?), an aspiring adventurer from Parm. He lives with his mother, Lilly (リリィ Riryi?), 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 (スー Sū?), a friend from his town who acts as a surrogate sister to Justin; Feena (フィーナ Fīna?), a seasoned adventurer and Justin's idol; Gadwin (ガドイン Gadoin?), a valiant knight who mentors Justin in the way of swordsmanship; Rapp (ラップ Rappu?), an ill-mannered youth from the village of Cafu; Milda (ミルダ Miruda?), a feral giantess who, despite her volatile nature, has a sweet side, particularly for her husband; Guido (ギド Gido?), a traveling salesman and chieftain of a diminutive, rabbit-like clan called the Mogay; and Liete (リエーテ Riēte?), 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 (バール Bāru?), 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 (ミューレン Myūren?), a tactician who is well liked by his subordinates. Alongside him is his aide-de-camp, Leen (リーン Rīn?), a young soldier who has gained a special place in the military for reasons unknown. Nana (ナナ?), Saki (サキ?), and Mio (ミオ?) 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.


Gameplay
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 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 midpoint 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.


Development
Grandia was developed by Game Arts over a period of more than two years beginning after the release of the company's previous role-playing video game title, Lunar: Eternal Blue for the Sega Mega-CD. The project, headed by producer Yoichi Miyaji and directors Takeshi Miyaji and Toshiaki Hontani, was also originally intended for the Mega-CD system, but was shifted to the Saturn early in development due to Sega's abandoning the platform. According to a spokesman for Game Arts, Grandia was created as part of the company's on-going effort to "provide consumers with good games rather than try to follow market trends", opting instead to create a product that would tell a compelling story catering primarily to their existing fanbase. The Saturn version was released in December 1997 exclusively in Japan, along with a special Limited Edition for those who pre-ordered the game between October 25 and November 30, 1997, which included a fold-out cloth map of the Grandia world, as well as a mini radio drama disc featuring voiced scenes from the game. In November 1998, Grandia was re-released in Japan as the Grandia Memorial Package, which featured new instruction booklet artwork and a lower sales price. Sega of America had commented that they had no plans to bring an English version of the game to North American audiences on their system, which prompted an online petition originating on the role-playing game fansite LunarNET designed to alert the company of consumer interest. Despite gathering several hundred signatures in only a few days, as well as promotion from gaming website GameSpot, the Saturn version was never released internationally.

In March 1999, Game Art's Japanese publisher ESP Software showcased a PlayStation version of Grandia at that year's Tokyo Game Show expo, along with confirmation that the game would be released in English for the first time in North America by Sony Computer Entertainment America. Working Designs, which had previously worked with Game Arts on bringing their Lunar games to the region, had expressed interest in publishing the game, but were ultimately unable to secure the rights. New features for the PlayStation version included support for the system's DualShock analog control sticks and vibration function, as well as compatibility with Sony's Japanese-only PocketStation peripheral, which allows players to download game data on a portable device for use in a special mini-game. Although the company had expressed interest in bringing the game to the PlayStation as early as 1998, technical problems originally prevented the title from being ported to the system. Game Arts was later able to release the game with a slight loss in frame rate and a marginal decrease in video effects the following June. The North American version was originally announced by Sony as a summer release during the 1999 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, but was pushed back to the following October. Grandia was later released for the PlayStation in Europe in 2000 by Ubisoft.

Nearly ten years after Grandia's release on the PlayStation, Game Arts announced in April 2009 that the game would be released as a downloadable title on Sony's PlayStation Network service in Japan in celebration of the resuming development on the company's long-dormant Grandia Online project.


Audio
The music for Grandia was written by Noriyuki Iwadare, who had previously worked with Game Arts as composer for their Lunar series on the Sega CD. Iwadare was called upon to write the music due to his relationship with the company, and claims that his work on Grandia was "a turning point in my career", and described the music-making process as "very interesting". Grandia's sound team utilized the "latest technology" available at the time to create the game's background themes, included the game's main theme, "Theme of Grandia", which was composed by Iwadare in just one night after looking at an illustration for the game. In addition to music, the game also features voice acting during battles and certain story scenes, with the Japanese version featuring a number of anime and video game veteran actors. Two of the English version's main characters, Justin and Gadwin, were officially left uncredited. "It's the End" by Japanese rock group L'Arc-en-Ciel, from the band's 1999 Album Ray, was used as the game's official commercial theme song during its re-release on the PlayStation.

In December 1997, selected music tracks from the game were released in Japan on the Grandia Original Soundtrack by King Records across two discs, which were organized as "Orchestra Side" and "Synth Side" according to the type of instrument samples used to compose them. A follow-up album, Grandia Original Soundtrack II, was made available in June 1998, containing an additional two discs of music not featured on the previous album. One year later, in June 1999, a compilation album entitled The Best of Grandia was released by Twofive Records containing some of Iwadare's favorite music from the game, including a never-before released track, "Pavane". Iwadare also produced a special arranged album called Vent: Grandia Arrange Version, with "vent" (IPA: [vɑ̃]) being the French word for "wind", which Iwadare chose because it "carries the image of cool pleasant wind". The album was released in February 1998 by King Records and contains 12 arranged tracks, which Iwadare designed to be "an album, which people would listen at leisure on Sunday mornings".

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