Gung Ho / Game Arts - Tested on the Nintendo Switch by denda and DocOwer in 2019
After more than 14 years after the last part of the main series of Grandia saw the light of day, the "new" owners of Game Arts, Gung Ho, released Grandia I and II as a HD collection on the Nintendo Switch console. Grandia II had been released in an upscaled version already on Steam prior to the release of the collection.
Grandia is a series we value a lot here on rpg-o-mania, and just as a reminder how the original games of this collection fared, at the end of the article you can find the original reviews here:
As the games have been rereleased and slightly upgraded (whilst being as original as possible), it's time to take a closer look at the games. The overall rating of the individual games does not change, so we take a closer look on the remastered version itself.
This assessment of the collection has been written by user denda of the German Maniac-Forum after finishing Grandia I on the Nintendo Switch. He wrote such a great review that I asked him if I could use his review instead of writing one myself.
I really expected a lot - nothing less than one of the best JRPGs of all time. After 45 hours of gameplay, the credits rolled and I can really confirm that the game is everything what I hoped - and expected - it to be. Well, in fact I didn't really expect it to be that great! And most of all: It aged tremendously good!
Okay, it has some bad pacing and lengthy dungeons towards the end, and it is a bit slow on the story side near the end of the game - but that's to be expected as it is almost typical for this genre (although this is not really an excuse). But overall, the pacing of the game is done excitingly well, especially considering when the game had been initially released and how games were stupidly repetitive and pacing was a concept not known yet.
In Grandia, during most of the game, the developers really thought about the right ratio of dungeon exploration, story sequences and city strolling. Only sometimes this is managed not so well, like about in the middle of the story and towards the end. The impressive pacing at the beginning of the game does not keep up at that level for the whole game. Some of the dungeons were increasingly complicated and focused on confusing architecture, a little less would have been more. It's a great idea by the developers that the camera can be zoomed out a bit to have a better overview - a great gimmick that helps in staying oriented. The latter maps, however, are so complicated that not even zooming out helps a lot anymore. This is something that Grandia II does way better.
Curiously, some aspects of the visuals have aged better in Grandia I than in Grandia II. Many of the spells in Grandia II are videos that overlay the general visuals, and being in such a low resolution, they just look horrific nowadays, since they haven't been upscaled since the Dreamcast version and there is no added detail in the videos. Even worse is this considering that the videos already looked blurry on the Dreamcast, which just makes it worse on high definition screens. Since spells and visual effects in Grandia I are done in the in game engine, they look pretty good in higher resolutions - some of them look really good to be honest. I was really positively surprised how beautiful this look some times. Also the sprites look good, and some of the animations are really the best I could imagine. Fabulous!
The visuals in its current form are absolutely acceptable, and what's more important: Their composition looks really well put together. The way how the sprites are smoothed didn't bother me. And the rough look of the polygon visuals has some style to it (if you can't really say "style" about this kind of rough visuals) and even offers some pretty moments. At least it helps creating enough atmosphere so that the various places look authentic. For me, the visuals didn't make the game any worse to me - and that's nothing that could be expected given the age of the console Grandia I originated from. The game also runs on constant 30 FPS, which is way better than the stuttering remaster of Grandia II on this collection.
The soundtrack is just wonderful in Grandia I, it offers some variety and shows more creativity than Grandia II's soundtrack. All of the characters are very likeable, a few exceptions given. Grandia I is lighthearted and this is so thrilling and motivated me to play along - in contrast to Grandia II where the story and atmosphere is extremely dark at times. Both parts have a feeling of adventure to them, which makes Grandia about the only series that have such an atmosphere to them.
Please don't misunderstand me - Grandia II remains one of the best JRPGs for me that I have ever played - it's vibe is more grown up and darker and it makes some gameplay mechanics easier. On the other hand, some of the game gets a bit too easy because of that.
The combat system is about the best for me in any JRPG. Grandia I's progress system is a bit thought-out for me (albeit more obscured like learning new moves, enhancing attributes by leveling up skills, progress in the magic system and so on). Everything just works perfectly together and there are not so many items that nullify MP and SP consumtion, like Grandia II did.
In Grandia I, players get better in moves and actions they actually perform. On the other hand, this means that leveling up neglected moves, skills or attributes can get a bit tedious if you want to level them up later on. This is quite some disadvantage for the players and too much of a chore.
This progress system has been completely changed in Grandia II, for better or worse: Players level up with general "SP" and "MP" which you get by beating enemies. The ratio of SP and MP depends of the enemy type. You can use these points freely to increase spells or specials - completely independent of how much you used them. This makes the game much easier, but also a bit blander.
In Grandia I, I especially loved the humor - it was charming and tasteful.
The general game speed (which is an extremely important aspect for me) sets the Grandia series ahead of any other JRPG: Dialogues in Grandia I are fast and not annoying at all and all of the spells and specials are done so quickly and focused that I was able to enjoy every moment and never felt bored. Especially given the age of these games, this can't be taken for granted. Grandia II is a bit slower if compared directly, especially many of the spells are incredibly slow and the animations can't be cancelled.
I could write so much more, but that should be enough for now. For Grandia I alone, purchasing the collection has paid off for me. It easily earned its place in my top 3 JRPGs. It's a great game with a legendary reputation - and it's absolutely not overhyped.
Grandia II has definitely more technical problems on the Switch than it had on the Dreamcast. Fights tend to run at 60 FPS, but as soon as there is a bit more action going on, the framerate drops drastically, even if there are not so many enemies on the screen. What makes this worse is that the game speed is linked to the framerate, so the gameplay slows down considerably and seems to be played in slow motion at times. This is not acceptable at all.
Frame drops in cities and dungeons are limited and the game flow gets better as the game progresses. But the frame rate never reaches the level of the Dreamcast original - which is harsh, given the price of the collection. If you plan to buy the collection just for Grandia II, you should know about these problems - the game is playable, but not as fun as it could be.
DocOwer's comments about Grandia 1
After some months, I eventually decided to buy the Grandia HD collection on my own and play Grandia again since I loved it so much the first times I played it on the Sony PlayStation back in 2000.
I think the basic principle of revamped and smoothed textures, the game screen opening up to the sides so that it works on 16:9 screens and the upscaled sprites look pretty good per se.
This is a pretty good image to show off how Grandia looks in the collection. It is fine for the most part, and fits the overall style of this game well. So the foundation was here and the game could be very promising, but the actual work done was done rather sloppy.
When the HD remaster of Grandia came out, one of the main boss themes was desynced and sounded just horribly. Also, in some parts the widened screen revealed some unfinished polygons and open areas or just black backgrounds where should be sky or buildings. And some sprites haven't been reworked and looked still pixelated.
Some of the mistakes have been corrected with a patch, but the worst and most ugly thing remains. Some of the bigger sprites are not completely put together, with some pixels of empty space between their tiles. This looks awful, especially since it also affects one of the heroes and the final boss.
In the end, for me, it felt a little as if the whole port was done hastily, even if it shows respect and love for the original game.
The original rating for the collection was 80% and got the "classic" plaque, but even if there was some effort made, the overall quality of the port is not good enough to be called "classic".
This rating has been created based on denda's remarks and experiences by DocOwer.