Grandia is a classic JRPG series that has been remastered to bring it to the modern platforms. Grandia HD Collection is the product of GungHo Online who has attempted to make an authentic port for these games. Grandia 2 is a port of the PC version while the first game was never remastered. Those who have played it know that the Saturn version is considered the best version but sadly it was not used for this new port.
Grandia HD Collection features the first two games in the series. Grandia 1 was released back in 1997 and it was considered a revolutionary JRPG of its time. The game had a gorgeous sprite-based art style and a classic combat system that mixed the active time battle system mostly known in the Final Fantasy series with its strategic twist. The story and characters were also fleshed out well but the game failed to gain a wider audience.
Grandia 2 is a sequel that brings in a new protagonist and changes the art style. It has a much darker tone than the first game but retains the classic battle system. Ultimately, both of these are excellent JRPGs that offered a very fun battle system. It is incredibly satisfying when you end up picking various enemies in battles. The layout of the battlefield, the turn-based combat, all rely on the timing of attacks that can be executed in battle. It is entirely possible to make the enemies avoid attacking altogether if you pick the right moves.
Grandia HD Collection could have finally made these games release in a state that was more fitting for the modern platforms, but the effort so far is flawed. It has many bugs including game crashing and audio bugs that end up making it more of a hurdle to play the game. What’s surprising is that some of these bugs weren’t even present in the original game, making it all the more confusing on how they slipped quality control when making these ports.
The first problem that is immediately noticeable when you play the game on a big screen is that the remastered assets don’t help much in improving the dated look of the game. The game has been smoothed out with filters that end up messing the original art style for Grandia. This is less of a problem for the sequel which opted for a different style but in the first game, it feels like you are just emulating the original with some filters.
In many of the classic JRPGs, the pacing used to be slow. Square Enix has countered this in their modern ports by offering the choice to use some quality-of-life features like speeding up battles or skipping dialogue quickly. These are not present at all in the Grandia HD Collection thus making it look like a barebone port without any new additions. This is an issue when you play both games as the dialogue tends to move very slowly making you sit through a long wall of text just to get through a key story event.
Thankfully, dual audio has been implemented for this collection so those who hate the English dub can enjoy it in the original Japanese with English subtitles. Still, the audio bugs are quite bad and can end up messing with the game’s experience. These should be patched as soon as possible. The remastered assets are also highly inconsistent which is more noticeable in the first game where the sprites have a smoothing filter applied to them. This filter doesn’t get applied to every character so it stands out a lot whenever you encounter this issue.
Both of these are lengthy RPGs that could take between 30 to 40 hours for the main story. It is possible to complete them in an even shorter amount of time if you can manage to ignore the side content. The story, unfortunately, suffers from the same issues as most of the JRPGs of its time where a small narrative is expanded into a large game with a lot of artificial padding. The thing that helps improve the journey is the writing, which is pretty good for a JRPG that was released in the late 1990s.
Nintendo Switch offers the best way to experience this collection with its portable mode. The visual flaws hide when you use the portable mode as the character sprites scale nicely to the resolution of the handheld screen. The game is also fit well for portable play due to its slow pacing. There are still issues with progress getting wiped due to game crashes so if you are lucky, perhaps you can have a much better experience.
In the end, if you have played Grandia in the past, this collection still needs some time to iron out the many isuses. If you have never experienced the series, it is not a bad way to get introduced to the cult-classic battle system of Grandia which is supported by a fantastic cast of characters.
The first game still maintains it charm today but I wasn’t particularly fond of the sequel. The characters and the story feel like they are better written in the original but the sequel takes a different tone. Overall though, the combat system is the highlight in both of these classic JRPGs and it is the most important aspect in any RPG.