Monday, October 01, 2007

Grandia

I've been putting my old PlayStation through its paces again of late. Even went so far as to give it a good cleaning, buffed the stencil of the super-deformed Ultraman off, & even purchased an extra controller + an extra memory card for it.1

PSX


2 games, both previously uncompleted in an prior age, caused me to dust off PSX & add it to the existing spaghetti factory1 behind the teevee: Final Fantasy Tactics & Lunar 2: Eternal Blue Complete. Having recently vanquished Lunar Legend on the SP, I was reminded that I DID, afterall, still have a save file for Lunar 2. I did fire the game up, but then found myself completely w/o interest in actually going steady w/ it about 2/3rds through the 1st combat.

Fat has been, on & off, here + there, for the last year or so, sung praises of Final Fantasy Tactics Advance when I would kind of whine about needing something new to play.3 I kept countering, "but I have Tactics for PlayStation!" I'd also gotten it in my head to start seeking out games by developer publisher, namely, Atlus. Then I discovered two things:

1. Atlus developed published a bushel of games for the PlayStation, mostly RPGs + strategic RPGs. Which is fine by me.
2. These games fetch a premium price in the online marketplace.

I have yet to acquire any of these Atlus titles, tho' I have dropped the previous ideal of only buying old games complete w/ case + manual. I did, however, grab MakenX, the only U.S.-released title Atlus did for the Dreamcast.4

Anyway, I'm putzing along through Tactics, enjoying myself, & then, one day, Fat calls me, + tells me he's at his Goodwill staring a glass-case full of PSX games. We proceed to do this phone analysis thing where he goes through what's in his hands & I use the web a bit to figure out if they're worth having or just total crap. I end up settling on Alundra 2 + Grandia out of the available titles, though retrospectively Alundra2 was a mistake & I should have dished out the extra wing-wangs for Wild Arms 1 AND 2.

Grandia had me w/ the opening movie. This is something that does not happen much anymore, since opening movies, like game trailers, tell you a lot about the game's windowdressing, but jackshit about the actual game. However, Grandia's opening movie told me one thing for sure: that the game had a style heavily cribbed from Hayao Miyazaki. Specifically, elements of the worlds present in Nausicca, Castle in the Sky, and Howl's Moving Castle. As a quick reference, I would reference 3 points as being Miyazaki-influenced: (1) airships, (2) a somewhat industrial revolution/steampunk atmosphere, and (3) the main characters are children.

Justin from Grandia

The use of children as main characters is a peculiar trait of JRPGs. There's a certain idealism (and, I think, some very Miyazaki-ian whimsy) to the idea that CHILDREN can leave home and travel in a world of adults, heft real weapons, kill monsters, transverse the globe, and Save the Fucking World, all the while being TAKEN SERIOUSLY by same adults.5

Hell, in Grandia the lead, Justin, wants to go 'adventuring' in the 'new world,' and his ex-pirate mom, who, delightfully, enjoys hitting Justin in the head w/a frying pan, LET'S HIM! So he get's on a steamship, w/ the little 10 year old orphan from next door, and away they go.

Grandia also features what I now realize is one of my favorite mediums: 2 dimensional sprites on a 3-dimensional rendered background. You then use the left & right triggers to rotate the map while still being able, if you want, to move the party w/ the d-pad. Xenogears is also done in this way (albeit somewhat better), although I'd never realized how key this was to me enjoying Xenogears until I experiencing the same setup in Grandia.

The combat system is also uniquely refreshing. You still issue commands to each party member when its their "turn," but then characters physically run around battlefield to make their attacks, as do your enemies. The character then does not simply return to their point of origin. No two-lines-facing-eachother rubric here! This system was a little disorienting the first few times, but quickly became delightfully chaotic, as when everyone's actions overlap nicely all sound f/x blur into the din of battle! Nice!

-d.d.


1 Also MISSED the opportunity to buy one of those 4-way controller splitters so you can play the Crash Bandicoot racing game w/ 4 players. I don't actually own the Crash Bandicoot racing game, nor do I have 4 controllers, but I'd keep an eye open for it if I had the 4-controller add-on.
2 Speaking of cable + cord spaghetti, I must recommend the
Digital Press site. Its not necessarily the best, but those giant Sears catalog-esque game guides look pretty sweet, & I just love that opening sentence: "short attention spans, library-sized collections, consoles precariously wired in spider web fasion. Sound like you?" Yes. Yes it does.
3 Keeping w/ the 'short attention span' tag via DigitalPress, we've recently deduced that a main tenant of the retro-gamer's passion is the ability to find a game for a given console that you've never heard of or never considered before, absolutely fall in love w/ it, then find some other game existing under the same criteria - which is so affordable! - and completely abandon the game you were playing. Fat's been playing fucking Shenmue for like 2 years now for Christ's sake!!!
4 A first-person slasher. Where you ARE the sword. You take control of different bodies in order to defeat Satan. Or something. I like it. I got pretty far. Then I stopped. See previous note.
5 When I pointed this out to Fat, he concurred, noting a particular game where the party (made up of, duh, 13-16 year olds) were joined by a master swordsman - who was 17. A weaponsmaster. 17.

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3 Comments + Unabashed Criticism:

Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Now, I could have this wrong, but as far as I know, Atlus doesn't develop (=make) games at all. They publish them, primarily in the States, after cherrypicking them, primarily from Japan, and massaging them into attractive and appropriate form for their new home.

Peep the "corporate" page on their site...

The version of FFTactics I've been suggesting is the GBA version. Which I've owned for a while and never played. And which is supposedly very different than the PS version. An I ever get back to a strategy RPG frame of mind, I'll let you know.

Digital Press is pretty good. Particularly like how they buck the tide on lots of games: they hated Shenmue, for example. I mean, that's strictly on the dumbass tip, but at least you know they're not just aping the rest of the 'nets on shit. As though we were to try to put ourselves on the map w/ some vicious heresy like "Advance Wars is kinda boring" or something.

Yeah, I been playing Shenmue for a long time. There's two things there that I'll get to eventually:
1: I get stuck a lot, because I'm not very good at video games;
2: I tend to play 6 or 8 titles concurrently.

Fuck it. I'd be okay with playing Shenmue 'til I die.

-Fat

4:25 AM  
Blogger d.d. tinzeroes said...

Totally right about the developer/publisher error. I KNEW that but it got left in because i didn't PROOF the piece.

Are you really "playing" 6-8 titles concurrently, or are you really playing maybe 2-3 w/ the others basically horribly neglected? 'Cause I could easily say that I'm "playing" 6-8 titles, too, right now. But really I'm playing Seaman and Grandia and that's it.

8:02 AM  
Blogger Fat Contradiction said...

Check it! Given the right level of granularity, 6/8 games at a time is pretty close to what I do. Any given time, I've got one heavily story-based game going on. But I swap out what that game is at least once, maybe twice a month.

This week it's Final Fantasy III, picked up again after maybe 6 months sitting on the shelf.

Before that, it was that stretch of:
Contact,
Star Trek: Tactical Assault,
Hotel Dusk, etc.
(Well, actually, between that stretch and FFIII, I spent significant time with Sprung and a Sims game, both of which I'm genuinely embarassed to have played.)

Also, every day, there's at least a one-in-ten chance I'll end up spending an hour with one of my two core pure-play games, Metroid Prime Pinball or Gunpey.

So there's four.

Then there's the playtesting I must endure, to justify my voracious acquisition of product. I don't buy anything just to have on the shelf: I at least try everything I buy, and I buy two or three games a month, bare minimum.

So yah. 6/8 at a time. Just depends what a "time" is. (Bear in mind, I mentioned nothing I play mainly at home...just the DS stuff. So the truth would be a little larger yet.)

-Fat

2:59 AM  

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