couldnt have arrived at a better time for the RPG market. There is
little-to-no activity in the genre, meaning the saturation point hasnt
been hit like it has with other game-types. Additionally, there is a
certain subset of gamers out there that have been waiting for some
decent RPGs. Count myself among the crowd. When Xtreme released, I was
hesitant to pick it up since the port of the Dreamcast title to the PS2
disappointed me to a great extent.
If you will
remember back to the glory days on the PSX and the brief ones on the
Dreamcast, then you will recall the particularities of Grandias combat
system, which puts us at a good starting point. The battle system is
crisp, quick, and fluid; as a gamer, I found it extremely easy to pick
up and get the hang of without wading through the instruction manual. In
combat, you can attack with magic, standard moves, special moves, etc.
The system seems almost identical (its been awhile) to the games
predecessors, but that is why it is good that Enix didnt alter it. This
is where they excel; the combat system, in my opinion, is solid and
carries the game.
appear that the battle system allows for laziness and no tactical
skills; however, as soon as you progress into the more difficult
encounters, you wont be so willing to turn on the AI or to blindly run
at your enemy. Each of your characters possesses different skills as
well as weapons. Some are good at rushing in, quickly attacking, and
then retreating, while others are good at hanging back and sending
volleys of arrows into the mess. Your main character, Evann, seems to be
marginally good at everything, while the others have their own thing
that youll end up relying heavily upon, i.e. Brandol, whos the kind of
packs-a -punch fighter. The difficulty of each dungeon can also be
weighted by the companions you choose to bring along. I found it best to
rotate characters out of the party on a periodic basis and to return to
headquarters during a dungeon crawl to feel out how each character
performs against various enemies.
The beauty of
the combat system is that you have the chance to learn various special
moves. Once youve learned enough moves youll pick up the ability to
combine your moves with a partner, pummeling the enemy for even more
damage points. Xtreme almost makes it bearable to enter ceaseless
combat. Granted, the game forewarns you of any attack by plotting the
enemy out on your radar, a nice feature that I wish other RPGs would
pick up. Its ridiculous to think that you wouldnt see an enemy
standing smack dab in front of you, especially when theyre large and
lumbering, a massive beast. This feature also makes it possible to plot
out your movement through a dungeon. New questions arise: Do you really
need to engage that tribe of monsters or can you circumvent the cluster
and not bother? I found that after youve been through the same dungeon
three times, you begin to skip as many battles as possible just to
arrive back at the point from which you retreated to stock up on
supplies, save the game, etc.
earlier, you assume the role of Evann, voiced by Mark Hamill, a Ranger
who is rounded up by the military to confront a re-emergence of
elemental forces. Quaint. Soon after your first quest, you are given a
slew of allies to choose from. Regarding the animation and character
design, it is excellent. The characters are colorful, carrying on the
tradition since the series inception.
Compared to the
version on the Dreamcast, Xtreme doesnt really appear to have improved
graphically, stylistically, or thematically on its predecessors;
portions of the game have the old hat feel to them, which is never good
for a game on a new system. Textures are bland and poorly rendered. It
feels like all of the great benefits of the PS2s hardware arent
realized in the game, which makes me kind of sad. I was hoping for
something that captured me as graphically as the DC version, which
turned me onto the series, causing me to retro-play Grandia on the PSX.
What I mean is that the graphics appear to be direct ports from the
Dreamcast. I mean it was cool on the DC, but when you have better
hardware to work with, come on--give me something more. I know it isnt
all about eye-candy.
CGIs are nicely done and move the story along rather quickly, carrying
you from one location on the world map to the next. Once youre past the
CGI and into the area, youll usually encounter a Geo Gate which allows
you to warp back and forth from the battle field and headquarters. The
game also offers action points, places where you perform some type of
action, i.e. pushing a bolder to shatter another boulder, etc.
I have with the game is the cameras motion. It felt very bi-polar;
either it was working well or it was failing miserably, but never in
between. The R and L buttons didnt really help too much, and would
never center where I needed them to center. In a game where you can see
your enemies and they you, the camera becomes even more important in
getting the upper hand in a confrontation.
Its nice to
see that Enix has decided to continue with the Grandia saga; however,
that aside, they still have much to improve upon when doing a sequel.
Lets hope that the recent merger announcement from Enix and Squaresoft
breaths new air into Enixs development life. I think Square, if they
threw their talent at it, could turn around some of the lagging Enix
series, while Enix could throw some of their battle system talent at
If youre a fan
of the series, played through it on the DC, PSX, and Saturn, then you
will most likely enjoy this successor, albeit graphically weak; however,
if youre shopping around for a genre bending RPG, then youll want to
step past Xtreme. It offers you the anime dungeon crawl, which in itself
can be cool, but lacks some RPG qualities and rings itself in as more of
an adventure game rather than a hardcore RPG.