I'm not a bird, I'm Korky the spirit beast!
Since the days of Temple of Apshai and Bard's Tale, I have been totally absorbed
by RPG's. These days, nearly all of them are Japanese translations (especially
on the PlayStation), and The Granstream Saga
is obviously no exception.
All the little Japanese quirks we've come to expect are here: linear gameplay,
anime movie clips, teenage love triangle, quirky translations, juvenile plot,
and the ubiquitous cutsie anime mascot with a squeaky voice (Ahhh, Korky, my little
feathered friend. What would I do without thee?).
seems that the world needs saving once again in the form of a goofy story. One
hundred years ago the Imperial Wizardry (bad guys) fought the Allied Sprit Army
(good guys) on the planet Granstream. The evil Wizardry used a forbidden weapon
which shifted the planet's axis, causing the ice caps to melt and flood the
whole world. To save a few people, four wise men used a magical flying tower
and four magic orbs to float four large islands into the sky.
A century later, these islands are sinking towards the water below. They need
their batteries recharged. Who can do it? I'm sure it will take a teenage warrior
and his teenage friends, of course.
You are Eon, a teen-warrior-orphan with a mysterious past and a magic scepter,
which is really a bracelet. You'll need the help of Laramee, a teen pirate girl,
and Arcia, an annoying singing girl who is the descendant of a wise man. Together
you can find the four orbs and Arcia can sing the magic songs of lifting and
save the four continents. Oh, and don't forget Korky!
The Granstream Saga is your basic RPG with hit points and magic points
and plenty of weapons and armor and items. One odd thing is that there are no
experience points. You simply go up a level when you reach a particular place
in the story. Money is in the form of gems, but isn't very useful because you
can pretty much just find all the items and equipment you need. I saved the
first two islands without ever buying a single thing.
graphics are quite good. Everything is polygonal (Hooray! No squashed anime
sprites!) and is seen from a top down view. The transition to combat is absolutely
smooth, and the camera simply changes angles slightly. You had better be ready
to fight when it does, because the combat engine is real-time action and is
tons of fun.
Rather than the usual 'you hit troll, troll hits you' style of turn based
combat, you must test your hand-eye skills against the enemy as well as your
equipment and strength. You must move Eon around, dodge, strike, counter-attack,
perform special moves and cast magic spells if you want to win. All this in
real-time polygonal fighting. While it isn't as complete as a pure fighter like
Soul Blade or Tekken
3, this is easily one of my favorite RPG combat systems ever.
Unfortunately, while the enemies look good and are fun to fight, there isn't
enough variation. Most of the enemies are just variations of earlier models,
a little tougher and in a different color. Also, because there are no experience
points, it doesn't really do you any good to fight them. Despite the cool combat
system, I found myself avoiding monsters whenever possible. Of course you also
have to find the monsters first, and this can take hours because of the interminable
While the story isn't as bad as some RPG's (like the unfathomable Mystical
Ninja), you are forced to sit through hours of it in this incredibly
linear game. There's a reason it's called The Granstream Saga
and not The Granstream Leaflet, but the story is nowhere near good enough
to take up hours of my time establishing minor plot points and displaying inane
Instead of fighting monsters, you are forced to read useless text like, "Hello.
I love your hair. I just love the thrill of nature." And yes, you can also learn
the thrill of slave mining as you spend ages searching the walls for rocks,
just so you can be led back to your prison cell for some more text-dialogue.
Repeatedly. After completing some sections of the game, it can take 45 minutes
or more before you ever actually get to fight anything again.
So that's The Granstream Saga in a nutshell. The combat system is the
best I've seen since Kings Field II, and I'd really like to see it in future
RPG's. There are plenty of weapons, spells and stuff to satify any RPG junkie,
and the graphics are great. However, even all that isn't enough to justify the
mind-numbing hours of total non-action. With more monsters and a less intrusive
plot, this could have been a real winner.