Game Arts Grandia series is one of the best RPG series that not enough people play. Armed with what is easily the best battle system ever devised in an RPG, Game Arts has been able to tie in incredible stories in wondrous worlds to great effect not once, but twice in Grandias 1 and 2. Xtreme was announced to be somewhat of a departure for the series, focusing more on its incredible battle system and less on any narrative. Well, thats now been translated into being a pretty darn poor Grandia, and in my opinion is just a weak excuse in order to 1) get another Grandia title onto store shelves, and 2) allow Game Arts more time to develop Grandia 3. Grandia Xtreme is nowhere near worthy of the title Grandia.
Graphically, Im extremely (xtremely?) disappointed in Xtreme. The visuals are bland and dull, and really not even as good as the Dreamcasts Grandia 2, which was released over 2 years ago! The characters models are slightly more detailed than 2, however the environments dont exude the care and detail that made 2s world so convincing and captivating. The graphics in Xtreme feel thrown together, as if the lower end of the Game Arts development staff was fooling around one day and accidentally created the Xtreme engine. Overall though, the visuals arent ugly by any means, and the game generally isnt a bore to look at, its just I know Game Arts is capable of so much more.
As I mentioned before, the battle system in the Grandia series is unrivaled in its complexity, functionality and just plain coolness. So as you can tell, the thought of a game focusing on this is still a pretty darn exciting thing. The problem with Xtreme however is that there are so many flaws that detract from this, that by the time youre a few hours in, youve about near had enough. First up is the story, which is really, really weak. Compared to the previous Grandias it just plain blows. Its predictable, underdeveloped and rather boring, and worst of all the main character is so damn childish and annoying, half the time all youll want to do is kick your own ass! Second is the camera, which is sluggish to say the least. I dont think Ive played an RPG in my lifetime where I had to adjust the camera as much as I did in Xtreme. And when youre in the dungeons, it only gets worse. So if these two major grievances arent enough for you, let me add in some more minor annoyances. Theres way too much fighting, even for a dungeon crawler, you cant save frequently enough, the dungeons are far too similar, there is almost no puzzle-solving of any kind, and, did I mention there is WAY TOO MUCH FIGHTING!! Its wouldnt be an exaggeration for me to say on average in each dungeon youll fight between 500-1000 enemies! I know. Thats a damn lot. Even with the vaunted Grandia battle system, Xtreme itself wholly begins to feel like a chore, a major no-no for videogames.
There are a few other positives though to go along with the still kick-ass battle system. Accessorizing your characters with the boatload of items is wild, and the new junction system for the Mana eggs (the source of magical spells in the Grandia world) is just plain awesome. These all combine to make Xtreme very addictive at times, though the problem is, addictions dont always last forever.
The music is another aspect of the game that screams haphazardly thrown together. The score is very grating and annoyingly repetitive, and could be one of the worst Ive heard in a while. The effects are run-of-the-mill, and for the most part are just carbon copies from 2. And despite some Hollywood voice talent, the acting is, for the most part, terrible. In particular is Dean Cain, the voice of Evann the main character, who delivers his lines so poorly and with little to no emotion, you wonder at times if Evann really cares at all whats going on. Only one man saves the day, and that man is the great Mark Hamill. As the voice of Kroitz, the crooked Colonel, Hamills delivery is leaps and bounds above the others. Its just a shame his character was written so one-dimensionally.
What Xtreme does have is value, and a load of it at that. Some of the games dungeons will take upwards of 5-6 hours to complete, and some even have floors numbering in the hundreds! Not to mention all the crazy Mana egg and item customization that is available, Xtreme will certainly keep those busy who can withstand its monotony. Theres really arent too many side-quests, and there is only one mini-game (and it aint that great), but all the fighting should be more than enough.
Xtreme for me was my biggest RPG disappointment of the year by far, as my expectations for it far exceeded what it delivered. What disappoints me most though is the sheer lack of commitment I feel Game Arts put into this game. The presentation, story and graphics are so far from the standards set by the series former titles; I have to wonder why Game Arts put the Grandia name on the box, aside from selling a few extra copies of course. Some may still enjoy Xtreme, as I did for a while as well, but we should all hope that by the time Grandia 3 comes out, Game Arts will have gotten its act together.