Grandia III's combat system, which we lauded in an earlier post, has remained engaging - would that some dark use of the GameShark could transplant it into other entries in the genre. But the plodding, insulting, maddening story has only gotten more inane as we have trudged through it. We have to savage it just to emerge from the experience with some intact portion of ourselves.
Girded with gleaming truth, I brandished my rapier vis a vis the "bar" that denotes the quality of most Japanese RPG stories. To recap, they have not raised it. At this point, the bar in question is actually subterranean.
Bats hang from this bar.
We've recast Yuki as our point of view - but in context he's just another Goddamn doofus, like the rest of the idiots pressed to those discs. Every moment of the game where you are not directly involved in combat is torture. Things begin in a way that is heartwarming but not unctuous, with a party of somewhat novel construction and a mystery gently provided. The execution from there on out proceeds much like a actual execution, with the eventual death of the human brain.
It's picking up decent reviews, because the resolution of your conflicts with the forces of evil is nothing short of enthralling. I didn't say why before, because if you're into RPGs anyway Grandia is not some new invention. But imagine a system where attacks are used not only to damage opponents but also to manage them - knock them out of sequence, cancel their magical exertions, to throw off the rhythm of the opposing side. Then, imagine that you are free to build multicharacter combos by launching enemies skyward, ganging up on a suspended lizard. Bosses are few and far between, but managing ultrafoes and their feral coterie is much like conducting a symphony.
If more symphonies were thus conducted - with minotaurs set alight by a flock of burning crows - I imagine that interest in the medium would skyrocket.
There are so many interesting things happening that they're probably beyond what this space can accomplish. Monolith is making more games in the F.E.A.R. universe, minus the explicit F.E.A.R. branding - good for them. As I understand it they had nothing to do with that ridiculous name, so I doubt they're loath to be rid of it. GalCiv II is out now, almost dangerously accessible via online delivery. Kiko did a kind of dance when he saw that Capcom was unleashing a PowerStone collection for the PSP, PowerStone being a game that kept Dreamcasts warm long after the machine had passed into myth. These things are delicious and exciting and etcetera.
But I will tell you now that the prospect of not one but two demos of next-generation titles, delivered directly to my 360 by the first week of March, is very near the excitement threshold I can endure without injury. Snack sized portions of The Outfit and Ghost Recon are more than welcome. I was glad to see EA dish up Fight Night 3 the way they had, and I hope this is just kind of how it works now. Next-Gen content is not accurately represented by stills and previews. With prices resting heavily at the sixty dollar level, more information of this better kind - which is to say, experiential and (important!) freely obtainable - is precisely what's needed.