Ever since the 8‑bit ages, when the turn-based RPG formula was perfected, game developers have been trying to reinvent the battle system wheel. As the years have progressed, we’ve seen many interesting new versions that take the core concepts of the battling you might find in an RPG, let’s say Final Fantasy, and expand upon them in fun ways. Some I’ve really enjoyed and others have left me wanting, but there is one series that stands above them all in my eyes. While the Grandia series is far from perfect in many ways, the battle system is still to this day my favorite combination of real-time and turn-based action in any RPG series.
I can completely see the merit of real-time battles. When the entire action of the game is nothing but you attacking and then the enemy attacking it can get a bit stale. Some series have tried to combat this by creating systems in which the action is always going. Attacks are performed in real-time and can be dodged by moving your character out of the way. Something I miss in these battles however, is the ability to stop and intricately plan out my strategy to take down my opponents. The overindulgent cinematic attacks are also usually lost in real-time battles which, while some people would say is an improvement, I love to unleash on my foes.
Grandia takes both of these formulas and combines them to create a system that perfectly hits my butter-zone of active and turn-based elements. Along the bottom of the screen, a bar shows when the next character is going to plan their next move. After choosing their move, they go through an “action phase” in which they prepare for their attack. If it’s a simple attack, this phase ends almost instantly, but if it’s more powerful it can take some time. The characters also have to position themselves correctly on the screen before their attacks, so if you’re hitting someone with a sword you have to account for the time it’ll take them to run up to the enemy. If hit by certain kinds of attacks, a character can be knocked backward on the line, canceling their special attack. You gain experience for each type of weapon and magic you use and leveling up different combination nets you different special attacks. Your action phase also gets shorter the more you use any attack, so playing favorites can actually help you. All of this combines into an exhilarating and deep battle system that is still my favorite to this day.
Instead of me rambling away forever about the specifics, check it out in action below. Remember, I never said it had good voice acting.