Part 2: Beating charity out of youWelcome back!
At this point, the game gives us control. The lucky among us will notice that, if they rebound their L and R keys from the default Home and PgUp, they don't actually work to turn the camera. I am very lucky. Bug Count: 2
Wandering westwards leads us to our first item pickups of the game, a Wound Salve which heals for 400 (most of our HP) and a Poison Antidote which does about what you'd expect.
Incidentally, that compass in the top right doesn't just show North, it also shows us our destination, as well as our distance to it as the crow flies (represented by the size of the green circle). It's quite useful. Also, going near water in this game tends to mute the music, replacing it with the sound of running water. A nice touch.
Further along our linear path we find one of these, a save point. Grandia save points are very kind to the player, allowing a full restore at any time.
This Blizzard Charm is an accessory that increases our Blizzard elemental resistance by 5 levels. It won't be useful for a while, but it's good to hang on to it.
Climbing back down on the other side of the cliff, we come to the crux of this update.
Our first enemy! Similarly to, say, Earthbound, wandering monsters are visible on the game map and can be avoided if you don't want to fight them. You can also get "initiative" by starting the fight from behind them (but so can they).
My attempts to explain game mechanics appear to have angered the spider.
Time for a rundown of how combat works in this game. In the bottom right of this screenshot you will see the most important element, the IP (Initiative Point) bar. You can think of this as equivalent to the ATB system in Final Fantasy, but you can see every character and enemy on the same one. In real time, their icons will move to the right according to their ACT stat and arrive at COM, whereupon the game will pause and allow you to issue an order.
In this case, I choose Combo, which is the closest this game has to a normal attack command. Ryudo's icon will then move towards ACT and commence the attack. Here is where those of you who have played the game before will notice the effects of the Hard Mode hack: This spider has more than double its old hitpoints.
Ryudo walks up to the spider, does a two hit combo attack, and begins running away. During this, the spider is still moving across the IP bar and by the time he finishes, it's hit ACT and attempts to attack him. However, since Ryudo always runs to a random spot after doing his combo, the poor spider chomps at air as he evades the attack. Correctly timing little things like this is essential to mastering the combat system.
Ryudo's next turn has come up, but this time the spider is further back on the IP bar. This means we're in a good position to Cancel its next action. Canceling can be done with the Critical attack, which comes out slower and does less damage than a full combo, but if it hits an enemy while they are between COM and ACT, it will knock them back across COM to about halfway through the bar.
This tactic will remain useful throughout the game. On the topic of bugs, there are supposed to be little grunts and "Yaaahh!"s when player characters use their normal attacks. The PC version still has them in the files, but they don't play. Bug Count: 3
Our next turn comes around, and this time the spider is already on ACT, in the middle of its attack animation in fact! Our best option at this point is the little shield icon below Combo, the Defend command.
Defend reduces all incoming damage by about two thirds, while taking less time to return to COM than most offensive abilities. Think of it like blocking in a fighting game, except you always get frame advantage.
Now, to show off poor timing. Here, I choose "Moves & Magic" from the command menu and attempt to execute a Tenseiken Slash. This is basically a terrible idea in the Hard Mode hack, as low level special moves have been made quite weak.
This is also a great time to show one of the more crippling bugs in the PC version: notice how the game tells us who the spider is going to attack via the little portrait in the bottom left? It's also supposed to tell you what attack it's going to use, to help you decide your next move. On the PC it just... doesn't. Bug Count: 4
Before they're upgraded, special moves take much longer to go from COM to ACT than normal attacks, and the spider turns out to be faster with its own.
When someone charging a special move gets to ACT, time stops and they immediately execute their move. For this reason, tricks like using the after-combo run to dodge an attack do not work on special moves. Neither does Evade, which executes such a run as an entire action.
Two can play at the Cancel game. Ryudo takes some damage, gets knocked out of his Tenseiken Slash and gets a debuff to Move, one of the four main combat stats. Move determines how quickly characters actually move from place to place on the battlefield and having enough -Move can be crippling.
I'll show off special moves properly in a later fight. Meanwhile, Ryudo retaliates with another Combo, but does not reach COM in time to do anything about the spider's next attack.
He gets bitten for his troubles. The Hard hack doesn't just increase enemy HP, it also increases their attack power, sometimes dramatically.
Thankfully, the next Combo finishes off the spider.
Victory earns us Experience, as well as three different kinds of shiny coins. Gold is actual currency while Special and Magic coins buy us upgrades for our moves & magic.
Further on, we find a large chest containing three items. Yomi's Elixir is the revival item of the game, while the Hand Grenade is a combat item that does damage in an area.
Also pictured is another spider. This fight, you can watch in video form:
VIDEO: Battle - Mottled Spider
One last element of the combat system, shown in the above video, is Counter.
A Counter happens when you or an enemy gets hit during their attack animation, another similarity to fighting games.
Attacks that hit with Counter timing do about 30% more damage. Any attack can Counter, but only normal attacks are vulnerable to being Countered, since time stops when special moves and magic are used.
The last combat options that I didn't cover are Items, Escape and AI. Items and Escape, like skills and magic, are slow to move from COM to ACT but are otherwise self-explanatory. AI allows you to let the game play itself, either for all or only some of your characters. It's an interesting option in the normal game, but I wouldn't trust it with the Hard Mode hack. That's about it for this game's battle system.
Further up ahead, we find the path to Carbo Village.
Here, we catch up with the girls from the intro.
I am sorry, Tessa. I would join you if I could. I wonder why I'm not permitted to leave with you...
I guess your role is more important than ours. Don't worry, we'll do all the preparations for the ceremony.
Oh, all right! See you later, Elena! Let's go.
Elena, it's time for the service. You ought to return now.
Yes, you are right.
Don't worry. We've hired a bodyguard. You'll catch up with us safely.
Please, take care of yourselves... And Tessa, I will see you later!
Probably none of our concern.
Are they collecting tithes? There's enough... what do they do - storm through your door and beat charity out of you?
I understand they're off to a tower outside the village to drive away evil spirits. We're very fortunate to have the sisters.
Yes. Things are fine around here during the day... but when the sun goes down, all kinds of terrible monsters are about.
What about the girl who stayed behind?
Oh, Miss Elena? She's a Songstress of Granas. She sings such pretty songs for us. Maybe she will join after the service.
You don't look like you're from around here. Word of advice: don't venture about at night.
Huh? They needed a bodyguard... What's this about driving out evil spirits?
At this point we regain control and are free to explore the town. Next update, we'll be doing just that.
Official Art: Ryudo