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Final Fantasy-less title: Grandia II / Skies of Arcadia
Totally Square-free developer: Game Arts / Overworks
Why you should ignore Zidane and play them: Well, it doesn't really matter what we say at this point, does it? Gamer apathy killed both of these games... twice! They both hit Dreamcast in 2000, met sweeping critical acclaim and then faded away with Sega's stillborn console. Not content to see two solid RPGs die undeserved deaths, the powers that be resurrected Grandia II for PS2 and Skies for GameCube a couple of years later. The former was a shoddy, rushed port no one liked, while the latter was just too little too late.
So what's the big deal? Let's just say Grandia as a whole, but Grandia II in particular, may have the best battle system in RPG history. Everyone takes turns, yes, but different abilities take different amounts of time to execute. Slashing a sword is quick, but casting a heavy-duty spell will take longer, for example. But, some moves can cancel an enemy's immanent attack, forcing them to miss a turn and shunting them back down the action timeline. You also have to consider the physical distance between you and the target, as party members have to actually run up to the monster to swing away. Sounds complicated, but it makes every single battle an action-stacking joy to play. Throw in a bitchin' soundtrack and a smokin' hot devil woman and you've got an RPG that shouldn't be missed.
Skies, on the other hand, is much more traditional. You hit them, they hit you, random battles and all that stuff. Trouble is, the "random" battles were infuriatingly common and required just a bit too much loading. Why did the press fall in love? It happened to contain some of the most charming, memorable characters and plot points of any RPG available at the time. Rumors of a sequel persist, but we'd be rather shocked if Vyse sailed the skies again.
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