Quintet was a legendary under-the-radar developer in the days of the SNES, responsible for making games such as ActRaiser and the brilliant Heaven and Earth Trilogy (Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia, Terranigma. The fact that this brilliant developer is no longer active today points to a surprising decline, and that decline, unfortunately, started with The Granstream Saga.
From a conceptual level, this is a game that made sense, with an interesting story and setting and an intriguing real-time Action combat system. Developing a game for a new and exciting system, Quintet rebranded into Shade, and decided to make a game that takes advantage of the 3D capabilities of the hardware.
Yet, the game fails to be as snappy and satisfying as the developer's early SNES titles, and you can see how the uninspiring polygonal graphics conspired to add tedium to what should have been an exciting gameplay system, eventually creating a tedious game.
#R1: The Granstream Saga:-
Year: 1997, 1998.
Genre: Action Adventure
Publisher: Sony, THQ
First things first, I am changing my rating system to a simpler 10-point system. I fully recommend games that get above a 7, and those that get below are mostly a waste of time. The recommendation for a game scoring a 7 largely depends on your personal taste.
"Without the new Wisemen, the lands are beginning to slowly sink into the sea. Once again, an entire civilization is threatened with extinction"
From the opening anime cut-scene, which is a tool that this game uses extensively and effectively, it is clear that the game is set in an interesting world. A past conflict between various nations and a suspicious Empire lead to the world nearly being completely annihilated.
What remained of the world were a few small floating "continents" are kept from sinking into the sea by a line of "Wise Men" that elevated the landmasses upwards in the first place. In this world, where the contents are constantly shrinking (being intentionally cut by mages) to keep them from sinking, you can imagine the despair of the population.
It doesn't help that there is natural disaster every other Tuesday
An extremely interesting showcase of the complex world-building in this game can be seen in the continent of Volcos where an active volcano (how it operates when it's not linked to the magma at the center of the planet is never explained) is in the middle of it. This led to the creation of the ministry of balance, which ensures that the weight on both sides of the continent is the same so that neither side tips causing the volcano to erupt into it.
In this dying world, Eon is thrust as a chosen hero who can summon the memories of the past through a special bracelet to save the lands from sinking into the sea. In his quest, he is joined by two archetypical Anime ladies who help along the way while the remnants of the Empire are hell-bent on pursuing power for its own sake.
Besides its interesting setting, the narrative is not far from the usual anime cliches, even somehow shoehorning a "shower scene" for that tried-and-true Tsundre female characterization. However, this was at a time when dialogue and story were still being figured out and are frankly rather effective here.
I imagine a fair number of players had a crush on Laramee
Unfortunately, it's inconsistent in many ways due to poor dialogue writing and some odd scene direction. While the anime scenes are competently voice-acted, the in-game dialogue scenes are not, which is expected. However, there is an inconsistent use of character portraits, which could convey emotions much better than the game's primitive polygonal faces could ever do.
"As the lands continue to sink to their doom, the struggle for more power goes on..."
Two things you will immediately notice about this game. First, it is a top-down Action game in the same style as most of Quintet's SNES games, and the second is that you cannot change the awful view angle the developers perplexingly chose for the game. It's obvious that the team was more comfortable with the handcrafted artistry of sprites than the "freedom" that polygons game them.
As such, I was happy when I realized that game's main gameplay mechanic jumps into a completely different perspective. When you touch enemies in the dungeon, you zoom into a one-on-one battle with that enemy in the arena with a much better camera angle.
In battle, you try to strafe around the enemy, looking for an opening to attack. Utilizing guards and quick steps, you alternated between attack and defense in real-time action battles against a variety of cool enemies.
The first few battles are promising
At least, that's what I imagine the concept was, which is completely undermined in reality by a few poor design choices.
First, there is a shortage of enemy designs and patterns that ensure that battles become repetitive before long. Second, is the lack of offensive choices for the player to engage with and customize, which eventually means you will try and avoid most fights.
Hence, the gameplay consists of running through boring dungeons viewed from an unattractive angle, trying to avoid fighting as many enemies as possible, so that you get from point A to B in the story until you hit the more exciting boss battle. If the game is been better served by a fast-forward button in a YouTube video, then it's not really fun to play.
But then you wish for an escape button
That's, unfortunately, going to be the enduring sentiment of most players with this game. A creeping tedium permeates through the act of playing this game, obliterating any promise the game's plot or setting could ever have.
"Journeys are about meeting new and parting old... It is a cycle like the waves"
Yet, even if a game is boring to play, its visual and audio strength when coupled with a good story could still power players through it, but that's alas not the case here. In fact, I would argue, is that the game's poor use of polygonal graphics is the root cause of all its issues.
In the past, Quintent crafted interesting worlds coupled with snappy and exciting gameplay in their sprite-filled SNES worlds. It is my suspicion that they simply did not know how to do that on the PS1's hardware. From the choice of camera angle to the featureless character faces, the limitations of polygonal graphics were clear to see.
Do you see how my serious my face is?
What's less clear is how it affected the gameplay. I imagine that the time spent to make sure it worked at all cut into the design of interesting dungeons and enemies to fight, which completely wasted the game's unique combat system and the developer's past in creating great levels.
So, we are left with a game world that betrays the imagination of its storytellers and its great anime cutscenes, where blank faces try to emote instead of the lovely character portraits, and you can only sigh at what could have been made on the SNES instead.
One thing that couldn't have been done on the SNES was the limited voice acting and orchestral score in the anime scenes, which were really good. Even better is the game's soundtrack, which is made by the same composers that made the soundtrack for Terranigma.
It's made in the same style as the developer's earlier work, with an excellent fusion of instruments and styles that creates a mystical and distinct cultural flavor to the game. That's evident in both town themes such as "Pixim (Pixim Town – Troubled)" theme or dungeon themes like "Shrine (Inside Kilia Shrine)".
Despite their critical success, none of Quintet's previous games were seriously successful. This may have been a precursor to difficulties in the company that both caused them to rebrand to Shade, and then fail to succeed with their first game on the PS1.
While The Granstrea Saga clearly has the fingerprints of Quintet's past titles in its story, setting, and music, it lacked the finesse that made them so fun to play, I blame that massively on the jump to 3D polygonal graphics which affected every facet of the game's design.
Overall, it's a shame that Quintet's final original game went out with a thud.
1- When beating an enemy you get a colored "chest" that you can not open. This "chest" gets stronger if you beat other enemies in sequence without getting hit.
2- The increase in reward is useless unless you are a completionist, and you shouldn't be a completionist for this game.
3- Hold the R button to do quick steps, or double tap the directional buttons.
4- The sword is usually the most useful weapon.
5- Explore jars and barrels to find useful items.
6- Talk to everyone in town.
7- Interact with weird things in the environment.
This viewing angle is one of the worst things about the game
For those reading one of my PS1 review blogs for the first time, here is the basic concept:
I already reviewed both major Generation 4 consoles, and am now reviewing Generation 5 consoles. I already finished reviewing the Sega Saturn, so I am now reviewing the PS1. In these reviews, I take a top 100 games list and review the games that interest me in that list.
This time, my review series is based on this list from Retro Sanctuary and other sources, since the PS1 can handle a list bigger than a top 100.
Also, note the following:
-If you have any suggestions for a game that is not on the Retro Sanctuary list that I should review, please suggest them.
-Make a bet on each game to check whether Chris Charter played it or not.
Here is part of the shower scene you perverts
As a huge fan of Quintet's SNES games, I hoped that The Granstream Saga did not deserve its mediocre reputation. Alas, it did deserve that reputation, and it was clear that it is part of the reason that Quintet disappeared later (equally possible, Quintet's own problems could have been the cause of this game's problems as well).
I am going back to the regular Top 100 PS1 games list with a review of Syphon Filter 2, which sits at number 36 in Retro Sanctuary's list. However, I am going to first review the first Syphon Filter game. Note that my Syphon Filter reviews will be synced in collaboration with another Dtoider, Sharukurusu.
For Previous PS1 Game Reviews: