Today in retro gaming, we celebrate the European release of The Granstream Saga with an ad that explains exactly why you should be excited about playing it in a post-Final Fantasy VII world.
The Granstream Saga borrowed from the typical genre adventure tropes of isometric exploration, real-time combat and a young man on a journey to save the world with a power only he possesses. To this, they added a fantastic storyline with some thinly-veiled references to things like nuclear escalation and global warming. They got a team of very talented people to animate their gorgeous anime-style cutscenes. They even put together a beautiful soundtrack, with Masanori Hikichi producing music to rival Nobuo Uematsu’s work on Final Fantasy. No wonder gamers took notice of this sucker.
Let’s amend that: no wonder Japanese gamers took notice of this sucker. Because outside of Japan, The Granstream Saga received very little attention from anybody. Reviewers skewered it for either being too action-oriented for an RPG, or too RPG-oriented for an action game. They lamented the lack of faces on the in-game character models. They pegged the dubbing in the cutscenes as sub-par. Ultimately US and European gamers alike wrote it off as little more than a wanna-be, a guppy in Square’s shark-infested RPG ocean. In Europe, February 26th, 1999 came and went as just another day.
That’s too bad, because for every misstep Granstream Saga takes, it does two things right. It introduces some new concepts to the RPG genre, not least of which is leveling occurring with story progression as opposed to grinding combat. And while the journey isn’t a 90-hour epic spanning three or four discs, it still manages to tell a coherent (if cliche-ridden) tale within its limitations. As promised, here’s the ad: