Something I have always admired about the Japanese Video Game industry is it’s potential for change. Unlike that of the Western market, Japanese developers will take extreme risks with their video games in an attempt to revolutionise not only specific ways a genre can be handled, but the industry as a whole. These risks are ones that Western developers simply cannot take without first deeply contemplating the almost infinite number of outcomes, most of which negative. This is one of the few reasons behind the world’s odd view of Japan. The country, and it’s media, seems overtly strange, and I believe it is because of this creative freedom. There are no limitations on what they can develop, which mostly results in odd dating simulators that involve creatures NOT human, but from time to time a video game comes along that works as a catalyst for great change.
Grand Kingdom is a Japanese alternative Role-Playing Game developed by the wondrous Spike Chunsoft that takes the highly popular genre and reconstructs it in ways I don’t believe I’ve ever had the opportunity to experience before. Thanks to NISA Europe, in conjunction with Bandai Namco Entertainment who are handling Australian distribution, we here at SnapThirty have been given the honour and privilege to take place in this upcoming title’s Closed Beta period, which has only been made available to a lucky handful of people the world over. As in any Closed Beta, not all features of the game are made available, but after playing through what has been left unlock I believe that there’s more than enough within it to determine how grand of a game this truly is.
The bulk of what you will experience while playing the Grand Kingdom Closed Beta is that of it’s gameplay system. While the game does indeed feature a story, it isn’t fleshed out enough to comment on in it’s entirety. Essentially the game takes place in a mostly-medieval world wherein which wars between lands are no longer fought with armies, but with mercenary brigades. You, the main character, are hired to join a group called “The Guild“, and as a part of The Guild you will partake on many missions that, in my assumption, will reveal more and more of the story. As part of the beta you’re introduced to a small list of characters, but most of who you will interact with will be figures of your creation that will populate your combat squad.
Now comes the truly difficult portion; discussing the gameplay. Grand Kingdom plays out almost like a Board Game: You are given your very own game piece that you will control as you travel throughout the mission map, periodically coming into contact with enemy pieces that will initiate a battle. Once in the battle, you will be given complete control of your four combatants as you, in true JRPG fashion, destroy the enemy before they even get a chance to touch you. The four classes you are given to play with in the Closed Beta are the Fighter, Archer, Magician, and Medic; your JRPG staple classes. Each of them play moreso the same physically, but within the game they are drastically different.
Grand Kingdom plays similar to that of a side-scrolling tactical role-playing game. You are given complete control of your fighters, but considering it is turn based you are only allowed to complete a certain amount of movement and action per turn. Depending on their level, characters will be able to move around the battlefield more, and complete more powerful actions and techniques, as per your standard role-playing game. After moving up to an enemy, you are then urged to attack them whichever way you can. For the Fighter, it is a matter of tapping the circle button with expert timing to unleash a combo of hits before you are forced to guard, as per the class ability. The Magician, however, has a couple different techniques; one of which you will have to time (much like the Fighter), and another of which will execute on it’s own, but only once you have charged it for a turn. Regardless of which Class you choose to do battle with, it will not only take strategic placing but also quick reactions and action video game experience.
The Closed Beta also allows you the opportunity to test out it’s Online Multiplay mode which basically throws you into a large-scale war wherein which you’re tasked with not only battling the same way you had been throughout the story mode, but you’re also given the responsibility of developing your own offensive and defensive tactics. To do this you will be taking advantage of specialty units like catapults, cannons, troop upgrades, and everything in between. As mentioned earlier; you will also have the ability to join the front lines and fight yourself if the all-out tactical approach is not the thing to keep you interested.
Grand Kingdom’s gameplay mechanics are incredibly inclusive. You feel as though, unlike many other turn-based RPGs, you can’t glance away for even a second. Grand Kingdom practically demands all your attention as you attempt to perfect unit placements and unleash hell upon the enemy. Out of all the alternative RPGs I’ve played in my time, Grand Kingdom would have to be one of the more enjoyable, even beating that of the Ubisoft-developed title Child Of Light. It takes on the genre in astonishing ways, but it’s not just the gameplay that sets Grand Kingdom apart from the rest, the title also happens to feature some incredibly beautiful visuals alongside a fitting soundtrack, and mostly good English voice acting performances. The game uses a “hand drawn” approach to it’s visuals to make every single movement smooth, and every single environment detailed and beautiful. It’s soundtrack, while great, can be compared to that of any medieval period video game series of it’s kind.
As of right now, having played only a few hours of Grand Kingdom thanks to that of the Closed Beta, I feel as though this is going to be a game that will be loved by those of you out there who enjoy an alternative to standard Japanese role-playing games. If Grand Kingdom is received with open arms in the West much the same way Ubisoft’s Child Of Light was, I can see this become a huge hit overnight. My hope is that the marketing budget for this game allows for it to be seen across the world in a huge way, because I believe it is a title that should be seen and played by anyone with even the slightest proclivity for Japanese role-playing games. While I don’t know if Grand Kingdom will redefine the genre as a whole, I think it does stand out as one of the better titles in a long, long list of modern Japanese role-playing games. The only thing left for me to say about Grand Kingdom is that I simply cannot wait to get my hands on the full release.