Grandia HD Collection - Meeting with GungHo at E3 2019 and Hands-on Impressions
Article updated on June 13.
A week before E3 2019 began, GungHo finally broke the long silence on Grandia HD remasters for Nintendo Switch and PC. While they outlined some more information about the remasters, GungHo offered no hard release date for the game. They instead stated it was 'coming soon' and teased more information at E3.
As a refresher, Grandia HD Collection is exclusive to Nintendo Switch and contains both Grandia HD Remaster and Grandia II HD Remaster as a single bundled product. Grandia HD Remaster will also launch as an individual title on PC at the same time as Grandia HD Collection. Similarly, the previously-released Grandia II Anniversary Edition for PC will be updated and renamed to Grandia II HD Remaster, also at the same time.
While GungHo doesn't have a booth on the E3 show floor this year, I got a chance to briefly meet with Takeshi Minagawa, Director of Game Publishing at GungHo, for a hands-on demo with Grandia HD Collection for Switch. During my demo, I had a chance to ask some questions. Gungho also sent us some screenshots for both Grandia games on Switch, which can be seen throughout this article and in the galleries.
Let me get it out of the way first, when I asked Mr. Minagawa when we could expect to purchase Grandia HD on eShop or Steam, "Very Soon" was his immediate answer. He could not provide a hard release date, and he explained that GungHo is still in discussions with Nintendo in terms of release timing. He was not able to offer any more details of a release window for the game, no matter how much I pushed for a more specific timeframe. I also asked if there were any plans for a physical/retail release on Nintendo Switch. "Not at all" was Mr. Minagawa's response. He reiterated the Collection will be a digital release, same as the PC version.
We at RPG Site have also seen a lot of clamor from fans on social media pleading GungHo to release the Grandia HD Collection on PlayStation 4. I asked if this was something GungHo could consider in the future. Mr. Minagawa chuckled, "We'll think about it, but we felt the Switch was the console platform best suited for JRPGs, and we are first focused on release for Nintendo Switch and PC."
Despite some previous reports last year saying that both the Saturn and PlayStation version source code would be used in this remaster, Mr. Minagawa stated to me plainly that the code base used is the original PlayStation version. He also clarified that the remasters are being handled by Sickhead Games. [Grandia II Anniversary Edition was handled by Skybox Labs.]
"We want to be clear, the GRANDIA HD Collection are not ports of the original PlayStation games, they are remasters. We are using the original PlayStation code of GRANDIA, but working with the Sega Saturn version to craft the definitive version of this beloved RPG."
After we asked if GungHo could offer more clarification, GungHo replied:
The team is primarily using the Saturn version as a reference point, working to match details and effects from that version of the game.
As for the demo itself, I got to play a little bit of both Grandia and Grandia II on Nintendo Switch. To clear up one thing from the recent press release, the Switch versions of the games will support proper widescreen. Only pre-rendered or animated movies and the world map screen remain with a 4:3 display. I didn't get a chance to see it for myself, but a provided still of the opening sequence shows blurred pillar-bars on the left and right sides (shown below and in the gallery).
Mr. Minagawa explained that as many art assets as possible were touched up for this release. Character sprites & portraits, enemy sprites, environment model art, and UI elements like icons & text. A few menu digits could not be replaced, but most of the UI has clearly received touch-ups. This did give the character sprites, to my eye in my time with the game, a slightly smeared look. There will not be options to choose original sprites.
Mr. Minagawa could not promise specific details on the PC port of Grandia HD Remaster at this time, except the previously stated note that it will support customizable resolutions. However, he indicated that the aspect ratio will probably be fixed to 16:9 and support windowed modes.
Not everything will be enhanced, however, as audio quality will be the same as the PSX version. Also, while Grandia II got a new Hard Mode in its re-release in 2015, no such new additions will be made to the original Grandia.
One of the new additions to this re-release, besides dual-audio support, is that of French and German subtitle tracks. Mr. Minagawa stated casually GungHo was interested in also doing a Spanish localization, but with nearly 1 million words between the two games, it wasn't something they could deliver at the moment.
Our time with GungHo was very brief, but GungHo did allow me a quick moment to capture just a few minutes of footage of Grandia HD Remaster playing on Nintendo Switch. You can check out our recording below.
Note: Playing the demo in the meeting room was difficult to hear, and at the time I didn't realize Justin and Sue's battle ability voices still seemed to be in English despite having selected Japanese voices (and Justin's victory cry being in Japanese). While he didn't comment on this specifically, Mr. Minagawa was up front in how the game was still in development, so this is something that could be worked out before release. Unique to Grandia HD Remaster, the voice track can be toggled mid-game, rather than only at the opening menu as with Grandia II HD Remaster.
As for Grandia II HD Remaster, the biggest addition to this version is that of proper widescreen as the Anniversary Edition did not natively support this. Some art has also been touched up further, most notably in the UI. Otherwise, Grandia II HD Remaster is currently receiving more performance tweaks to remove as many glitches as possible from the release for both Switch and PC. Also to clear up any confusion, those who already own Grandia II Anniversary Edition on PC will not have to re-purchase Grandia II HD Remaster.
Finally, I asked Mr. Minagawa if a Grandia III HD Remaster could be a future possibility. "I cannot say," he replied. "The history with Grandia III is so complicated - who distributed it, who published it, who actually has the rights. If you really want to ask that question, you'd have to go ask Game Arts first." In case you are unaware, Game Arts is the original developer of the Grandia series, as well as Lunar.
That was all the time we had for our brief conversation. Gungho did send some screenshots, which you can find in the below galleries for both games, with the Switch version shown.