On July 29 2011, Takeshi Miyaji, the creator of the Grandia series, passed away. I was saddened when I heard because I played Grandia when I was still in 7th or 8th grade. I don’t own the game anymore (I have since adopted a “never trade in anything ever” stance) but when Miyaji died, I wanted to play it. Looking back on the game now makes me want to play it. I can’t, though, because I don’t have a Playstation 3, PSP or vita. However, I know how to get it again if I ever give up on pawn shops, bargain bins and various Internet emporiums. Grandia will be waiting patiently for me on the Playstation Network.
If I take a step back, Grandia wasn’t great. The levelling up system was pretty neat and the battles played out in a pretty effective mix of turn-based fighting and heightened action. But if I’m honest with myself, the story was immature and bogged down with JRPG cliches; all under an aesthetic that, even for the time, felt unremarkable. Also, a big chunk of the moves aren’t available without excessive grinding and by the time they unlocked they’re completely unnecessary to meet the game’s challenges. It also tends to force the player along the events without leaving time to explore other areas of the game or backtracking to revisit old areas.
All that said, I really liked it. It was the story of a boy answering the call to adventure. I never played Grandia II and Grandia III became unbearable after about 3 hours, but the first one, though far from perfect, affected me in a positive way. Somewhere along the line “nostalgia” has become a dirty word (I’ve used that word pretty dirtily myself (“Often Classic Means Dated: A Look Back at Chrono Trigger.” PopMatters. Sep 26 2011.) and I have been summarily put in my place for it (“Brady, Sean. “Aging and Aging Well: The Use of Historical Context in Video Games Criticism.” PopMatters. Sep 13 2011.)) and liking something old because you liked it when it was new tends to be seen as a mark against one’s credibility. But I’ve been led by others’ nostalgia to some of my favourite games a decade after their release. More than that, some things stay relevant for ages, or even if they don’t they’re a window into a different way of thinking. In an art form that traditionally has been so closely tied to technology, the temptation has always been to favour the newer, shinier, faster and sleeker (I love when indie games tear this apart but apparently they aren’t enough).
Grandia was written, I think, for people like me at the time I first played it: boys in small towns who wanted adventure. Even if it wasn’t written for me, I was still able to find something to get attached to: there was a version of myself that could connect with the characters and their adventure in a positive way. Looking back at my one playthrough of it many years later, I can see some of the problems with it but I wonder what I might get from that game after 13 years. Whether or not I’ll be affected again in a new way, parallel to my adolescent self or if I’ll be wholly embarrassed at my glaring lack of taste.
The point is that at any time I want to go back to Grandia I can do it. More important than that, I can tell other people about Grandia and they can see value in it. Others can value it in ways I never would have. Or they can tell me what a sick, destructive, indulgent mess it is. It will cost me $6, but so long as I own a modern Playstation console, I can pick it up any time I want. Enough people were affected by Grandia that it’s been preserved. Kenji Eno’s work has not been (Filipowich, Mark. “The Playstation is Dead. Long Live Playstation.” PopMatters. Mar 5 2013.).
When Eno passed away, people were sad that a visionary was lost and they took the time to review his body of work. Eno’s work is much more of the creative, boundary-pushing experimentation of form that the medium needs. On a personal note, his work doesn’t seem like my cup of tea, but a cursory reading of D, D 2 and Enemy Zero have really impressed me. I would love to sit on a couch and watch somebody else go through them (particularly D) but that will probably never happen.
Eno’s work did not affect enough people because nobody bought a Sega Saturn, 3DO or Dreamcast. Reviving his work isn’t worth anything. Any conversations that could be generated by the things he’s made are on a time-limit. Those that missed the first edition of his games have missed their only chance to talk about them. I find that very sad.
I don’t want to suggest that creating art is a means of living after dying but I will say that art is a special form of communication. I will also say that communication is good. What Kenji Eno had to say in his work is fading. Refitting D, D 2 and Enemy Zero into a single package would cost next to nothing and take just a weekend of shuffling some code around. But nobody wants it because it’s old and it didn’t sell well.
Of course, somebody has to get paid for their time. I don’t really have a solution. I’m just disappointed that I missed the conversation.
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Further reading: Mitchell, Richard. “The Aging Horror of Kenji Eno’s D.” Joysiq. May 10 2013.
Cox, Lewis. “Underrated Games — D2.” The Punk Effect. Nov 27 2013.
Asterick. “Presented in Retrovision: Enemy Zero.” Gay Gamer. Apr 24 2008.