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Grand Kingdom
Score: 82%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Spike Chunsoft Co. Ltd.
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Turn-Based Strategy/ RPG

Graphics & Sound:
Greetings noble warriors, and welcome to our knight training class. Here youíll learn all sorts of skills according to your talents and leave able to join any guild of your choosing as a full-fledged member. Letís not jump the gun, however. First, we must train you! Letís get started, shall we? Follow me to our Grand Kingdom!

I feel like I havenít seen a 2D turn-based RPG in a long time, but maybe I havenít been paying enough attention. Grand Kingdom fills that void by offering exactly that. The graphics look pretty great on the Vita and I had no complaints at all, even if they are a bit old school. I got a good nostalgia trip from it, and even though I say theyíre a bit old school, you can easily tell theyíre pretty up to date and not anything super throwback. Personally, Iíd say the graphics are a nice change from what we usually see and having a more traditional look to RPG games makes me feel a bit more at home. The story is told through the use of 2D renders of characters over a backdrop. The 2D renders are animated and sometimes little scenes will play to go along with the storytelling. Itís a nice little touch, I think.

Music in Grand Kingdom is almost what youíd expect. The tracks are, for the most part, pretty heroic in battle and convey an old kingdom feel when roaming the field. Theyíre pretty mellow for the most part, especially when youíre out on the field. In battles, the tracks pick up a bit to help keep a sense of battle, but itís not anything super heavy. The characters also come equipped with their own voice actors, so youíll get to see how your perception of a character may match up with the personality theyíve been given. Players can choose between English and Japanese voice acting, so go with whatever you prefer.


Gameplay:
Grand Kingdom is a turn-based RPG game where players take control of a squad of mercenaries and complete quests for a living. The simple life, you know? While thatís the barebones of your life, what youíre actually doing is spreading your fame throughout the land, while also increasing the reputation of an already somewhat famous guild run by a man named Godfrey. Just keep in mind that if youíre going to embarrass someone, only embarrass yourself. Godfrey doesnít have time to have his reputation tarnished by some greenhorn mercenaries.

Grand Kingdom is a pretty simple game to understand. Players will choose a quest to complete, then set up their squad to go out and do that quest. Youíll then be sent to a location where youíll have to reach a goal point to complete the quest. Units are represented by an icon that resembles a chess piece and each are colored differently. The playerís map icon will be silver, while enemies will be red or purple. Youíll start on one side of the field and must advance to the marked location in the number of Actions provided. Failure to do so results in failure for the quest. The amount of Actions allotted varies per quest and any time you do something on the field, your Action counter will go down. If you make a move, it counts as an Action. Turns in battle count as Actions. You wonít believe how many Actions I wasted from moving back and forth between the same two spots, so make sure not to do that. To move your units, you can use the Left Stick or the Directional Buttons. Youíll only be able to move along the path shown on the field and often times, itíll branch out into several directions. You can press the Left Bumper button to check the destination as you please and you can use the Right Stick to glance over the map. The Right Bumper button allows you to zoom for a better view. You should glance over the field often to get an idea of what path you may want to take. Often times, youíll see treasure chests or resources littered about and itís always a good idea to go collect them. Be careful as you traverse the map though: You could run into an enemy and some enemies are hidden on the map, as denoted by a whirlwind. Youíll have to use a special item in order to track their movements for a brief period. Other times you may find hidden treasure, and who doesnít love hidden treasure?

Keep your wits about you as go through the field. Occasionally, youíll run into those enemies that are roaming the map with you. Like the player, theyíll move around on their own as you move around, so youíll have to keep track of their position. Most times you can avoid them, but sometimes youíll be forced into a confrontation. If you step on the same tile, a battle will begin. Youíll be introduced to the enemy units and theyíll take their position on the field while your team takes theirs. From here, each unit takes turns performing an action in the battle. On one of your unitís turns, youíll be able to view their status as well as their skills. The turn order is displayed directly at the bottom of the screen. Units are placed along a three row grid and can move relatively freely along the grid with the Left Stick. You can only move a unit a certain amount of spaces and this is shown by the first gauge at the bottom of the screen. Once it depletes, you canít make any more moves for that turn. You then have to attack or end your turn. If you attack, the number of attack actions you can perform is represented by the second gauge at the bottom of the screen and, like the movement gauge, once depleted, your turn ends. Youíll need to be able to move close to an enemy in order to attack them with your skills. Ranged characters donít have to worry since they can hit a target from almost across the battlefield. You can check the status and abilities of each unit in a battle by flicking the Right Stick and scrolling through the various units in battle. The battle ends once you eliminate all enemy units and win, or if your team is eliminated. If your team is defeated, itís a loss for the quest so try to not fight unnecessarily and weaken your forces on longer quests. After a battle, youíll earn experience points and recover a percentage of your teamís health based on your performance. Doing excellently in battles will leave your team fully recovered for the next one, so donít be a slouch in battle!

Every great guild has a base, and Godfreyís is no exception. In between missions, youíll get to enjoy the comfort of your base. From here, you can conduct operations to strengthen your squad in numerous ways. The first is by taking on Quests. In the Quests tab, youíll be able to accept Quests posted on the bulletin board and go out into the field to complete them. Youíll be given a list of Quests to take on, with some advancing the campaign and others merely for your squadís benefit. Versus quests allow you to get your name in the rankings by partaking in War battles. The next option is the War tab. Here you can form a contract with any of the Four Great Nations and have your squad sent to war. You can select to dispatch to the battlefield yourself and direct your troops manually or send your troops by themselves to have them automatically fight and gain rewards. Keep in mind that a Network Connection is needed to partake in wars. Under the Policy tab, you can hire new squad members, form War contracts, and view your squadís policy. The Shop allows you to buy and sell items at the Guildís shop. The stock often changes and new items pop up from time to time, so check often. The Train tab allows you to go to the training grounds to learn skills and perform a Class Up. Class Up reverts your unit to level 1, but gives them several benefits such as gaining extra bonus points to skills easier. Information is power, and thatís why the Information tab is pretty useful. Here youíll be able to get your partner to research mercenaries worldwide or simply get information about the War rankings. The last tab allows you to leave the Guild and go check out the capital of one of the Four Nations. Lastly, pressing the (Triangle) button allows you to pull up your Party Menu to change equipment, check items, or change the Options. Spend a good amount of time resting between Quests, so youíre always fresh for the next one.

Letís go a bit more in depth with squad creation. While you may get attached to your initial squad of troops, youíll need more if you want to become successful. This is where squad customization comes in handy. In the Guild base, youíre able to hire new squad members to form new squads to use, but no one works for free. Youíll have to pay a certain fee to hire new squad members, but once you do, theyíre all yours. You can even customize the appearance and voice of members you hire. Before you go off and buy everything you see, take note of each unit. There are several different units in the game, such as Rogues and Medics. Each unit has some sort of specialization that can benefit your team. Medics, for example, can keep your troops healed up, while a Rogue is good at maneuvering the battlefield and taking out an enemy leader. Always try to make a diverse team to make battles flow the way you want, otherwise you might find yourself wiped out.


Difficulty:
The concept of difficulty has changed over the years as games figure out what works best in certain genres. Oh wait, Iím not here to be philosophical or anything crazy. Grand Kingdom handles difficulty in a way many people will probably be familiar. Instead of opting for the standard "pick this difficulty and be stuck with it forever, Grand Kingdom opts to allow players to choose difficulty on the fly. This is done by allowing players to set a difficulty before they take off on a Quest. If you think yourself invincible, try upping the difficulty on the next Quest you do. That may not be as simple as you think it is, however. You can only adjust the difficulty of a Quest if your squad rank is at a certain tier. Otherwise, youíll be stuck at the default, which isnít always bad. The Quest will tell you in the overview what its recommended level is and this recommended level will increase for each Quest as you complete more and more. If youíre not at the recommended, youíll probably find yourself struggling to get by on the standard difficulty. So donít get too discouraged if you canít change the difficulty. Keep your team under leveled and thatíll be the little boost you need.

Game Mechanics:
You certainly can't send your squad out without any weapons or accessories, can you? That's where customization comes into play. Each unit can have one main weapon and two accessories equipped for a total of three different items equipped. Like you may have guessed, your main weapon augments your unitís offensive capability and just like there are many different classes of units, there are many different classes of weapons for each of those units. Your accessories will augment your defensive capabilities or provide some special type of effect, but you can only have one of an accessory equipped. No accessory stacking, guys. Fortunately, however, each accessory comes with multiple slots that can be further customized with Pyroxene, which you can find in treasure chests. Pyroxene gives your accessories further effects, but like accessories, you cannot equip two or more of the same Pyroxene. Figure out what works best on your units to make them as strong as possible.

Tactics go a long way to winning a battle and in Grand Kingdom, this is especially true. Once youíve gotten your squad set up with the troops you want, youíll be able to customize that squadís formation. Formations can be split up into Invasion and Defense, with the player being able to customize both. Invasion formations are used primarily for, you guessed it, invading. Theyíre also used in quests. This formation is used to invade enemy territories and defeat your opponents, taking their land. In this formation, you generally want to place your melee characters on the front line. The Defense formation is used for defense quests or defending forts and allows you to place a high number of Objects on the battlefield to use to your advantage. Customize both accordingly and make sure your troops are optimally placed.

Ah, I see youíre interested in Objects now, are you? Well, Objects are exactly what they sound like. You can place them on the battlefield and stop or hinder your opponentís progress. Objects can range from simple barrels to more complex fortification barriers and each has its own health bar to show how much punishment it can take. When setting Objects, youíre able to select the desired Object with the Directional Buttons or by using the Left Stick. Grab the Object with the (X) button and press (X) again to place it in your desired location. You can select Objects from the Placement Menu, which is opened with the (Square) button, and here you can see a list of Objects owned. Removing an Object is pretty simple as well. Simply press the Left Bumper button to switch to Removal Mode and press the (X) button with the desired Object removed. You can save formations and load them for ease of access. Be strategic with your Object placements as they can hinder you also if placed poorly.

Working in a squad means youíll have to get along and this is where the beauty of Assists come in. Over the course of battle, youíll notice your Assist gauge (located on the left side of the screen) fill as you take actions. As it fills, youíll be able to rely on Assists. An Assist Chance instantly occurs once an enemy is near death. Youíll get a pop up and will then able to select a unit to Assist you. You can select the unit by pressing the Directional Buttons and then activate the Assist by pressing the (X) button. This will allow the unit to quickly jump in and use their Assist skill to finish off the enemy. Assists are your best friend in battle, so always try to keep in mind your teammateís positioning and attack range when going in deep.

Grand Kingdom is a great addition to the library of Vita games and I definitely think you should pick it up. The game feels so fluid and natural on the Vita, but then again, I always envision the Vita as an RPG gamerís paradise. If you share my vision, then youíll definitely love Grand Kingdom. If you donít, you might be better off looking for some other games to enjoy.


-SS-54, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ren Plummer

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