Playing a couple hours of this game again has certainly reminded me of some things. The last time I started a file was Dreamcast Day a couple years ago. Tonight I got as far as Agear (the second town), but even that distance was enough to see that both the combat and story hold up pretty nicely, especially the former.
What I forgot about the combat system is how the time scale mechanic affects all the different actions aside from just attacking and canceling. Essentially, Grandia II uses a real-time-with-pause system, not wholly unlike an isometric CRPG. The main difference is you don't control character movement. That, and everyone has a set cooldown after every action, and your enemies' cooldowns are what you try to manipulate. The things I forgot about are how this affects functions like blocking and evasion. Like most JRPGs Grandia II has a block command, but now you can actually see the most opportune time to block, like if an enemy is mid-way through an attack animation when a party member's command turn comes up. Depending on the animation and distance, you can also just evade. It's kind of like Street Fighter except the game pauses every few seconds so you can ponder your next move. The system starts to get complicated as soon as you're dealing with more than one party member.
I'm also however starting to remember how much I don't like the rift that perpetually exists in JRPGs between real time exploration and turn-based combat that happens in a different plane of existence. In other JRPGs you at least have the nice feeling of exploring a vast world map, but Grandia II is literally a bunch of towns strung together by linear pathways, some of which contain rudimentary puzzles. I'm starting to wonder if I'd have preferred it if you just got a bunch of pre-designed battles in-between towns like Final Fantasy Tactics or something.
Anyway, I'm also starting to get re-acquainted with the character dynamics here. The male lead and female lead are your basic jerkass-who's-secretly-a-compassionate-guy clashing with demure-healer-priestess-lady. The male's relationship with the other female lead (guess which archetype she is) is a bit more interesting. Their first meeting is when she flat-out kicks his ass, but he shows no ability to drop his male chauvinism. And then it happens again, and when she immediately joins the party thereafter he still talks as if he has any level of control over her.