It's amazing how much a single short and simple piece of music can color one's recollection of a two-disc role-playing epic. Had someone criticized Grandia III in my presence back in 2006, I would have defended the game tooth and exceptionally-unkempt nail. The story is gripping and original! It's an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride from start to finish! It's the most wonderful role-playing game of the generation!
Years later I realized that it wasn't the game I was praising; just its intro music.
"In the Sky", a song by Japanese pop/rock singer Mizuki "Miz" Watanabe, is the reason I've held Grandia III in such high esteem all these years. It's not a particularly accomplished piece of music; had I been introduced to it outside of the game's context I might have shrugged and moved on. Eurogamer called it "a disgustingly poor piece of aural pap". Perhaps I would have thought the same.
But no, I was introduced to the song right as a brand-new epic adventure was about to begin. A freshly-cracked game case, the smell of game manual ink, and "In the Sky" playing in an endless loop as I sat transfixed in front of my television. Maybe it was the clever editing of the opening movie; the arcing lighting playing across the water as the drums lead into the final chorus; that awesome avian god descending from on high.
In those early moments, "In the Sky" became Grandia III to me. More than that, it became a representation of the joy of Japanese role-playing games, a container for both my treasured experiences and the wonder of adventures yet to come.
Years later I slipped Grandia III into my 60GB PlayStation 3, letting the opening sequence repeat again and again. I never pressed the start button, but felt as fulfilled as I would if I had.