Note to readers: This review is of Growlanser II only. A review of Growlanser III will be on it’s way shortly.
Publisher: Working Designs
Developer: Career Soft
Release Date: 12/07/2005
Platform:: Playstation 2
Long after it’s unofficial death, the Playstation still lives on in a small amount of games some of us play to this date, from Disgaea to Phantom Brave, the games that spawned in the vein of Final Fantasy Tactics and Tactics Ogre are still going strong, and Growlanser is here to keep the tradition alive and well.
To some gamers, the Growlanser series may be something they have played via import gaming, but for a vast majority, this is a whole new experience. Working Designs, responsible for such games being brought over like the Lunar series, has once again brought over another great tactical-RPG for American audiences to enjoy, and shows us that as long as they are still in operation, they always have the old-school gamer in mind.
Growlanser II starts us off in the role of Wein Cruz, who is a military academy hopeful, who dreams of rising into the highest rank of soldiers. The game immediately gives us the impression that its storyline will heavily revolve politics and war, and it does quite well in incorporating those two elements into the story. Also, this may or may not remind players of Final Fantasy Tactics, and when you reach the world map, you will realize that it literally was born of the same mindset. There is no “adventure” in Growlanser II, it is strictly point and click to move to a different location, also, you will have no free movement in the game either, everything takes place in cut scenes and the battle screen.
The story progresses in small events that happen in towns, on the battlefield, or on the world map. The game moves in a pretty linear path for 2/3 of the game, in which side-quests will open up to allow the player to explore the background of the characters in their party. But the main story revolves around Wein, as he is the unit commander, which only makes sense to do this. The problem with the story is that there are some small plot holes, and you will get lost from time to time if you are paying too close attention to things. Also, it almost seems lazy that the game throws in Brett, a playable character, into the game for almost no reason at all. You will be asking yourself why the game gives almost no focus on his character, except for a side-quest that fleshes out a little bit of his character.
Growlanser’s battle system is an interesting system that borrows elements from Final Fantasy Tactics, RTS games, and Grandia, and they are all incorporated quite well. Battles take place on nicely drawn backgrounds, and you are free to move where you please, when you please. There is no grid that we are familiar with, which allows true freedom of movement in battle. The only problem is that there is no tactical use of the environment, it’s all about the placement of your characters in battle. Growlanser doesn’t allow you to place your units in tactically advantageous positions, they are placed in a spaced out group, and you will have to manage them from there. Characters can either attack, cast magic (which depends on their range ability), or use a tech, which has many different uses in battle. Battles move at a pretty fast pace based on how you perform, and if you happen to get lazy in battle, the game really will exploit your weaknesses and crush you from the inside out. The AI is pretty proficient in trying to slightly weaken your warrior-type characters, while blatantly pounding away at a preoccupied support character as well. This will force you to change your strategy on the fly, and make each and every encounter a new tactical experience.
One of the things that we expect with a Working Designs translation is some sort of voice acting implemented in some facet of the game, and this time they delivered to make almost 75% of the text in the game voice acted. The acting is pretty well done in contrast to other games that have really been detrimental to game voice acting, the main culprit being Baten Kaitos. Since Working Designs has always been anal about their translations and such, they did an excellent job with the dialogue in that there aren’t any awkward moments in the game where you are asking yourself if the writers of the game actually intended that sentence to be so strange. Accompanied with the voice acting is beautifully drawn character renditions that will pop up on the screen while a character is speaking. While the expressions of the characters are limited, the artistic quality of the sprites more than compensate for the lack.
Growlanser also gives the player a very direct control over the development of their characters. Every time a character levels up, you are given points to assign to a specific ability that you want them to master. This gives you the ability to tailor your entire force to the fighting style you prefer, even though some characters will always be stuck in their respective job allocation in terms of statistics. The game also implements the “Ring System”, where each character wears a ring that has 3 slots in it, where you can place Ability Gems (these increase stats, gives new abilities, or changes attributes) in a slot, but only if the Ring’s slots “level” is high enough to accept the gem. This option only furthers the impressive amount of customization that each character is allowed to undergo.
In essence, Growlanser is a game that would have been overlooked in the tactical-RPG/RPG days of the 90’s, when big-budget games of the respective genre were being released. But now that the rush has slowed down, the game has come at the most opportune time, and it is not merely a game that you play to tide yourself over for the next Nippon Ichi release, but rather one that creates an addiction for a game that steps out of the usual boundaries of its predecessors and blazes it’s own trail.
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Published on: 2005-01-26 (11193 reads)[ Go Back ]