Author: Heath Flor
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Monday, August 13th, 2012
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/growlanser_wayfarer_of_time/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.
It's been quite a few years since North America has seen a new release in the Growlanser series. The latest entry -- Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time for the PSP -- is considered to be one of the best in the series to date, though many may be interested to learn it's not exactly new. In fact it is a remake of Growlanser IV: Overloaded, which happens to be a remake of Growlanser IV, both of which were only previously released in Japan.
Atlus has been hard at work translating this text heavy tactical RPG for North Americans to finally catch up on the Growlanser saga. Even though it's been nearly ten years since the original release of Growlanser IV, fans will be happy to learn the standalone game has matured well over the past decade -- for the most part.
It has been 2000 years since strange beings known as Angels rose up against mankind in an attempt to stifle their technological advances. The uprising worked surprisingly well, as many artifacts found of the old world are considered to hold mysterious powers, though they are thought to have been commonplace in the past.
The country of Noievarl is made up of four divided nations, who constantly fight and bicker over rights to territory and technologies. Mercenaries roam the lands looking for work, and business is good. The muted main character Crevaniel has grown up with -- and joined -- one such group known as Arten Schwart. The group works to stave off an attack in the Southern region of the country when all hell breaks loose, and an Angel appears once more to wreak havoc on the land.
Escaping just in the nick of time, Crevaniel learns from the leader he has a much bigger role in this world, and now must do what he can to stop the impending invasion of the Angels. Crevaniel agrees to set forth on this task, and relieves the leader of his duties to Arten Schwart. A few members tag along, while others decide they no longer wish to participate in further battles.
The story itself has a very slow and methodical pace typically found in older RPGs -- especially those stemming from Japan. Audiences these days are after a more 'in your face' delivery, and unfortunately this is where Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time begins to show its age. To its credit, the story is still full of stunning surprises with a very intriguing plot -- you just need to down a few highly caffeinated beverages in order to keep you awake.
Under an isometric perspective, the battlefield is typically an open area with a few obstructions littered about. Characters are not limited by a grid, however must rely on "MOV points" in order to move within a predetermined circumference around them. After a character uses up their MOV points and reaches their maximum movement within the circle, they must wait until the points have recharged before their next movement or action occurs.
Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time also uses a real-time battle system where the player has continuous input in order to control the action at a moment's notice. It takes some time getting used to having your characters move and act automatically based on your last command, as it's a bit outside the realm of traditional tactical RPGs. Once you have it down, the battles go rather quickly and are nearly a polar opposite of the story's overall slow pace.
Ring weapons are equipped, which magically transform into weapons matching a character's personality. You'll find they typically represent your standard fare of weapons including swords, staves, and bows -- just to name a few. There are also slots which allow you to add gems with unique bonus attributes, so you can customize the ring weapon and boost specific stats to fit your play style.
My favorite feature overall is the dual magic casting which allows you to create much stronger defense and support spells to assist in battle. On the surface it doesn't sound like much, and if you're not into using mages you probably won't find too much use for it. However it's one of those ingenious features which led me to wonder why it isn't used as a standard in all RPGs.
Characters interact with each other and form unique bonds throughout the game. Certain decisions and actions taken will result in consequences within character relationships -- whether good or bad. These relationships are very important and directly affect the outcome of the game; in fact there are over 40 different endings in Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time.
Taking a "vacation" with special characters allows you to pursue them romantically or just merely strengthen the bonds of friendship. You also will be rewarded if you complete character quests with special abilities. These of course tie directly to the story and help to drive which ending you will earn when you have completed it.
Even with the promise of multiple unique endings and some of the shocking twists which culminated from my decisions, I didn't find too much depth to the relationship system as a whole. While the impacts of your decisions are believable, you won't find it as engrossing as the Persona series. Still, it adds another strategic aspect to the game which many will enjoy tinkering with.
Though they've been spruced up a bit from nearly a decade ago, the graphics do suffer quite a bit. If you enjoy the look of older games then you won't likely notice it too much. However, if you're a graphic junkie you'll likely notice there isn't much to write home about. The overall presentation is rather bland, and battlefields as well as towns quickly begin to look the same. Cut scenes are very sharp and help to remedy the overall dullness, though it serves as a harsh reminder of how bad the rest of the graphics truly are when they're finished.
The soundtrack is dull in a lot of areas, though still beautiful. The real problem here is there's nothing which caught my attention, and nothing really catchy enough to where you'd find yourself unknowingly humming the tune. The composer Tomoyuki Hamada hasn't worked on another video game since the original Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (as far as I could find), so that might say something.
With over 40 possible endings to view, Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time definitely offers a huge amount of replay value for those who appreciate it. Personally I'm more interested in a single outcome, but the multiple possibilities should give folks something to do for the next few years until we see another entry into the series.
If you enjoy text heavy RPGs with a very slow and crafty delivery then you won't be able to pass up Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time. The unique battle system, dual magic casting, and deep story is more than enough to keep you engrossed for the 40+ hours of gameplay, despite the dated graphics and sluggish pacing.
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