- Too japanese for some people
The greatest SRPG you have never heard of.
This review is based on the original Japanese version.
Growlanser 4: Wayfarer of Time is the fourth entry in the long running Growlanser series and considered the best by many fans. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Growlanser, it is a SRPG series created by CareerSoft, who are currently developing the Devil Survivor series (They also developed the Langrisser series). Growlanser is one of my favorite franchises along with the Persona series. Why should you care about reading my review? I have played a lot of RPGs: Final Fantasy, Tales, and Breath of Fire, Valkyrie profile, Persona and of course Growlanser. Growlanser stands out from the crowd.
Story 4. 5/5
In this game you take the role of Crevaniel (who you can rename). He is a silent protagonist (meaning that through choices and actions, the player shapes his personality) and a mercenary whose destiny it will be to stop a threat to the world that come in the form of celestial beings that resemble angels and attack humans for unknown reasons. It is up to you, the chosen one, to dispose of the menace. The game's history is good but fails at some points during the game so it is not the best history of the series (that goes to Growlanser 1) but is entertaining enough and never gets boring. The characters are great, but not the best characters of the series (again Growlanser 1 has the best characters), but there are a few characters that I found somewhat annoying.
Here is where the franchise really shines. The battles are a mix of RTS and SRPG. In battles your characters move in areas that are not grid based. Instead you choose the location where you want the characters to go and they will pass obstacles in order to get to the enemies. You can choose up to four straight line paths so you can make the character move whenever you like. If you know the gameplay system of Final Fantasy X-2 or Final Fantasy XII then you will be somewhat familiar with the characters' actions, such as attacks, which are restricted by their attack speed. The lower the stat the faster the character can act.
Magic uses a level system in which you select a magic spell and then you choose how many levels you want to chant. You need at least a level 1 spell to cast any spell and depending on the level, and the time to cast the spell, the strength of the magic increases. To cast high level magic (i.e. ranged magic) two characters must combine their magic (the same goes for support magic). Abilities in the game are learned via the use of gems that give various abilities like increasing HP, learning magic, and getting techniques. All abilities have maximum levels and you must learn those abilities level by level (i.e. to get level 5 cure you must learn cure 5 times).
Gems are equipped in slotted rings.
Rings are equipped and most rings have 3 slots to put gems in. Gems have levels that go from 0-9 and the slots on the rings have levels that must match the level of the gem (i.e. a level 4 movement up gem must go in a level 4 slot or higher to have effect). Thus, the gems added to the rings give various stats bonuses like increasing strength, HP, defense, and more.
Instead of traditional boss battles, the game features mission battles. Missions are battles where the series requires strategy since these missions have parameters that must be met to complete them. Missions do not only require rushing to kill enemies, but sometimes you must protect people from being killed, sometimes you must reach some point of the map, or sometimes you must escape from the enemies. The missions are so varied that make they the game anything but boring. At the end of any mission you get a calcification based on how you completed the mission: Mission Complete is awarded if you complete the mission parameters successfully and do it in short time (You get a counter at the beginning of the mission that gives you some time before it turns negative). Mission Clear means you fulfilled any of the two earlier parameters successfully and Mission failed if you did not succeed at any of the two parameters. This influences how much experience and money you get at the end of the battle and also influences your party members' opinion of you.
Another aspect of the Growlanser series is the relationship system. As the story progress you will answer several questions that influence your relationship with other party members. As the relationships with characters grow your chance to get that character ending grows. Eventually, you can go on vacations with the other characters. In the vacations you talk with the characters, get to know them, and increase your chances of getting that character's ending. Another addition is the fate system that allows you to change some characters・fate. Depending on your actions, you may be able to save other characters from dying. (Imagine a way to save Aerith from death! That kind of thing can be achieved in this game) the difficulty level of this game is the highest of the series (and higher than many RPGs). You will die very often in some missions but by changing your strategy, you can be victorious.
The series character art is done by the amazing artist Satoshi Urushihara (who has also done hentai). He is known for his beautiful female characters design and it shows in the game. To be fair, some male characters look great too. The game is in 2d and is far from being the prettiest game, but I still prefer it over 3d games. The music of Growlanser 4 is really good; it fits with the missions you get and is one of the best of the series. I can't get bored of the music. As most Japanese games, the voice acting is super and really fits with the characters and it really gives the characters life (although some voices are simply annoying). When the characters talk they blink, their lips move, and sometimes they change their portraits and that makes the game look like an anime. At the end of the game you get the CG gallery, character portrait galleries, music gallery, and character cards from previous Growlanser games and that makes a nice package for anime fans, and more for Urushihara fans.
Replay ability 5/5
When you finish the game you will get the chance save a new game+ feature that allows you to get the items, rings, gems, and armor for the beginning of the game. The reason you will want to play again is that you need to finish the game at least twice more to unlock the full gallery. Also, there will be some missions that you did not get "complete" for, so you will need another playthrough to get "complete" for all of them.