The first Growlanser,
never released outside Japan, may have been a low-profile title in
West, but it certainly had impressive credentials. The game was the
first project to come out of the newly founded Career Soft, a team
comprised of the original creators of Japan's long running and popular
Langrisser strategy series. The first game's mix of action, strategy,
and traditional RPG elements was enough of a success to warrant the
inevitable sequel, this time on the PS2. Growlanser II offers a return
to the world of the first game, a new cast of characters, updated
graphics, and a refined version of the first game's unique battle
The story centers on three neighboring kingdoms:
Rolandia, Barnshutain, and Lanzak. One year after a devastating war
between the countries, an uneasy peace has settled in. But while the
protagonist, a young imperial knight named Wein Cruz, is patrolling the
Barnshutain border, he encounters an armed force of unknown origins.
Accompanied by Hans Part, his excitable apprentice; Maximilian Schneider, an old
friend from the imperial academy; and Sharloni Claudius, an inexperienced female student,
Wein sets out to investigate the motives of this mysterious force,
prevent a war and, presumably, save the world.
Other characters who will join Wein later include
Ernest Raiel, an exiled knight who betrayed his country; Wolfgang,
leader of a mercenary group, and Riviera, a female fugitive. In an
interesting twist, many of the main characters from the first game
return for the sequel, but now relegated to more minor roles; some
even crop up as well-hidden playable characters.
While story may be the standard RPG fare, the
way it develops definitely isn't. Growlanser II employs a unique non-linear
story system, which tailors the plot to the player's actions. Numerous
factors, ranging from the path Wein takes while traveling to the player's
performance in battle, have an effect on the direction of the story
and the new plot paths which open to the player.
The evolving story system is reflected in the
game's world map, dubbed the Continental Chart. At the beginning of
the game, the parchment-like map is all but empty. As the story progresses
and choices are made, new destinations will appear. Some of these
are determined by the player's own choices, but some events and locations
open up based on information gathered from townsfolk and stories heard
while traveling. Either way, the choices you make and the information
you hear will shut off some areas of the game, while opening up others.
With this sort of focused narrative based around mutually exclusive
plot threads, Growlanser II should manage to avoid the aimless wandering
seen in most non-linear games.
The first game's "Real-Time Mission Clear" battle
system, which changes each scenario's mission goals based on events
during combat, will return with a few changes aimed at simplifying
the interface and strengthening the role of magic. As before, the
battles play out like a cross between a standard turn-based strategy
game, such as Final Fantasy Tactics, and the real time strategy games
seen on PCs. All of the action takes place in realtime, determined
by each character's speed and abilities. Each action takes a certain
amount of time on the Count Meter to activate and players can pause
the battle at any time to issue new orders, set waypoints, or check
the field layout. Though the action can get chaotic with over a dozen
characters on the screen at once, the fairly small scale of the engagements
keeps the game feeling closer to a faster paced version of a console
strategy title rather than the constant click-fests of PC RTSs.
The battle system has received a few tweaks from
the first game. Characters are now able to hold in their magic-based
attacks, accumulating greater power as they wait. These stronger spells
can be released immediately, or left charged to fire off at any time.
The characters themselves can't move while storing up magic, so strategic
positioning will be key in Growlanser II's pseudo-realtime battles.
The more weapon oriented characters won't be left out of the battle
improvements, however; new special attacks and battle techniques will
be available to soldiers, as well. As before, characters earn their
new skills and abilities by spending skill points. Each level-up brings
with it a few of these points, which may be spent however the player
The sequel also allows for much greater weapon
customization. Each character employs a unique Ring Weapon which can
be customized with up to three Spirit Stones. The weapons retain the
same look over the course of the game, but players can combine a variety
of different rings and stones to create countless unique effects.
When combined with a ring, Spirit Stones can increase the character's
stats or experience, add elemental immunities, or even unlock new
One thing that doesn't seem to have changed much
from the previous game is the graphics. Growlanser II continues the
last game's more traditional aesthetics, with hand-drawn sprites and
detailed, but static, rendered backgrounds. Fortunately, the excellent
character designs by Langrisser veteran Satoshi Urushihara will be
returning, and again large screen-filling character portraits will
be used during dialogue. The first game's heavy use of voice acting
also returns, with full voice overs for all the major characters.
With a third game already announced, Atlus Japan
obviously remains committed to the Growlanser franchise. Unfortunately,
the series may be destined to remain a Japan exclusive -- the company's
US branch hasn't expressed any interest in bringing Growlanser II
stateside. But with a few "mystery RPGs" still unannounced
for localization, there remains a small chance that Growlanser II
could find its way to North America.
Preview by Zak McClendon and Fritz Fraundorf, GIA.
|Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice
|New Japanese release dates
|92 new screenshots
|3 new character portraits