Growlanser II

    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 system.

  Our hero!

   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.

Our Map!
Continental Chart

   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.

  Our Battle!
Battle scene

    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 sees fit.

   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 abilities.

Our Dialogue!

    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
Developer Career Soft
Publisher Atlus
Genre Action RPG
Medium CD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  07.26.01
New Japanese release dates
92 new screenshots
3 new character portraits
Japanese packaging