Growlanser II

    With Growlanser II's release only a month ago in Japan, Atlus has wasted no time in announcing a third installment for Career Soft's popular action / strategy RPG series. Growlanser III was first mentioned as part of Atlus' publishing deal with Kadokawa Shoten, but now the company has released the first details on the sequel, titled Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness.

  Growlanser III
Growlanser II+I

   While the second game in the series took place only a few years after the first, Growlanser III will begin over 1000 years in the past, during the great catastrophe which drove mankind to escape to another dimension. The sun is gradually growing dimmer, causing all life on the planet to slowly die out. The game begins in the Kichuronia Federation, a small country as-yet unaffected by the disaster. The game's unnamed lead awakens there, his memory lost in a great battle. The Chairman's daughter Annette takes pity on them, and the two begin their adventure. Little else in know about the plot at this point, but presumably, it will detail the events leading up to mankind's exodus to the dimension where the other Growlanser games took place.

   From the early media, it seems Growlanser III will use the same engine as the previous game, and the same heavy use of screen-filling character portraits and voice acting. Artist Satoshi Urushihara will also be returning for character design duties. But while the game certainly looks like a quick rehash of Growlanser II, Career soft is adding more than enough changes to keep the gameplay fresh.

   The most obvious is the return of a true world map. Movement in Growlanser II was accomplished by use of Final Fantasy Tactics-like "Continental Chart," but the third game will allow players to actually explore the world on foot, complete with random battles. Towns are also done in the style of a traditional RPG, and players can gather new info and visit shops in person, rather than simply clicking on a location on the world map.

Our Map!
World Map

   Fully formed dungeons are also being added, rather than the last game's collection of disparate battle maps. Monsters are visible during your dungeon crawls, and can be avoided so long as the characters stay out of sight. Unfortunately, Career Soft has chosen to trot out the never-popular random dungeons for the sequel; but considering the bulk of the gameplay comes in the form of small scale tactical battles, the move shouldn't have much of a negative impact.

    The battle system itself is largely unchanged from Growlanser II, with the same mix of turn based battles and real time strategy. (Readers can find a full description of Growlanser II's Realtime Mission Clear system in our preview of that game.) One new system has been revealed, however; characters may now coordinated magical attacks using the aptly named Combination System. The result will be brand new spells and more powerful attacks. Other changes are more subtle. For example, characters gain increased level up bonus in the skills they use most, making it easy to customize their growth. The second game's customizable Ring Weapon system will also be returning and all the equipment from the first game will be included along with the new items.

  Growlanser III
Waning choices

       Perhaps the most interesting change is the game's take on the series' tradition of nonlinear storytelling. Growlanser III will actually let players choose whether to follow the path of good or evil through the game, and will make them stick to their decisions. If a player chooses "evil" actions or conversation choices, for example, the "good" choices will gradually begin to disappear. Eventually, the the virtuous choices will be grayed out in all conversations. You'll still be able to see all the possibilities, but you'll no longer be able to follow them.

   Same engine sequels always carry a certain stigma, but Growlanser III looks to offer more than enough new gameplay to keep series fans happy. Unfortunately, with no sign of second game ever appearing in the states, it's highly unlikely the third will find its way here. However, there is a small chance that the game's fresh start as a prequel will make it more attractive to American publishers. Meanwhile, Atlus plans on releasing Growlanser III before the end of the year in Japan.

Preview by Zak McClendon, GIA.
Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness
Developer Career Soft
Publisher Atlus
Genre Action RPG
Medium CD (1)
Platform Sony PlayStation 2
Release Date  Winter '01
Atlus partners with Kadokawa Shoten, announces Growlanser III
12 new screenshots
6 character designs