|Dev: Career Soft|
|Release: July 31, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Blood, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language, Suggestive Themes|
Although the game's battle controls are generally easy to use, the interface is a bit dated, which makes things like the spell and ability system appear more obtuse than they actually are. A few important system mechanics are easy to miss as well. For instance, when the player needs to ask an NPC about an item, that item should be used while standing next to the NPC. Knowing this can save the player from a rather tragic event partway through the game. Also, "buff" spells like increased attack can be cast outside of battle, and buffing up the party prior to missions becomes a near-requirement in the late game. A few tutorial segments can be reviewed by using books in the character's "key items" menu, but for tricky elements like this, a more thorough help section would have been useful.
One area in which Growlanser doesn't excel is its aesthetics, which are competent but not spectacular. The particular style used in the character designs leaves a lot to personal taste. Some people will appreciate them, even with the hairstyles that are frequently, like, totally Eighties. Others will be turned off by the sameness in the characters' faces and other eccentricities of the style. Most players should appreciate the visual style of the cities in the game, which is quite ornate and often very interesting. The wilderness and dungeon design are less inspired, though the variety of puzzles in the dungeons at least keeps interest up during exploration.
The music and sound effects in the game aren't particularly interesting, and voice acting is only found in cutscenes, where it appears without subtitles. This is a major no-no in the portable world, as headphone-less players will find themselves frantically pounding the PSP's "volume up" button when a cutscene appears, losing the dialogue for the first several seconds. It doesn't help that the rest of the game's audio simply isn't compelling enough to inspire headphone use, especially as the background music loops endlessly even when the game is paused.
The so-so aesthetics shouldn't turn players away from this game, however, as it is very much worth experiencing. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is an excellent JRPG with a serious storyline and lots of juicy political intrigue. The battles are interesting and different from the norm, providing the kind of challenge that many RPG veterans crave. With a maturity to its story and an unusual amount of choice for the genre, the game will appeal not only to traditional JRPG fans, but to WRPG players and gamers who cross over into the genre for games like the Persona series. Growlanser is Vita-compatible and available on the PlayStation Network, so it will hopefully find an audience beyond the dwindling pool of PSP owners. Gamers with the ability to play it should definitely pick it up, as it's a game the deserves to be experienced.
Date: August 23, 2012