RPG Review #57: Growlanser II: The Sense of JusticeNuMetalManiak "Hoot, man! Why are they just standing there? Are they taunting us now? I half expect them to turn, and lift their crusty, steel kilts!"
Now that's a way to start off this review, with the most Scottish quote from this game, said with the most amazing Scottish accent ever. Anyways, Growlanser, the series that is the spiritual successor of the Langrisser series, of which I played only the first game. However, I am playing the second game, Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice here. Why did I do that? Well it's simple. I can't play the first Growlanser because there isn't an English translation of the game! I tried looking for one but I had no luck. So I moved on to find that Growlanser Generations is a compilation of Growlanser II and III, and the only English translation of both games. And it's by one of my favorite RPG companies, Working Designs. So this should be one with many voices and such to hear.
Gameplay: Growlanser II's core gameplay is that of a tactical RPG, but it's not a turn-based one. It's a free-range movement scheme where characters move to where they are, or attack, or defend, or use magic or techniques. Fleeing a battle is as simple as reaching the edge. And as usual, defeating enemies is the key to experience and level gains, as well as increasing skills to master upon leveling up. Up to eight characters can be controlled in a battle, and many of the battles in the game are situational, so it's not just kill everything in sight. Conditions for victory and defeat are shown at the start of every major battle. Other criteria include Mission Failed, Clear, or Complete, with Complete being the best result. Doing exceptionally well in the mission is the key to a Mission Complete.
Other than major battles, there are random battles which can be surprising considering travel on the world map is the "simple go to destination" type of travel. It can be pretty hard to survive most battles. The way to do so is to allocate rings on characters, which also can have gems allocated to them for extra effects. Two battlers in combat can gang up on a single target, quickly meaning death of their target. After an attack, there's an attack wait before the same character can act again. Magic is in active time, depending on level of cast. Most magic attacks are very important, and it's also important to get rid of enemy mages quickly as they can be the most damaging on the field. The main character needs to survive every battle, as it's a game over if he falls.
Growlanser II is one of those games with multiple branching points as well. Characters in the party also have relation meters, depending on players actions, they could be very likeable towards the main character, and there's a scene in which our main character can spend with the one of his choosing. A number of sidequests can be done, but it's really difficult to tell what the criteria is for them. It's certainly a tough game. Unlike other games I've played, I only strived for the best ending here, as I just don't have the time for the other endings at the moment. But there's a lot that this game offers, and I liked much of it. Grade: A
Wein Cruz: The main character, wanted to be an Imperial Knight of Burnstein. Wein is apparently the only protagonist in the Growlanser series that isn't a silent protagonist for some reason. Traditional hero, but as I said about multiple branching points, it's possible for him to take another path. He wields a golden scythe in battle.
Maximillian Schneider: Although only playable for the first few battles of the game, Max is Wein's classmate and friend, who decides to stop using the sword and moved on to politics. Well, how would that work for him I wonder?
Hans Bearnt: This kid is actually quite annoying and energetic. He's like Tails from the Sonic series. Would've been my least favorite character if it weren't for how fast he acts. And he fights by throwing knives, and can throw them pretty fast, so he's effective for damaging enemies.
Charlone Claudius: She's the archer of the group. Has the highest strength rating and range, but the longest attack wait. A bit better to use as a magician.
Xenos Langley: More HP than the other characters, and decent power at the cost of being slow and not being able to use magic at all. Xenos was apparently a playable character in the first Growlanser as well.
Riviera Marius: The first real mage of the group, good with magic but nothing else. She's actually a Shadow Knight of Burnstein along with her sister, working mostly behind the scenes despite staying with Wein's group all the time.
Carmaine Fallsmyer: Ladies and gentlemen, the main character from the first Growlanser. As I said about Wein not being a silent protagonist, it's surprising not just to see Carmaine get a voice, but also to be a playable character in Growlanser II as well. He's pretty decent overall too.
Ernest Lyell: Another playable character returning from Growlanser, although he is optional to recruit. Pretty decent.
Brett Varner: Joins if Ernest doesn't join. He looks like a generic guard. I didn't get this character but I think he's just generic in combat.
Arieta Lyuis: A girl from Wein's childhood, possessed for most of the game, but it's possible to get her. She's a full-on mage in the game.
Sereb: Arieta's talking wolf companion who joins if Arieta isn't saved.
Patrick: He's an impostor of Maximillian who's playable only in the mercenary scenario. He's probably not good though.
So those are playable characters. Many important NPCs, some are returning from the previous game. A lot of interesting personalities. Grade: A
Plot: Growlanser's setting takes place in a world with three kingdoms: Burnstein, Wein's home kingdom with the boy king Elliotte, the warring nation of Rolandia where Carmaine was in the first game, and Ransack which is never really explored. The setting also starts pretty much in the middle of Growlanser I, making this game a direct sequel, something I am actually happy about.
Wein Cruz starts his military entrance exam with his partner Maximillian. They graduate, Wein then journeys off with Hans and Charlone on missions by Max, who has become a Burnstein minister. It takes a wrong turn when the Max's messenger, who's really working for the mercenaries under Wolfgang (who wants to find more about Wein), and the messenger sends the impostor Patrick to destroy a dam to frame Wein. They retreat, get the help of Xenos and Riviera, and get cleared of charges. They find out that Wolfgang wants to lead a democratic nation of mercenaries, and that he's the mastermind behind Wein's framing, not only that, but he's related to the death of Wein's father, as well as to Wein himself (as a half-brother). Meanwhile, Arieta, the girl from Wein's childhood, has been showing up multiple times with monsters, apparently possessed by Gevas, who was a monster from the first Growlanser. Depending on how things go, Wein can go with Wolfgang, and Hans and Xenos go with him on that journey, along with Patrick to victory for the mercenaries for one ending.
Or Wein can just deny it, instead fighting against him which is a more fruitful option. He teams up with Carmaine and returns to his friend Maximillian to fight the mercenaries, and you can get either Brett or Ernest next. At the control tower seen in the game, the possessed Arieta awakens Gevas, and depending on how well the player did in previous battles, it's possible to have an item to communicate with Arieta so she survives. Otherwise if she isn't saved, Sereb joins up. Then Wolfgang is ultimately defeated by Wein.
So is that it? Not quite. Wein can now spend an off day with a character of his choosing (you have to do the three girls first before the guys apparently). Meanwhile, Max has a plan for peace, a really extreme one though. He wants to use the power mask from way back in the beginning of the game to make everyone into mindless puppets. Again, a major branching point here where Wein can join up with Max or just openly resist. In either case, Wein realizes just how bad this is and ultimately stops Maximillian. In the case of openly resisting him at first, is the real ending, and Wein has a different ending with whomever he has the highest relationship with. Also there's clear bonuses for new files and such, which is necessary for literally everything. Lots of branching points and choices make this one tough game for full completion. Grade: B+
Music: Generally, the music is alright. There's not a lot of tracks, but with the music being available for free listening upon clearing the game, I can listen to and like most of the songs. Many of the battle themes are quite good. Grade: B+
Overall Grade: A-
Pretty good, although quite hard. A lot of things to do for this game, the kind of thing I want out of RPGs. Main storylines can be quite short too, but it's easy to forget where you are at most of the time. I like it though, it's quite replayable. Now that's one half of Growlanser Generations done, the second half which is Growlanser III may be done in the future.