Oct 8, 2007
From Odin Sphere to Persona 3, Atlus has sure had a successful bunch of games this year. The recently released Growlanser: Heritage of War seems to have gotten the best localization treatment: an 80-page artbook, three pins, a keychain, a media disc, and more - all for the typical retail price. The package itself is neat, but just like any Christmas package full of underwear and deoderant, Growlanser: Heritage of War turns out to be disappointing and thoughtful at the same time.
The Growlanser series has always had an RTS-lite battle system. In Growlanser, it’s very similar, but manages to collect new problems for its 2D-to-3D adaptation. Hitting enemies can be a chore; characters may find themselves standing still during intense combat. The transition from menu-selection to actual combat can grow tiresom, too. (Thankfully, for ordinary battles, you can put on“automatic”.) Still, just like former Growlanser titles, Heritage of War manages to provide us with a lot of strategic and oftentimes innovative battles. It’s nice to have a variety of objectives. Other typical RPG necessities, like dungeons and towns, are all here, but they’re usually limited in scope, unfortunately.
Like the now-defunct Working Designs, Growlanser’s localization is spot-on, with some pleasant voice acting. The narrative actually turns out to be a strong point, too. The beginning isn’t so typical, since you have different roles of players in different times to the overall plot. This works out quite well, as the history lessons in the games make things interesting and not as predictable. Once you finally step into the role of the true protagonist, the characters become likable. True, the characters are about as cliché as they get, but the story is told so interestingly that you become to know the characters and their world more than you think.
It’s too bad that this game is ugly. Really ugly. Trapped in a PS1 world, Growlanser should have stuck with its 2D set-up; character models are edgy, rough, hard to recognize, and the backgrounds are still, dull, and have nothing interactive about them. Growlanser doesn’t have much harmony, either. It’s MIDI-reliant score is ordinary, with only a handful of tracks that are quite sound (no pun intended).
If you can handle bad presentation and clunky gameplay at times, then the story just may be enough of a reward. Growlanser: Heritage of War is a long game in the end, and while the flaws are obvious and often irritating, it is still by no means despicable. It just isn’t the grown-up installment of the series that we were hoping.