Growlanser: Heritage of War

Something got lost among all the big next-gen RPG fanfare from Square-Enix last week - an unexpected announcement from Atlus that a new PS2 Growlanser game is making its way stateside. Growlanser is one of Atlus's premiere series in Japan (alongside the venerable Shin Megami Tensei franchise), and while the now-defunct Working Designs handled the English translation and publishing duties for the second and third installments, Atlus themselves are going to be bringing Heritage of War over to our shores.

Growlanser: Heritage of War is actually a localization of the fifth game in the Growlanser series, and marks its first full voyage into the world of 3D visuals. Players who remember the rather garish 2D sprites and environments of Growlanser Generations will be pleasantly surprised by the all-new graphics engine. Well-known anime and manga artist Satoshi Urushihara - okay, Western fans might not know him as well as we do, but trust us, he's good - returns to once again lend his touch to the character designs, and despite the PS2's aging graphics engine, the 3D character models in Heritage of War manage to capture the subtleties and detail of his artwork near-flawlessly.

Things are not well on the island where Heritage of War takes place. Famine has ravaged the land, driving once-friendly neighbors to combat over what little fertile soil remains.Powerful kingdoms lie in an uneasy truce, kept only in check by a small peacekeeping force. Making things even worse, you've also got all kinds of monsters coming out of the ocean and wreaking havoc. Can you successfully rally the forces of righteousness and put the world at ease again?

A unique facet of the Growlanser games is that your lead character's personality is not set in stone, rather, it changes based on the choices you make throughout the game. This has far-reaching effects throughout the game world: your allies and enemies view you differently based on your past conduct, which can lead you down several entirely different story paths. With several possible endings on offer, this is a strategy/RPG with replay value in abundance. An all-new, equipment- and experience-based ability learning system and a friendly, trainable fairy companion add icing onto the already-rich layers of gameplay cake.

While Growlanser Generations was plenty fun, Heritage of War takes everything that made its predecessors interesting and unique and kicks it all up several notches. If you've got the not-quite-next-gen blues, Growlanser: Heritage of War is bound to help perk you up. With a wealth of strategy options and replayability up the wazoo, this one will keep your PS2 humming happily through year's end and beyond.

Atlus is promising us more Growlanser-related surprises in the future, including special bonus goodies that will be included in the Heritage of War package. While these probably won't be as elaborate (and ridiculous) as the items offered in the Growlanser Generations limited edition release, they're certain to add even more value to an already appealing release. GamesRadar will be sure to keep you posted on this one as we learn more.