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Review: Growlanser: Wayfarer Of Time

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Developer: Career Soft
Publisher: Atlus
Platform: PSP (also playable on Vita)
Release Date: Out Now
ESRB: T for Teen.



Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is the fourth entry of the tactical role-playing series 'Growlanser,“ which initially debuted on the Sony Playstation in 1999. Like previous games, Wayfarer of Time is known for its pseudo real-time strategic battles, branching story paths, and a multitude of endings.

The PSP version of Wayfarer of Time, renamed from the unfortunate Japanese title of Growlanser: Over Reloaded, is the definitive version of the original PS2 game. With new story scenarios and characters, the 2003 release gets a well-deserved tribute on a portable system. Considered by many fans to be the best entry in the series, does Wayfarer of Time have what it takes for a fitting swan song on the ever-dwindling PSP hardware?

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The player assumes the role of the promising mercenary, named by default as ”Crevanille,' a member of the highly-acclaimed Alten Schwart Brigade. Recently tasked with his first true mercenary contract, he is dispatched to protect a small island faction in order to help turn the tides of an oppressive country“s military takeover. That is, until the resurgence of the ”Angel“ - an all-powerful being regarded as a harbinger of death and bringer of catastrophe in ancient times - sets the island and the inhabitants aflame in a terrifying display of power. Shortly after having narrowly escaped with his life, Crevanille and the few remnants of the once-proud brigade decide to disband and go in search of new lifestyles. Crevanille sets off and begins his journey, deciding upon how to face the looming Angel threat among the tumultuous political landscape.

With what would seem like an odd hodgepodge of dark political intrigue and sci-fi/fantasy elements, the storytelling is actually pretty engaging in Wayfarer of Time. Despite what one may take away from the implication of the fantastical story component, it actually presents a darker and more grounded approach to its narrative, and has no qualms emphasizing the mortality of its world and inhabitants. Like many games in the genre, it is a little slow to unravel, feeling somewhat contrived and controlled in the earlier stretches. As it progresses, however, it's easy to feel a genuine concern for the world and the driving force behind the various characters, further propelled by the consequence of player input. As a whole, it is a large-in-scope narrative, and the localization fleshes it out well.

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Growlanser, as a series, has always had an interesting and different approach to what is often associated with Japanese strategy RPG“s combat systems. By blending both turn-based and RTS elements into one, Wayfarer of Time makes for something that's not quite as methodical and stiff as a normal Japanese strategy RPG, nor is it as overbearing on a macro level, and a test of speed, like many RTS games. As an end result, it is a surprisingly intuitive pseudo real-time system that shouldn't overwhelm newcomers, and brings over many tactical options of both. At its best, it“s a flexible and fun combat system with lots of variety in mission objectives. At its worst, it has some inherent clunkiness and crushing difficulty spikes that encourage the occasional grind.

Outside of combat, players are free to venture off to various locales or undergo a vast array of activities. The most notable of the activities is how the game handles sidequests. Some sidequests are straightforward enough, like escorting a merchant in hopes of a monetary reward or exploring a dungeon in order to obtain rare loot, but for a surprisingly large majority of them, they play on a more personalized reward. Everything from expanding upon the game's many subplots and the relationships with various characters, like 'bromances' to romances, to more direct consequences like altering the fate of certain characters and events of the main narrative, are valid rewards. Proudly boasting 40+ endings and several story branches, Wayfarer of Time offers a lot to do, and does a fairly good job enticing players to do multiple playthroughs.

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At first glance, it would be hard to compliment the visuals of the game. To be fair, it does very much look like a PS1 game, despite having actually been originally on the PS2. Character sprites are basic and hardly dissimilar from previous iterations of the series. Similarly, the environments are bland and uninspired throughout, as if plucked directly from a stock of RPG background catalogs. Conversely, the well-drawn character portraits, reminiscent of 90s era-anime, bring a distinct personality to the series and the occasional anime cutscenes features well-done and crisp animation to complement it, even if they are too few and far between. These flaws aren't unnoticeable, but because of the strong gameplay and narrative that propels it, it can be easy to overlook the lackluster presentation.

Due to budget constraints, Atlus was forced to omit voice acting of any sort, outside of the few anime cutscenes prevalent in the Japanese version. This may come off as disappointing for some, but there's definitely an audience who would prefer it without. Also on the audio front, the music isn't very impressive, favoring synthesized tracks over more instrumental compositions. That isn“t to say the music bad, since it really isn't. A few tracks stand out, but as a whole, the soundtrack just isn't particularly memorable.

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Fans of strategy RPGs should be proud that Atlus brought this great title overseas. It's not without its flaws, with unforgiving difficulty curves and a presentation that doesn't bode well even on the PSP hardware, but it remains, at its core, an addictive strategy RPG that is absolutely dense with content and interesting storytelling. Tactical role playing fans, and even PSP owners in general, would do themselves a quite a disservice by overlooking this gem.

 

Pros:


+ Localization showcases narrative and cast
+ Multiple story branches/endings and sidequests demand replay
+ Interesting combat system with lots of variety in mission objectives

Cons:
- Basic 2D visuals and bland environments
- Immense difficulty spikes for certain missions
- Not very memorable music for the most part


 

Overall Score: 8.0 (out of 10)

Great


A unique and fun take on the strategy RPG formula. Dense with content and some interesting storytelling fans of the genre should not overlook it despite some minor missteps.



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As a trophy hunter, I find it almost impossible to go back and spend my time beating PSP games. It's unfortunate because I miss out on games like this.

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As a trophy hunter, I find it almost impossible to go back and spend my time beating PSP games. It's unfortunate because I miss out on games like this.

While I can't understand the mindset I know a lot of people have it nowadays which is kind of unfortunate (Because people will overlook games like Valkyria Chronicles because of it and then 100% a game like FFXIII or something and then complain that it's awful). For me personally, I only care about trophies/achievements with a game I'm eager to replay and would like excuses to see everything in the game, which is pretty rare by itself. Even then I'll be willing to dismiss them if I think they are dumb or likely to hinder my enjoyment of the game, which is like 97% of the time.

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