Ever since I played the U.S. release of Growlanser II and III package, also known as Growlanser Generations in the States, I've added another series of games into my addiction.
Growlanser: Heritage of War (or known as Growlanser V: Generations in Japan)is a time-based RPG that has little relation to its predecessors in terms of gameplay and story. All those before Heritage of War used a battle system that involved commands given to all the characters and then executed in a real time/action setting. It would be like your Strategy RPG except that the game used the real time function for weapon delays and cast times.
You still have that type of system, but it feels more free flow now. The player has a semi-bird's eye view of the map and can control the main character freely (which changes semi often). All other party members must be given commands.
The skill system seems to change often in this series, but this is probably due to the story. In the previous games, the characters had to rely on "ring weapons," weapons that formed when it's user wills it, so weapons and passive skills were based on what kind of rings the user had and what they placed in the gem slots but considering the lack of such weapons in Heritage of War, it seems to have gone to a conventional weapon system with a few tweaks. Weapons and armor are still important for skills as they carry the skills and give the character such abilities when the user masters the weapon to a certain point.
The skill system so far is unlike any other I've ever seen. Skills for each character are set up on a single plane and work like a flow chart. So, the far left side is where the skill path begins and as you link up skills to the part before it, the character then is able to use the abilities that he/she received from armor. While there are only a limited amount of skills, having a flow system such as this allows an amazing amount of customization. And later on, you can also redirect the flow or split the flow which also allows the characters to be able to use and access more skills and expand builds.
Simply put. The art is amazing. With really nice anime cut-scenes every now and then (not only in the beginning, middle, and end, like most Tales of... games)and the artistic genius (yes, genius) of Urushihara, I loved the art. For those new to Urushihara's art, a lot of it seems very cookie cutter and more or less the same throughout. Honestly, some of his earlier work, I have to agree on (there was one time I saw two of the same characters but with different color schemes.) but his more recent work deserves much praise. He's worked a great deal on clothing, armor and fine details that you don't often find in other games. Voice acting is outstanding. There is no Japanese version I can compare it to (unless someone forks up the money for it) but the English cast is well recruited with many GOOD veterans (there are bad vets)and each voice has it's own particular perk about it. There hasn't really been any point where I cringed at a voice. ALL of them fit well and the actors put in a lot of effort which definitely paid off.
Now for the bad qualities. Since it is an RPG. It is repetitive. There are some qualities about it that make it less of a drag such as a battle encounter that occurs on the spot and not some swish sound accompanied by a swirling screen. Nevertheless, issuing out the same commands every time gets a bit irritating after a while. And it's not like you can set to auto. The AI is pretty stupid, on both sides. It's possible to physically block the enemy from reaching it's mission objective, and vice versa. Even if you can give pretty detailed commands, the AI is very simple. There's a slight learning curve as you're tossed haphazardly into the game. It took me a while to figure out how the exits to the maps as the view point occasionally moves to ground level. If you're main character is a magic type or ranged type, it's a bit irritating that the attack command on the controller only works in a certain range even though your weapon range is wider. Meaning, if you want to get the most out of your battle, you have to open up the command menu and tell your own character to attack. If you've played Final Fantasy XI, then you'd understand the character management system which can be both fun yet tedious.
In general, the game animation is a bit simplistic. While you get a variety of normal attack animations which make the game seem better, special skills have only the special skill animation and spells still have a kind of nostalgic feel to them. You win some, you lose some I guess. One major thing I'm a bit irritated at is the character development system. In general, it's actually very complex and takes many many factors into play, but at most there still seems to be only 4 choices and like 8 factors. This involves a lot of overlapping then and the choices I generally make (which are to me, very down to earth and a bit blunt) come off as "evil." Not like, you're a bit negative, just plain evil. Often it's easy to see which choices make the typical "hero" type, but in these types of games, I always try to be as honest I can. Only thing is I then look like a complete villain. The relationships between me and the other main characters are good, buuuut I'm just an evil guy. You can change it later with personality stat modification items, but it's still going to bug me that I was going to look like a very negative person without them.
Overall, I like this game very much. There are quirks about it that I'm not fond of, but all games have that. In all honesty, there's no such thing as a perfect game, and so it's another case where the good parts outweigh the bad parts.
Now... time to wait for Growlanser VI: Precarious World to be localized...
In random news. Marth has been announced on the Super Smash Bros. Brawl site (surprise surprise)and along with him... Roy really. I mean, half of these screen shots just show them together...and Marth now looks more like a girl than ever.
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