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Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (PSP) Review

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is the North American PSP port of the 2003 Japanese PlayStation 2 role-playing game. Somewhere, faithful enthusiasts are celebrating.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time has an old-school JRPG feel to it, mainly because it was originally released in Japan in 2003 — nearly a decade ago! While I have no context with which to compare this to the original Japanese release to validate these official claims, but this North American release includes “a long list of improvements and additions over the original.”

In addition, there are new characters, scenarios, and events. This updated port features faster loading times and a message-skip (which I have to admit, I took advantage of a lot) to make the game easier to play for the fast-paced, modern gamer. Take that sluggish 2003-era features!

Growlanser features anime cutscenes. Say "hi" to this six-winged angel!

Okay, that’s enough rehashing of official PR speak. How does this 2012 updated version play to somebody has never heard or played any games from the Growlanser series before (I’m referring to me, by the way)?

This is an interesting question to answer, but short version: I didn’t dislike it, but I’m didn’t fully like it, either. Is that convoluted and vague enough?

The more detailed, and serious answer, is that I enjoyed the game, but I enjoyed it in the I’m-playing-a-classic-game kind of way. I’m an old-school gamer, and I appreciate the games that I grew up playing throughout the 80s and 90s. But I never really enjoy going back and playing them. It doesn’t really matter what genre you’re playing, once you get a taste of the latest tweaks and innovations, it’s hard to go back and play games from a decade ago, especially ones from two or almost three decades ago. Classic games suffer from old controls… and generalizations and stereotypes, which was my biggest issue with Growlanser.

Growlanser isn’t an old game, nor is it a classic (JRPG enthusiasts may disagree) — 2003 was not THAT long ago — but it looked and played like something from the Super Nintendo era. That not a bad thing, I love classic RPGs, but I don’t enjoy them, today, the same way I did in the early 90s.

I was shocked that both characters, pictured here, are male. Maybe I should have actually read the dialogue and storyline.

Part of my middle-of-the-road feelings about Growlanser is that it’s filled with JRPG stereotypes. Young and innocent battle-wary yet destined-for-greatness protagonists, huge and hulkingly armored hero/mentors, scantily-clad lingerie-wearing female characters (why protect yourself in a suit of armor appropriate for a grizzly bear when you can wear next to nothing and show off your cute, perhaps even underage, sex-appeal). And let’s not forget the stylish-yet-androgynous companions. Mix that up with an appropriately stereotypical apocalyptic storyline and you’ve got yet another yawner in my eyes.

I could have done without the story and dialogue and I think I would have enjoyed Growlanser a lot more. I’m glad the 2012 PSP North American port included new features like the message-skip, because that’s exactly what I was doing while playing it. Skip, skip, skip!

Now, you might expect with paragraphs and paragraphs of passive-aggressive comments and complaints about Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time, that I had actually didn’t enjoy it and that I have nothing positive to say. That’s not true. When it came to the gameplay and the ability to steer the game progression, I actually enjoyed it.

I gladly skipped through the dialogue, and sometimes I wish I hadn’t because the game does give you branches during certain conversations that help direct where the game will go next. You can choose different responses to characters as well as give your input on the strategy and tactical approach to upcoming skirmishes.

While I never went back and replayed a conversation to see if a different choice would actually result in a different mission or change in narrative, ut seemed like I was choosing a unique path. If there was only one “correct” path and I was merely led to believe my choices actually changed the storyline, then I was honestly none-the-wiser and it felt like my choices influenced the direction of the game. According to the game’s PR-approved details, Growlanswer has more than 40 unique endings, so I have to imagine that the choices from game-to-game will impact its conclusion — and I like that. Gives the game a more modern feel.

Growlanser's battle system feels like the classic "Squaresoft" Active Time Battles.

I also like the battle system, which was different from anything I had played before — at least in terms of top-down/isometric-angled RPGs. The battle system felt like the “active time battle” systems that showed up in the older, classic Final Fantasy games. Battling enemies plays out in a mix of real-time/turn-based battles, where you pick the action, like attacking, and your character will continue performing that action until the specific enemy is defeated, or you interrupt the battle an have the character do something else.

One criticism I had with the battle system is that the skirmishes were rather short, and were often book-ended with a lot of character dialogue, storyline, or exploring new areas and talking to other non-player characters. It really slowed down the pace and got in the way of me being able to fully enjoy Growlanser.

While I honestly didn’t come close to finishing the game, players should anticipate a 40-50+ hour experience. Part of the length might be due to the volumes of dialogue in the game, but if you’re a fan of JRPGs, especially ones that have a classic feel to them, then Growlanser is probably something you’d enjoy way more than I.

Final Thoughts:

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is a North American port of a 2003 Japanese release and is available for the PSP. It’s your typical Japanese Role-Playing Game, and you can take that either way you want. Fans of JRPGs will likely enjoy this, and seeing as this is a port of a nearly 10-year-old game, I have to imagine it has a faithful and enthusiastic following. For me, I found the stereotypes of the JRPG genre to be annoying and wanted to skip past any and all dialogue.

Outside of my dislike for the stereotypes, I liked the battle system, which felt like the active time battle systems from PlayStation One era JRPGs. I felt that it helped keep the game flowing much better than the storyline and dialogue, which typically (and in my opinion, boringly) book-ended the skirmishes.

Growlanser also has a branching paths during key conversations which allow you to choose how the following battles will play out. Typically JRPGs have a very linear path, and whether or not my choice legitimately affected the next course of action or if was merely an illusion, I liked the feeling of being able to direct Growlanser’s storyline.

I truly believe that Growlanser is only going to be fully appreciated by the faithful Growlanser series enthusiasts, who may have been awaiting a North American release since 2003. For the rest of us, or at least me, I just didn’t “get it.” I liked the battle system, and the other traditional RPG elements, but I couldn’t wait to skip past the storyline and dialogue. If Japanese RPGs, with a more classic feel appeal to you, then you’ll probably enjoy Growlanser. Otherwise, I’d suggest skipping it.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is available for download through the PlayStation Store or can be purchased as a boxed copy at your favorite game store for $30.

About Troy

Troy
Troy is the Features Editor at Brutal Gamer. When he's not writing about or playing video games, he's enjoying life with his wife and children. He also loves coffee. And lots of it.

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