Electronic Theatre In-depth Review: Growlanser: Heritage of War

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Electronic Theatre Image            The Growlanser series is quite a success in the US and Japan. Trading Figures, Soundtrack releases and even a special edition of this release, Growlanser: Heritage of War, amongst others, are all regularly available abroad. However, here in the UK, Growlanser: Heritage of War is in-fact the first release that’s been published for sale on these shores. That honour goes to Rising Star Games, a publisher whose reputation is going from strength-to-strength amongst Core gamers, thanks largely to titles such as Valhalla Knights and Luminos Arc, and updates in classics series including Bomberman and Harvest Moon, as well as the forthcoming intriguing Role-Playing Game Baroque.

            Growlanser: Heritage of War features a unique story, so no knowledge of previous titles is necessary. The game is split into five distinct Chapters, each featuring unique characters and plot development. The player bElectronic Theatre Imageegins as Seldous, an orphan whose orphanage was destroyed through war. Seeking to bring an end to the fighting between lands, and defend humankind against the deadly Screaper, Seldous revives an ancient weapon called the “Admonisher”. Bringing an end to the war by force, Seldous creates the Peace Maintenance Brigade and keeps order for twenty years. However, with Seldous and his colleagues now growing old, it becomes the turn of his son, Haschen, to control the warring lands.

            The story in Growlanser: Heritage of War is progressed mainly in the style of Advance Wars: Dark Conflict, in which slightly animated Sprites of each character fill one half of the screen during their moment of speech, but is also progressed with some fantastic animated sequences. The usual clichéd character types appear – the lead as the all rounder, the delicate female arriving shortly after as the healing unit and the butch, all-out offensive unit next – and while some appear as deep as tissue paper, others have genuinely motives fir their actions, adding more credibility to the story than typical B-release Role-Playing Game fodder.

The Battle System can be confusing at first – asking the playing to control real-time movement and yet not individual attacks – however, within just a few battles, the principles of a real-time battlefield with a typical Role-Playing game statistics-based twist becomes second nature, and allows for some devastating strategies. The conflict between automated and manual Electronic Theatre Imagecontrols for your Artificial Intelligence party may take a little longer – the majority of the first Chapter, in-fact – but once realised allows for adequate depth and a variety of combat strategy. Plates further add to the customisability of these strategies, working as an added layer of the Levelling System.

Working much as expected, whereby the player gains Experience Points by defeating enemies and completing Missions, the Levelling System largely determines each character’s progression automatically. The unique twist here, however, is the way in which special abilities are earned. Equipping one of your party with an item may add a new Skill Plate to that character and, in time, granting them a new ability, either a Spell or a Knack. Keeping the Skill Plate activate will continue to Level-Up the ability, whilst removing it will freeze any progression. Inserting new Plates into the Ability Tree of each character can help to Level-Up previous Knacks and unlock new ones.

The title features beautiful hand-drawn backdrops for both interior and exterior locations, some of which are truly stunning. However, the lack of detail on the Character Models – although still more than adequate for the PlayStation2 – when so few are presented on-screen at any one time can be quite jarring. The animated sequences are fantastic, and offer some of the most dynamic anime seen in a PlayStation2 release in Europe. The soundtrack is reminiscent of some lower budget SquareEnix titles, with harmlessly repetitive tinkering in towns and quiet times, and up-tempo pacing during combat sequences.

Growlanser: Heritage of War is not Electronic Theatre Imagegoing to break any records. For all its pleasant Role-Playing Game traditions and remodelling, it’s a title that never attempts to breakaway from the connotations of the genre. PlayStation2 owners having not yet progressed onto the Current-Generation, or traditional Role-Playing Game fanatics having exhausted the likes of Eternal Sonata and Enchanted Arms, will find a rewarding experience in Growlanser: Heritage of War, lasting over seventy hours. Those without seventy hours to dedicate to a videogame, however, would do better waiting for Rising Star’s forthcoming Super Swing Golf and Cradle of Rome releases.

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