The Latest

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time Review

Growlanser: Wayfarer of TimeIt’s a known fact: fans of Japanese role-playing games rarely arrive at a consensus. Whether it’s a disagreement over how combat should be articulated, the delicate balance of grinding, or even if amnesia still retains merit as a plot device, the genre contains few instance of accord. Yet, even a cursory overview of internet message boards would uncover one point of near-agreement: most fans admit that contemporary JRPGs can’t match the appeal exhibited by entries from previous generations. Any gamer who concedes to that sentiment would be wise to consider a download of Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time for their PSP or PS Vita, a title that is a beguiling memento from role-playing’s golden era.

Originally released in Japan for the PlayStation 2 during the concluding month of 2003, stateside publishers became reluctant to localize entries in the Growlanser series, following the U.S. release of Growlanser Generations, a compilation of the second and third franchise entries. An undeniably ambitious project, the translation costs of the compendium contributed to Working Designs’ economic downfall.  Wayfarer of Time‘s nearly decade-long absence means that the game reinvigorates many of the virtues of the 32-bit period, while also succumbing to a number of design choices of the era.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of TimeAs the game opens, players learn of the history of Noyeval, a continent comprised of four warring countries. Over 2,000 years ago, the realm once held powerful technological and magic-based weaponries until angels decimated the territory, nearly annihilating the entire populace. Players assume the role of Crevanille, a stalwart, young mercenary sent to keep the peace in Noyeval’s southern jurisdiction, when the long-dormant angels attack once more. Regrettably, the game front-loads a majority of its narrative exposition, making the first few hours of Wayfarer of Time plod along. However, once players glean the game’s impetus and the training wheels are taken off of combat, Growlanser becomes an engaging good time.

Characterization, a pivotal component of any RPG, is exceedingly adept in Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time. Alliances and allegiances convincingly shift, with individuals following their own moral codes, instead of mechanically following Crevanille’s own ambitions. Conversations bring up dialog choices which influence how other characters will treat them, determine mission types, and help determine which of the game’s purported forty endings players will receive. Between assessments, players can even ratchet up rapport with associates in a system which recalls the mechanics of a dating-sim. Smartly, conversations feel organic, with players likely pursuing choices which match their own interpretation of Crevanille, rather than issuing responses which intentionally boost stats.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of TimeThose weary of traditional turn-based adaptations of conflict should savor Wayfarer’s distinctive battle system. A far cry from the systematic tit-for-tat fracas, the title’s combat is closer to how skirmishes are conveyed in real-time strategy titles. Both assignments and enemy encounters start with a menu of fundamental commands, allowing basics such as attacking, defending, item use and even movement orders guided by up to four waypoints. Closing the menu sends party members into action, with each teammate’s actions determined by a cool down timer. Once a cycle expires, friendly combatants can carry on with their orders or be re-assigned, elevating the tempo of each encounter. Although fights with wayward foes are straightforward, tasking players with identifying the weakness of an enemy, missions are more advanced. Here, players might have to halt the advance of opponents or activate a switch while interlopers try to stymy your efforts. Nicely, level grinding isn’t the solution to these challenges. Instead, players must pinpoint the proper strategic approach utilizing the inherent abilities of each party member.

Yet, for all of Wayfarer of Time’s virtues, the title does contain a few elements that will remind players of the advancements made my modern SRPGs. Venturing into labyrinthine dungeons doesn’t offer an automap, and save points are habitually located on the outside of the these locales. The absence of a quest log means that players will have to have to talk to every last NPC townsfolk to trigger a plot-pushing event, which feels antiquated given contemporary mission systems. Although some may fault with Atlus’ inability to license the Japanese voice over track for the game, Wayfarer’s written translation is skillful, conveying different social classes, levels of maturity, and personalities. Coupled with the game’s $29.99 MSRP and lush anime cutscenes, the absence of verbalized conversations doesn’t injure Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time’s overall sense of value, especially when the title offers the possibility of forty+ hours of play. Import aficionados who finished the original PS2 title way want to invest in this PSP iteration, which adds a number of well implemented supplements such as additional playable characters, key events, and extra endings. Thanks to the ability to perform a data install, Warfarer’s load times are dependably quick.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of TimeGrowlanser: Wayfarer of Time is a commendable title, certain to be enjoyed by fans of classic role-playing titles. Although the game makes an obstinate first impression, once players surmount the game’s introductory phase, Growlanser showers players with an intriguing battle system, well-crafted story and dialog, as well as characters that are genuinely worth caring about. Games that that take a decade to reach Western shores can often feel archaic, so it’s pleasing that Wayfarer of Time habitually does its moniker justice.

About Robert Allen

With over 35 years of gaming experience, Robert 'DesertEagle' Allen is Tech-Gaming's resident worrier/warrior who spends his days teaching at three colleges and his nights devoted to JRPGs.

38 comments

  1. I’m surprised and thankful that Atlus is still putting out PSP games.

    Not surprised at the score. At all.

  2. Has Des ever met a cute anime witch he didn’t like?

    One look at that first pic and I thought “Better than a B”.

    • One look at that second pic and I thought “Get jiggly with it”.

      • Wait, “animated” boobs? That’s always a plus!

      • BTW Blue what do you think of Hideki Kamiya calling PlayStation All-Stars a rip-off?

      • Blue what do you think of Hideki Kamiya calling PlayStation All-Stars “a rip-off”?

        • I agree with him. PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, from the gameplay I’ve seen, does look like a blatant rip-off of Super Smash Bros. That’s not to say it won’t be a fun game, but it’s DNA contains as much Nintendo as it does Sony.

          Also, Sony’s franchises, with some exceptions, lean towards the darker, more grittier side. Because of this, I think going the “party brawler” route was a mistake. The serial killer iteration of Sweet Tooth does not belong in any game intending to attract the Smash Bros demographic. I think it should have been a respectable, most likely 2-D, fighting game, instead. Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom had serious characters and cartoony characters going head-to-head and it worked exceptionally well. Nintendo’s characters, even when serious, have some level of likeability and/or lightheartedness to them, making them a far better fit for a “party brawler” game than Sony’s characters. Nintendo has cornered the market on Smash Bros.-like games. It’s best not to even try to compete, in my opinion.

          PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale will sell well enough, but I’ll eat my fedora if it outsells Brawl.

    • Just curious, has the site ever concentrated on gaming technology? Now, it seems focused on localized Japanese games.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Just noticing.

    • Just curious, has the site ever concentrated on gaming technology? Now, it seems focused on localized Japanese games.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Just noticing.

  3. I know it became cool to hate on the PSP during the last year, but show me a portable system that was better for JRPGs.

    Big screen for anime cutscenes.

    Plenty of space for VO.

    Quality widescreen graphics.

  4. “Yet, even a cursory overview of internet message boards would uncover one point of near-agreement: most fans admit that contemporary JRPGs can’t match the appeal exhibited by entries from previous generations.”

    Nobody who knows rpgs would say that

    its been one of the best gens ever

    • I know JRPGs and look at what’s happened to Square-Enix. Final Fantasy, Kingdom Hearts? All the earlier games ARE better. Play a Suikoden game after the second one?

      I will say there are some exceptions: Xenoblade Chronicles, for one. but on the whole, older gamers are better!

    • Yeah, old school RPGs are cool and all, but the news ones are better for the most part.

    • Yeah, but Chrono Cross is their top game? Dark Souls and Diablo are “RPGs”? They’re more of action games than role playing ones.

      Gamespot isn’t a reliable source anymore.

    • “Nobody who knows rpgs would say that”

      (Checks to see if it’s Deagle)

      The guys know RPGs, but more importantly, almost every site including Joystiq, Kotaku, and as people said 1Up say the same thing- the golden era is over.

      Maybe it’s hipster nostalgia or lack of innovation but almost everyone seems to agree- the older games are better.

    • I think it is almost a point of agreement but I don’t think it’s true. Deagle, I’d like your opinion.

      I think nostalgia plays into that thought. I mean it’s like this Madden 94 is cool and all but is it better than Madden 12? No, I think most people would agree the game is much more complex and much better looking now. Kind of the same for JRPGs- the old ones started it all, but they really can’t compare to new features.

      Also, I think they are less JRPGs now because games are so expensive to make.

  5. I mean chaos rings, radiant historia, legend of heroes, tales of xillia, lost oddessy, its been an embarrassment of riches of rpgs on all platforms this gen

  6. Thanks for not pissing on the game for the dated art. EVERY review (from Destructoid to 1Up talked bout how dated it was). I’ve seen screens and it’s not bad at all. Some reviewers even complained about boobs.

  7. “Yet, even a cursory overview of internet message boards would uncover one point of near-agreement: most fans admit that contemporary JRPGs can’t match the appeal exhibited by entries from previous generations. ”

    It’s true, but only on GameFAQS: http://www.gamefaqs.com/boards/220-/62892531

  8. There’s a reason why they call them “classic RPGs” ;)

    Yeah, Square-Enix has dropped off, as explained here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWom1_e3L4c

  9. Controversy is good. I’m wondering if they put they in just to stir people up.

  10. “Coupled with the game’s $29.99 MSRP and lush anime cutscenes, the absence of verbalized conversations doesn’t injure Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time’s overall sense of value”

    This is the controversial part. No Japanese track=no buy. C’mon Atlus, don’t half ass it.

  11. It’s kind of strange no one is talking about Growlanser, but one line in the review since Wayfarer of Time is a awesome game. Anyone one the fence would do well to pick it up.

  12. I’m glad it’s Vita compatible, at least that’s what I’m inferring.

    Sad, the PSP didn’t get the love it deserved.

    • The PSP sold 70 million units, which means it’s outsold the Xbox 360. It made Sony millions, and has a huge library of quality games. So I don’t know know what kind of “love” you are referring to.

  13. I’ve played 8 hours now an really like it. First two moved like a frozen snail with arthritis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)