Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time Review (PSP)

Posted by Jim Cook, Aug 02, 2012 13:29

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time is a strange game that mixes ideas from several sources. It wants to be like Japanese RPGs from the late Super Nintendo or early Playstation (original) era, yet also uses tactical elements. The result is something that combines the strengths of both formats, but takes a few hours to really become enjoyable. Don’t let that scare you off, as those who have the time to invest in it will be well rewarded.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (PSP)You’ll need some patience to follow the storyline, as it takes a while to figure out what sort of tale the writers want to tell. It starts out as a simple quest of good versus evil with the fate of the world at stake, but humanity won’t sit idle while a few heroes tend to everything. You quickly have tons of characters, story concepts, and plot threads introduced with little context, though the initially confusing mess settles into something very deep. It’s partially a tale of personal growth, seeing how some characters adapt over time. Yet war and politics get their share of screen time, and part of the player’s job is trying to follow small-scale matters alongside large ones. You won’t understand much at first, but once things get moving you’ll be eager to see what happens next.

While the plot takes up much of your time, the game mechanics are an interesting blend. Fights are handled in a Tactical RPG style, but there are no tiles/squares to move through; characters maneuver in a more ’freeform’ way. They also don’t follow a strict turn order, instead taking actions on a time-delay basis (and you’re welcome to have a character ’sit on their turn’ as the situation unfolds, waiting for the right time to make them do something). Travel between story segments is done in a more conventional RPG form, and you guide the party from place to place one screen at a time. Outside of plot-required battles, most enemies are plainly visible as you march and can be avoided if you want. This is a strange mix, but works fine.

There is also a lot of content. Characters can customize their skills and spell lists by equipping special stones, which draws obvious comparisons to Final Fantasy VII’s materia system. They’re not exactly the same, but are definitely similar. Beyond combat options, you also get a huge story and the ability to significantly change how some events turn out. Many situations are ’on rails’ and require a specific outcome, but there are several points where making the right choice requires you to pay attention. This serves to keep the overall plot on track, without making it seem like you’re just a spectator.

On a lower note, you’re going to get frustrated by some flaws in the battle mechanics. The most obvious one is that your party has weak pathfinding and may take strange or suicidal routes to carry out your orders. Leaving waypoints for them to follow helps, but even that isn’t a perfect fix. Worse, some story-mandated battles use unexpected gimmicks and nasty tricks. Even players that are very skilled at positioning characters and picking smart fights will be caught unaware by them. They aren’t just inconveniences, some of these sudden shifts in the battle will cause a near-immediate Game Over if you don’t immediately counter them. You will almost certainly be replaying some situations a few times, and this feels like a cheap way to extend a game that is already pretty long.

GDN SIlverThese complaints shouldn’t chase you away from Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time, though. It demands a pretty big chunk of your schedule and has some very rough edges, but is well worth the trouble. Most battles are satisfying and fun, while the story will keep you hooked once it gets moving. If you can give Wayfarer the attention it needs and are interested in what it offers, then the $30 USD price is a pretty good deal!


This review was based on a download of the PSN/PSP version, provided by Atlus.

For more video game reviews on this and many others head to Game Rankings

Our Rating for Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time Review (PSP)
6.0 Replay
The sheer length may discourage some repeat plays, but exploring different ways to set up your characters and earn multiple endings may be worth it to some.
5.5 Graphics
Great animated cutscenes and detailed character portraits clash with simple sprites. The story and gameplay easily trump the graphics, so don’t overlook it just because of dated visuals.
7.5 Sound
Wayfarer follows the trend for RPGs to use strong music to make up for underwhelming sound effects and limited voice-overs. Several tunes really set the mood for the story at hand, and this is all the audio truly needed to do.
8.0 Gameplay
An excellent story suffers from a very slow and clumsy start, but will delight you once it gets all the plot threads in place. A fairly decent RPG system makes most fights fun, though you’ll have to put up with a few cheap shots and bad pathfinding for your party.
0.0 Multiplayer/Online Content
N/A; this is a single-player game.
8.0 Overall
Some flaws threaten to drag it down, but this installment in the Growlanser series rises above them by making you interested in its characters and narrative. The relatively low price helps too, making this an easy choice for RPG fans.

Rating: 0.0, votes: 0

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