alex9234’s Sunday Review
Welcome to another episode of Sunday Review, folks. This time I’m going to review a game from a very niche Atlus franchise that almost none of you who follow this page have heard of (besides pimpalicous, Ray01X and maybe Joshua). I decided to check this series out when I found a copy of this game in my local retro game store, and discovered that it’s publisher was Atlus. So I did more research about this series, and discovered that this game, and some others in the series had made it stateside. This was the first game in the series that I played, and hey, it’s not too bad. This game is Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice, created by Career Soft (which is now part of Atlus), animated by the legendary Satoshi Urushihara, which came out on the PS2 in 2001 in Japan, and in the west in 2004 as part of the Growlanser Generations collection from Working Designs which contains this game and Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness.
Growlanser II first takes place right in the middle of the first Growlanser game, where the kingdoms of Rolandia and Burnstein are at war, but darker forces are at work behind the scenes. While the original Growlanser focused mainly on the Kingdom of Rolandia, Growlanser II mainly focuses on the Burnstein Kingdom. The plot of Growlanser II focuses on Wein Cruz, who wants to join the Burnstein army to defend the homeland. Wein, and his new partner, Maximillian Schneider, pass their knight entrance exams, and then the game forwards over to one year later, where the war has ended and Wein and Max are best friends. They then discuss their plans for the future – Wein plans on becoming an Imperial Knight, which is the highest-ranking knight directly under King Elliote’s command. Max, however, has developed a dislike for war and decided on gaining a position of influence in Burnstein’s political field so he can make sure that wars do not break out between Burnstein and it’s neighbors. The two of them respect each others choices and then part ways.
Some time later, Wein, who is about to become a commander, reports to his superior to receive his first recruits: Hans Bearnt – an enthusiastic teenager that Wein rescued from a village assault, and Charlone Claudius – a young girl who is determined to become an Imperial Knight regardless of her father’s wishes. The three of them begin their journey when a corrupt commander who despises them sends Wein’s crew on a mission that was originally intended for 10 soldiers or more. While on their journey, they are then framed for the destruction of a dam that caused the destruction of a nearby village and are hunted as criminals. The trio then cross the border into Rolandia where they meet up with Xenos Langley and his sister Karen (which were playable characters in the first game). Shortly after, Karen gets kidnapped by a group of bandits. Xenos and the trio then rescue her, and Xenos thanks Wein and his group by using his influence to clear their names. Wein and his group then learn that Xenos was a companion of the legendary Carmaine Fallsmyer (the main character of the first game), and that the two of them worked together to save the world from the evil being Gevas during the previous war. Xenos then joins the group.
While on the way back to Burnstein, the group runs into a childhood friend from Wein’s past – Arieta Lyuis, who taught Wein how to play music. Though Wein developed a crush on her, she said goodbye to her under strange circumstances. However, the two of them run into each other, she still appears the same age as she was in the past, and she is seen attacking a village with her destructive magic powers. The group then runs into a local mage named Riviera Marius, who is trying to save the citizens from Arieta’s attacks. The group then works with Riviera to save the village, but Arieta escapes. Riviera then joins the group, and then they head back to Burnstein to clear their names. King Elliote then pardons them, Carmaine then joins the group, and they are assigned a new mission. Then, the most significant branching storyline point occurs. Wein and his group run into the mercenary Wolfgang, who is actually Wein’s half-brother Leonard Cruz, who has a desire to create a small neutral country where mercenaries have a place to be accepted. Leonard is the one who plotted the events leading up to war between Burnstein and it’s neighbors. Wein can either join him to aid his cause or fight against him to stop his tyranny. However, darker forces are at work, as Arieta is revealed to be possessed by Gevas, the villain of the first game, and while distracted by this, Leonard’s plans are coming to fruition, and the countries are on the brink of all-out war. Wein and his crew then take down Leonard and his mercenaries with the help of Burnstein soldiers and reclaim a powerful artifact Wolfgang was using to hold his new country in captivity. However, Max reveals his true intentions, and decides to use the artifact’s power to control the people and usher in a new era of “peace”. What will Wein and his group do now?
Growlanser II is like many of Career Soft’s games – part strategy JRPG, part dating sim. It’s battle system utilizes a free-range movement strategy system. Unlike usual strategy JRPGs like Fire Emblem and Front Mission, a character’s movement range is represented by a circular area where the character can move anywhere in the confined area. Your movement speed is determined by the amount of MOV points you have in the game. Also, unlike most strategy JRPGs, Growlanser II’s system is active-time based instead of strictly turn-based. Instead of each side taking turns, both sides move based on individual units’ speed stats. Physical attackers must move towards the enemy to make an attack within it’s range, while magic users must take time to chant spells in exchange for their ability to hit from far away. You get to have up to 8 characters in your party. This game is insanely difficult too, so plan accordingly when you go into battle. Oh, and save frequently. Also, in typical Career Soft fashion, there are no items that restore your HP or MP in this game. The only way to restore your MP is to rest your group at an Inn in towns across the world map.
Growlanser II has a point-based world map, which makes traveling from town to town easier. However, random enemy encounters are present, so be prepared when you go into a battle. You can save your game anywhere on the World Map.
This game has a very unique equipment system – the Ring System. Of course, you can still buy typical equipment for your characters – armor, headgear, etc. to increase defense along with other stats. However, let’s talk about the Ring System. You get to equip each character with one Ring Weapon, and each Ring Weapon contains 3 slots with each slot having a rating from 0 to 9 (therefore, best ring would have a 9-9-9 rating.). The Ring Weapon is a unique technology where magic rings take the shape of different weapons which depend on the user’s self. You usually get new rings when you defeat an enemy, and you are able to equip different rings. You can place an item called a Gem in each slot, as long as the gem is less than or equal to the level of the slot. For example, if you have a 7-4-3 ring, you can put gems up to level 7 in the first slot, a level 4 gem in the second slot, and a level 3 in the last slot.
Also, in case your haven’t noticed in the plot, this game has multiple endings, and let me tell you this: ALMOST EVERY DECISION YOU MAKE MATTERS. So find yourself a guide so you can decide which ending you want. And since this game is part dating sim, you should totally get a guide to help you work on ending up with one of the female characters (Charlone, Arieta or Riviera) at the end of the game. Whatever you do, DO NOT attempt to do a blind playthrough of this game.
Wein Cruz – Age: 17 – The main character of Growlanser II. He is a young man with high hopes for the future, and dreams of becoming an Imperial Knight for the Burnstein Kingdom. His mother passed away before the events of the game, and he lives alone, occasionally receiving letters from his father, who is an archeologist.
Hans Bearnt – Age: 15 – A friendly young boy who was inspired by Wein and Max to become a fighter. He grew up in an orphanage, but always visited a nearby village and looked up to the village Chief as a grandfather figure. He enjoys helping and spending time with children and hopes to have a family of his own in the future.
Maximillian Schneider – Age: 18 – Wein’s old friend from the Burnstein Knight Academy. He originally enrolled in the knight academy and became a knight because of his father’s wishes. He despises war, most likely due to the death of his father and health loss of his mother. After he and Wein graduated from the knight academy, he got into politics and became a diplomat for the Burnstein Kingdom, and hopes to eliminate the option of war. Becomes the main villain near the end of the game.
Charlone Claudius – Age: 15 – She is the young daughter of noble social status. She goes against her father’s wishes by becoming a knight for the Burnstein Kingdom, and hopes to become the second female Imperial Knight, fighting alongside Julia Douglas, who she idolizes. She has a younger brother names Pietro who has a severe illness, but refuses to have his surgery unless Charlone becomes an Imperial Knight. She also has a love-hate relationship with Hans, who always makes fun of her. Depending on your choices, Charlone can become your endgame Waifu.
Riviera Marius – Age: 19 – Riviera is a mysterious magic user who possesses some powerful spells, which are far more powerful than what a woman protecting a small village should possess. She is also a Shadow Knight – a spy for the Burnstein Kingdom who works behind the scenes and often disappears from Wein’s crew whenever they stop in towns. Due to an event in her past where her old partner Karl failed to meet up with her after a mission, she acts very secretive and does her best to keep her distance from other people in order to emotionally protect herself. Depending on your choices, Riviera can become your endgame Waifu.
Arieta Lyuis – Age: 17 – Arieta is Wein’s old childhood friend. She is the one who gave Wein his prized Ocarina and is the one who taught Wein how to make music. Not much is known of her past, but one of Wein’s main goals in the game is to save her from death. After all, she is possessed by the evil demon Gevas, and believe it or not, she has been alive for 200 years!
Depending on your choices, Arieta can become your endgame Waifuas long as you save her, that is. In the Time and Space Control tower in Rolandia, you fight Gevas, who has control over Arieta’s soul. If you get the Neural Device from Ariost’s lab at the Magic Academy, which lies on the Rolandia-Burnstein border, she lives and can become a party member. If you do not get the Neural Device, she will die.
Xenos Langley – Age: 26 – A returning character from the original Growlanser, Xenos was a former mercenary for the King of Burnstein. He has a younger sister named Karen (who is a smoking hot blonde nurse, btw.), who was also a playable character in the first Growlanser, but returns as a non-playable character in this entry. After Wein and his crew rescue Karen from a group of bandits, Xenos joins him in his journey, and works to clear his name after the dam incident.
Ernest Lyell – Age: 22 – Another returning character from the original Growlanser, Ernest was a former Imperial Knight for the Burnstein Kingdom, but was exiled for supporting an imposter posing as Prince Richard (the former King of Burnstein), who was trying to become King. Richard originally recruited Ernest as an Imperial Knight. Ever since he was exiled, he lives in a cabin in a forest in Rolandia, and has no interest in the world anymore. Depending on your choices, Ernest can become a playable character.
Carmaine Fallsmyer – Age: 18 – The main character of the original Growlanser, who makes a return appearance in the sequel. He was a knight for the Kingdom of Rolandia, but he now works for Elliote, the King of Burnstein. He is very similar to Wein, as he was forced into a position of responsibility and power at a very young age. Abandoned as a baby, he was found and taken to the Rolandia Court, where Rolandia’s Palace Magicians examined him. They discovered that he was either a light that would save the world, or darkness that would destroy it. He was then taken in by his adoptive mother, Sandra Fallsmyer, who is a Palace Magician. He also has a younger sister named Louise, who was a playable character in the first game but only makes an appearance as an NPC in the sequel.
Being my first Growlanser game, I really enjoyed Growlanser II when I first played it, as it made me want to check out the first game. The story is okay, nothing special to write home about, but the gameplay is excellent, and a breath of fresh air from traditional strategy JRPGs. The active time battle system is very well implemented, the Ring equipment system is very well done, and the world map is easy to navigate through. The characters are all great, the waifus are also great, and Satoshi Urushihara’s artwork is breathtakingly amazing. Seriously, I really don’t think there is anyone better than Urushihara. You should also check out the Growlanser Art Works book, which contains Urushihara’s artwork from the Growlanser series, and you’ll see just how damn good he is at what he does. The dating sim elements are also well implemented too – currently I’m working on making Charlone my endgame Waifu, but for next time, I think I’ll choose Riviera.
Though Growlanser II is an excellent game, it is not without flaws though. Like I said above, though the story is okay, nothing special, another low point is the music. The soundtrack isn’t bad, not by a longshot, but it sounds very generic and is mostly forgettable. Another low point is the voice acting. Some of the voices are bad, but the main issue with the voice acting is the delivery. The voice actors were reading the dialogue for the characters off a script, and most of the emotions of the game sound fake. But given the budget restrictions that effected the game and it’s localization, I don’t hold it against the game much – it’s mostly bearable, unlike most games from the 4th and 5th generations which had terrible voice acting (*cough* Deep Fear *cough*, *cough* Symphony of the Night *cough*). Plus, you can turn off the voice acting too. Also, this game is EXTREMELY difficult too, the enemies will often cheat and troll you, you constantly have to heal your characters, there are quite a few extremely tough missions, and in battles, EVERY CHOICE YOU MAKE MATTERS, so be careful. It’s also a chore to get a desired ending, so get a guide, because the choices that you make in battles, along with the dialogue choices with characters, as well as the choices that you make on the world map ALL MATTER. DO NOT attempt to do a blind playthrough because this game is an absolute nightmare without a guide, so make sure you find a guide of some sort to help you through. You’ll need it. This is probably, by far, the hardest game that I’ve ever played. Do you know how many times I’ve ragequitted while playing this game? A LOT. And do you know how many times I’ve had to replay a certain section of the game to find events that I missed? A LOT. Yep, this is a Career Soft game, alright.
But despite it’s flaws and extremely high difficulty, Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice is totally worth checking out. Don’t let the high difficulty turn you off, because the gameplay and even the story to an extent can be very intriguing. Do check this one out, and when you do, enjoy the amazing artwork from Satoshi Urushihara, and prepare to ragequit a lot.
My score: 8/10