Guest Author - James Shea
A compilation including Growlanser II and III, Growlanser Generations is basically a repackaging of these old games. These games were not formerly available in the US, and now are due to the PS2 adaptation.
Growlanser II takes place in the kingdom of Burnstein, following Wein Cruz. Enlisting in the officer's academy, Wein hopes to become an Imperial Knight, of which there are only four in the kingdom. However, not long after he joins, a great war with the kingdom of Rolandia breaks out (this war is seen from the other side in Growlanser I). Many of Wein's fellow knights are killed. After passing the initial knight exams - a makeshift defense of a besieged city - Wein becomes a full knight and leads a squad through various missions.
Growlanser III, in contrast, takes place after a different nation has been ripped apart by civil war and the sun's power is weakened by a major catastrophe. This leads to a major famine and a squabble over food in its neighbor countries. The player is a soldier wracked with amnesia who is rescued by the daughter of one of those countries, Xironia, which is constantly raided by the neighbor nation of Aggressival. The soldier, Slayn Wilder, must rediscover his past and avert a tragedy before it can happen.
The gameplay in Growlanser is a little difficult to follow. The game is "real time", in a manner of speaking, but it's more accurate to say that even though everyone moves at the same time, the game still has a system of timing and turns. The player can have as many as 8 soldiers on the field at a time in Growlanser II, and only 4 in Growlanser III (due to player complaints). Every time there is a combat sequence or spell cast, the play stops and waits for the thing to be done. Orders are given when these combat sequences aren't playing. These range from abilities to attacks to move orders. It is often difficult to adapt to new conditions because of the frequent interruptions. One of the new features in the Growlanser Generations repackage is the option of "auto-battling" - helpful for characters you can't afford to spend time on.
In Growlanser II, the "world map" is traveled from city to city like points on a map (think Final Fantasy Tactics), and while in towns the player can buy and sell items or look up rumors. Growlanser III works more like a normal RPG, with manual traveling over an overworld map and into towns. However, for the most part, gameplay is similar between the two.
The graphics in both games are sprites in the standard RPG style, though the pixelation improves from 2 to 3 (2 is very grainy and flaky, while 3 is a little more smooth). The portraits are done in an anime style very similar to old anime series like Record of Lodoss War - lots of big shoulders and shiny hairdos. The music is barely noticable, but the voice acting has been improved with Generations. However, the quality varies wildly from character to character.
As a whole, I might recommend this game if one was a fan of the later, translated games. But by itself, the gameplay system is a little too complex and irritating to like.