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Random Dungeons make Reviewers Cry
By: Christopher Beaupre
While the second game in the Growlanser Generations package is called Growlanser III, don't let the name fool you. Growlanser III actually takes place before Growlanser II. It might even be in the player's best interest to play this title first in order not to spoil any of the plot. Not that there was much to begin with, mind you. Like its predecessor, Growlanser III is a Tactical RPG. However, it tries to be more of a conventional RPG and this is where some of its failings lie.
Before we get into some of these failings, let us talk about what the game excels at. Like Growlanser II, Growlanser III sports an excellent cast of voice talent. Those with a keen ear may even be able to recognize returning talent from Growlanser II. Unfortunately, Wolfgang's voice actor was nowhere to be heard.
The game uses the fairly tired gimmick of a main chacter with amnesia. However, while this seemed like a bad thing, as the plot unfolded it eventually became almost interesting by the end. Don't expect him to say much; his sentences can be counted on one hand. Like the previous game, you are able to affect the outcome of the story through the many dialogue choices throughout the game. However, unlike Growlanser II, some dialogue choice are locked based on how you act throughout the game. Don't be surprised if you can't chose, "I'm going to kill your children," when you've been acting like a paladin through the rest of game.
Except for some new skills and gems, the leveling and gem system is identical to Growlanser II. This is a good thing since it was done so well already. There are two major changes in gameplay. The most notable change is the addition of useable items. There are now healing and resurrection items, and they are greatly overpowered. In the time it would take you to cast a normal heal spell you could have already used a healing item and resurrected a party member. The second most notable change is that the amount of playable characters in your party has been cut in half. This ultimately reduces the amount of strategy that can be used in battles and in effect makes the fights less fun.
Two words: "random dungeons." Scared yet? It gets worse--they are not even remotely well done. A "random dungeon" in Growlanser III consists of square rooms with 1-4 branches that lead to even more identical square rooms. The only good thing about this is, most of them aren't that large. In addition to explorable dungeons we are given two treats. Explorable towns and a world map! These three things are what is mainly responsible for doubling the play time of Growlanser III to that of its predecessor. If one were to string all the battles in Growlanser III together, it would take about 12 hours to beat. Toss in a world map, explorable dungeons and towns and we have over thirty hours of gameplay.
Like in Growlanser II the auto battle feature is a savior. The world map is small, the random encounters large. And what is worse is that with all the backtracking that is done throughout the game, the random encounter enemies never seem to get stronger. Eventually even auto-battle will get annoying, and it is highly recommend to just run from all the fights to save time and annoyance.
Growlanser III has a good main plot, and excellent characters. It is worth it to suffer through the random dungeons to advance the storyline. The character art is as gorgeous as ever, and the in-battle graphics are similar in quality to Growlanser II. The only real improvements to graphics are the background textures, which seem to be a notch higher in quality. Linearity is thrown out the window thanks to the world map, and the line between Traditional RPG and Tactical RPG becomes blurred. The storyline battles makes this game worth playing, but it is by no means a great game.
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