Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice - Review  

For Great Justice
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

10-25 hours


Rating definitions 

   Wein Cruz, a boy with great potential, enters a military academy in hope of fulfilling his dream of becoming an Imperial Knight. His timing couldn't have been worse as a great war quickly begins, claiming the lives of many of his fellow students. Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice is a strategy RPG based on the events of the original Growlanser, but expands in its own direction as well. The game features a large degree of customization as players can not only mold the growth of characters to their liking, but also in the storyline which branches quite a bit based on choices the player makes. Naturally, the primary focus of the game is on battles though.

   In battle, the player assigns each character orders such as which enemy to attack, where to move to, or what spell to cast, but new orders don't need to be given until the previous one has been completed. Naturally, orders can be canceled and new ones assigned at almost any time. Thanks to this clever system, players are still in control of the flow of battle, but can focus on the big picture rather than wasting time on minor details. As a result of this, battles are surprisingly fast-paced and enjoyable. The average battle takes only a few minutes to complete, though some larger battles can take up to a half hour.

Massive Bosses Massive Bosses

   Another important aspect of battle is the ability to customize characters. Each character can equip a ring weapon that allows them to equip three gems in addition to transforming into their respective combat weapon. These gems have various effects, but offer a good deal of customization as there are dozens of gems, and it's possible to create powerful combinations. When a character levels up, they immediately gain a few points to distribute between skills, magic, and techniques. As these are mastered, more options become available. Wein is the most customizable of the party, but it's still possible to tweak the others to the player's liking.

   This refreshing mix of tactics, strategy, and speed make a great battle system, but story battles make it even better. Virtually every story battle is well designed and contains conditions that force players to plan carefully rather than mindlessly kill everything on the screen. These conditions are often unique and put an interesting spin on almost every battle. Random battles lack this, but they are almost entirely optional.

   As battles have conditions that try to force the player to think, story battles are generally far from being easy, but they aren't difficult enough to be frustrating either. Of course, difficulty also depends on how the player customizes each character in the party. If they do a good job, it can increase the usefulness of some characters by several fold.

   In order to accommodate the battle system, a flexible interface is required. Luckily, such an interface is present in the game. The only real problem with it is keeping ring weapons sorted, but that is only a minor complaint. The localization is also very well done with no real problems to speak of.

   Most of the mechanics, some of the characters, and a little bit of story are borrowed from the first Growlanser. While it still goes off on its own tangent, it's still far from being very original. This isn't uncommon in a sequel, but a few more original additions wouldn't have hurt.

Epic Battles Epic Battles

   The story itself branches away from the first game, but never becomes very developed. At the expensive of a developed plot, players are given a widely branching story instead. Even minor choices can impact the way the story branches. This helps the game elsewhere, but certainly isn't good for a strong central storyline.

   Due to the nature of the branching storyline, the game itself is very short and can be comfortably completed within about ten hours. For completionists, there are a number of sidequests, including an extensive battle arena, that can increase that total to twenty-five hours. While the first playthrough may be short, the branching storyline offers a high replay value to help players get their money's worth.

   Due to the short length of the game, none of the music becomes repetitive at all. In fact, many of the tracks are well above average, especially the battle music. As most of the game is spent in battle, the quality is welcome. The tracks chosen to accompany the longer, more involved battles are especially good. The sound effects are also generally pretty good, but aren't anything special.

   Considering it came out at roughly the same time as Final Fantasy X, Growlanser II's graphics aren't very impressive at all. Though small sprites are necessary to see the entire battlefield, they are still a little grainy. To help make up for this, some excellent character artwork appears during story scenes and in the status screen. These artworks are very detailed, animated, and change slightly depending on various factors such as how injured the character is at the time. While this helps improve the overall quality of the visuals substantially, they are still only average with all things taken into account.

   Growlanser II has a great battle system and excellent story battle design. The story isn't very developed, but it has a branching plot influenced by player decisions. It's very short, but it's a lot of fun to play and the branching plot gives it a high replay value as well. Overall, Growlanser II is a great game and certainly worth a look.

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