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   Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness - Review  

The Dark Lord And The Sun
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Easy-Medium
COMPLETION TIME
25-40 hours
OVERALL

3/5

Rating definitions 

   Set many years before the events in Growlanser I and II, Growlanser III: The Dual Darkness tells the story of Slayn, a mysterious swordsman who has lost his memory. To make matters worse for him, the world has begun to decay along with the sun, leaving many lands almost uninhabitable. This has caused several kingdoms to turn on one another in order to attain food. For better or worse, Growlanser III replaces the branching storyline of II with a strong central storyline without any real branches. It also unfortunately replaces a few of the excellent story battles with horrible random dungeons and countless random battles.

   In battle, players assign each character individual orders. These orders are usually very general such as which enemy to attack, etc. without giving specifics. This allows players to focus more on the wider scheme of things and less on minute details. Orders can naturally be canceled and replaced at almost any time, not just when they've been completed. This allows the player as much or as little control as they desire. Thanks to this system, battles are very fast-paced and take between a few seconds and a few minutes to complete. There are a few large scale battles that take much longer, but, sadly, none last as long as the epic battles in II. Another unfortunate fact is that random battles are also far more common due to a vast world map and randomly generated dungeons.

   Character customization is still an important factor, but, since party size has been significantly reduced, it's more important to carefully choose the best party for a specific task. Each character can still 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 and it's possible to create powerful combinations thanks to their variety. When a character level up, they gain points that can be distributed to the player's liking between various skills, spells, and techniques. New choices become available depending on the player's choices and which sidequests have been completed.

Mighty Warriors Mighty Warriors

   The large increase in forced random battles and dungeons with high experience yields, alongside the decline of story battles with conditions that make the player actually think, leads to a severe drop in difficulty. In addition to these changes, it's possible to actually purchase items that permanently increase statistics, high-power rings that are very common, healing items that are much faster and more effective than magic, and the fact that most characters can reach the maximum HP easily. The difficulty has been toned down to such a degree that it's very easy to breeze through most of the game.

   The battle interface is essentially the same as that of its predecessors, but the tactical world map has been replaced with a fully explorable world map. The problem with sorting rings still exists, but it's only a minor problem. Naturally, the localization is still very good in general.

   As it takes a different approach to the formula its predecessors set up, Growlanser III is fairly original. The battle system is essentially the same, aside from the smaller number of characters, but major changes to the world map have been implemented, magic can be used outside of battle to surprise enemies, and entire dungeons have been added to the mix.

Spirit Powers Spirit Powers

   The central storyline is much more involved this time: it's much longer, more focused, and spends a greater amount of time developing characters, should the player spend the time to talk to them. This is a substantial increase over II, and it is a great improvement. At the same time, the story loses most of its replay value because there is isn't any real branching to be found. Nevertheless, the story is still above average and the primary highlight of the game.

   Due to the extended storyline, large world map, and dungeons, this installment can easily take the player twenty-five hours to complete. A redesigned battle arena and various other sidequests can increase this total even more should players wish to complete them. For the few that actually enjoy random dungeons, there are a few lengthy bonus dungeons to be found as well. While there is very little replay value, players can still easily get about forty hours of gameplay out of this installment.

   The background music sees a severe decline since II. The world map and some battle themes are still quite good, but the majority of the music the player hears now is the extremely repetitive music played in the dungeons. As if the random dungeons weren't bad enough already, players are subjected to a very small selection of dungeon tracks during their numerous hours of exploration. The sound effects, on the other hand, are generally pretty good, but nothing spectacular.

   Unlike the music, the visuals have been improved since II. while they have indeed been improved, they are still nowhere near the Playstation 2's potential. The character artwork is still the best part of the visuals, but many spells have been redesigned to make them look better. Aside from the excellent artwork, the visuals are still the same general quality as Suikoden II's, but with far more frames of animation. The world map and artwork bring the visuals up to borderline average though.

   All things considered, Growlanser III isn't as much fun as Growlanser II, but it still isn't a bad game. While most of the excellent story battles have been replaced with random dungeons, the plot is much better and even more time is spent developing characters. As a result, unlike Growlanser II, the highlight is the story, not the story battles. These changes, plus the severe drop in difficulty, make III more of a mainstream RPG than its predecessors. As both games come in the same package, it's worth a look, but it's not as much fun overall.

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