Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (PSP) review:

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time (PSP)

Missions are typically more challenging than ordinary encounters, both because the enemies you face can be tougher and because you need to account for the failure conditions that are unique to that battle. But once you've lost a mission as a result of one of these failure conditions, it's unlikely that you'll lose it again, because you've learned how the enemy is going to move and who you need to target to prevent that failure from coming to pass. If too many enemy soldiers slip past you on your first attempt at a certain mission, for instance, it's easy to position your characters and target your enemies to prevent this from happening the next time. So your second attempts are often simple matters of carrying out now-obvious recipes for success, which makes the result feel like a foregone conclusion.

6389591Silly Dulkheim invaders, with their easily broken wooden gangplanks.None

Though the battles are rarely exciting, there's satisfaction in seeing your party emerge victorious time and again and watching them grow more powerful. You can equip your characters with spellstones that have various effects, like imbuing attacks with elemental power, increasing movement speed, and improving the effectiveness of healing items, which allows for a moderate but enjoyable amount of customization. Customizing your familiar is less enjoyable. This familiar, a subservient fairy-like creature who accompanies Crevanille, can be dressed in various outfits that you find throughout the game for your ogling pleasure. It's an uncomfortable bit of frivolity that's at odds with the serious tone of the game's narrative.

A good deal of your time is spent not engaged in battle, but rather puttering around towns and chatting with other characters. The conversational choices you make can impact Crevanille's relationships with other characters, and ultimately, your decisions can result in any of a vast number of endings. But this process feels more mechanical than organic; you can see how other characters feel about you on a friend rating screen and choose your dialogue options in an attempt to influence these ratings, but a character's interactions with you rarely seem to be influenced by how he or she feels about you.

Unfortunately, you might also spend some time just trying to figure out where you need to go and what you need to do next to advance the story. At times, a character might give you a clue, but if you aren't paying close attention and you miss that clue, you're out of luck; there's no way to check what your current objective is. As a result, you might spend minutes wandering around a town talking to all the characters you encounter to see if they trigger the next part of the story, finally give up, go back to the inn and go to sleep, only to find that this was what you needed to do all along.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Timescreenshot
Where is the 'Punch Christopher' option?

There are no quest logs here, and other modern amenities common to the genre are absent as well. When you wander through a maze-like dungeon that has no automap feature and offers no option to save until and unless you emerge victorious on the other side, you might wish for some of those absent conveniences. Wayfarer of Time is a product of a previous era, and it looks and feels like it. But rewarding tactical combat is not a modern gaming advance, and even in 2003, there was no shortage of role-playing games that could put a satisfying strain on your noodle. Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time stumbles on the battlefield, and in some ways, it feels like a relic of the past. But these flaws don't fully overshadow the engrossing power of its rich world and well-written story. If you have an appetite for a grand and intricate fantasy tale, you may find that the foibles are worth enduring.

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