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    dkirschner's Growlanser Generations (PS2)

    [September 3, 2011 07:57:49 AM]
    Time somehow lined up and I finished 3 games in the last 3 days. Bizarre. This entry is for Growlanser 3, the next in the Growlanser series. I played Growlanser 2 a couple months ago and liked it a lot. G3 was also very good, mostly more of the same, but it was definitely tweaked in a few different ways, some good, some bad. Overall though, this is a case of "the first game was better."

    I'll just rattle off some stuff:

    (1) Overland map - G3 has a typical RPG overland map where you physically walk across the land from one place to another, encountering random battles along the way. I see why they changed this feature of travel in the game, because it made the story make a lot of sense. The story involved several warring armies, all of whom were setting up blockades, fighting in different areas and so on, so you were often blocked from going here or there. The overland map representation of the world was a more convincing way to present this story than the node map of G2 would have been. You actually walk up to the outskirts of a battle. It was cool in that sense.

    (2) Random battles - The random battles were not cool. G2 had random battles, which were sometimes challenging. G3's random battles were absolutely pointless. I constantly got "ambushed" by level 5 monsters, even if I was level 30. It depended on where in the world you were as to what levels the monsters were, but since 90% of the game takes place in the same few areas full of monsters waaaay below you, the random battles were just wastes of time. I started just running away from them in the end.

    (3) Dungeons - G3 had dungeons to explore, though they were randomly generated, except perhaps the final one. You move from room to room, and some rooms have enemies while others don't. Now, your party size in G3 is 4. Rooms had (seemingly at a dice throw) between 1 and 6 enemies. This also made most of the rooms pointless since walking into a room with 1 or 2 monsters isn't that fun or challenging. Basically, any non-story battle in G3 was just tedious.

    (4) Play style - I learned a lot from G2 that I applied to G3 that I suspect made the game ridiculously easy. One of my favorite things bout G2 was the wonderful challenge and creativity of some of the battles. G3 for some reason didn't have either. The level design suuuuucked. Every single battle was very straightforward with no tricks or traps. Disappointing for real.

    From G2 I learned that the game favors long-range characters. My best character in G2 was the annoying guy, Hans, the incredibly fast knife-thrower. I sought to make ALL my characters just like Hans in this game, except the main character, who I made an OP melee fighter. Through items and stat manipulation, I was able to, by level 30-something, net him 999hp and have him hit everything for 999 every swing. It was crazy. So basically I had that main melee character run out and kill things in one shot, then three archers, who I beefed up with Dexterity and Attack Wait Down (so they were fast-moving and fast-attacking), just blasting things from halfway across the map, usually also in one shot. My main character was basically unkillable. He leeched around 200hp every attack (+20% life leech gem).

    I got my characters so overpowered thanks to these Strength and Dexterity gems. I used them some last game, but in this one I figured if I put them on early and just left them equipped the entire game, my characters would get insane stat boosts by the end. It worked a little too well. When a character levels up, s/he gets 4-7 points in STR, DEX, and INT. With these gems equipped, characters gain an extra 3 points in whatever stat the gem is. Since STR makes them hit harder and DEX makes them move and attack faster, I just used up 2 gems slots on every character for almost the entire game and had them getting +3 to STR and DEX every single level. They were all about level 40+ by the end, so probably from level 10-40, they got +3 every level. That's at least 90 extra STR and DEX. Insane.

    G3 also had these items that you could use to increase stats. I loaded up the main character with all of them. I also found tons of items to learn extra spells and skills, which I distributed. There was an arena in this game, with tons of battles (1v1, 2v2, 4v4, and other styles) and tons of classes (E class, D, C, B, A, AA, AAA, & S) for each battle type. Beating S gave some amazing items, including this one that reduced your level by 10 but kept all your stats the same. WHOA. So basically, use it and then that character levels up faster for a while, basically gets free levels, since each level requires more and more experience to advance. Anyway, I was able to overpower the game big time. It's been a long time since I played an RPG where I hit max HP and damage. Even though it made it easy and a little boring, it was cool to be able to do that!

    That's pretty much it. I think I took about 25 hours. The story was like the one in G2, but made a bit more sense. Enjoyable game, good characters, fun being overpowered, but I'd recommend Growlanser 2 over 3.
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    [June 30, 2011 04:16:09 AM]
    The other day I realized I had to finish Growlanser 2 ASAP because most of my stuff is going into storage for a month and I don't want to leave the game hanging. So, I settled down yesterday evening and this morning and finished it out. Final playtime was a little under 20 hours, but can easily add 5 to that from deaths.

    I really liked the challenge of this game. At times, usually when first encountering a difficult battle, the game could appear 'cheap' instead. After playing the difficult battle a few times, I'd make progress bit by bit, quit calling it cheap, and start thinking about how to win instead of trying to steamroll. Some battles are unique and tricky, so it's necessary to get to where I can strategize. Examples of the three most memorable fights:

    (1) Poison/Venom battle - This one was INSANE. It's one of the final battles in the game where you're facing off against the mercenary captain Wolfgang and his giant status-inducing robot. There is a long, narrow hallway. Your team begins on one end, and I think 7 golems are on the other end, plus Wolfgang past the hallway when it opens up into a room. Off the hallway are four rooms, 2 on either side, with tempting treasure chests inside. After killing 3 or 4 golems, another 3 appear behind your party, right where you started on that end of the hallway. So you wind up sandwiched no matter what you do. Wolfgang is charging a weapon, and you have to kill him before it fully charges. Wolfgang's only attack, until you get into the open area near his melee range, is this giant status ray that he beams down the hallway, hitting everyone in the hallway every time. It can apply Poison (-5hp per round), Venom (-25hp per round), and/or Shock (character can't do anything at all).

    I began by charging down the hallway to kill golems on that side, running back to the beginning to kill the reinforcements, and going back toward Wolfgang again. But I was inevitably losing my casters who were in the back and being killed by the reinforcements. Once the casters are dead, I have trouble healing, because one of them, Riviera, is my dedicated healer. Well, she became my dedicated healer in this battle. I initially used her to cast level 6 Quake, which decimates all enemies for 250hp or so. 2 Quakes will kill everything on the map except the boss. But Quake takes too long to cast, and she'd get killed by reinforcements or Poison/Venom because there wasn't time to charge sufficient levels of Healing after the first Quake. Plus my melee guys were taking beatings in the front from the golems and by the Poison/Venom while she queued Quake.

    Quake, I thought, was too badass not to use, so instead of changing her casts, I decided the status effects were more dangerous. I attempted to shuffle everyone in a side room to avoid the status ray and to attack the golems one by one in the doorway. Well, this was alright except that characters' pathfinding sucks, which I haven't mentioned before. It becomes more noticeable as the party fills out and there are more bodies bumping into one another. Characters will box each other in, for example. And some are faster than others, and sometimes the fast ones will get stuck behind the slow ones. In tight levels like this hallway, it can get annoying/requires micromanaging their movements. So trying to get 8 characters in and out a doorway and arranged in a room was not fun. But, I kind of made it work, except that it was taking forever, and I reset because Wolfgang's weapon was going to finish charging. Next plan.

    At some point I realized I needed a dedicated healer and a dedicated Poison/Venom remover. The Poison is okay, but the Venom at 25hp per round is deadly and eats through HP real fast, especially with golems beating on you too. I mentioned this in the last entry, having to play conservatively. Quit trying to cast Quake; just queue Healing. Then with Serab, my other pure caster, quit trying to cast Blast or whatever spells; just queue Refine and constantly nullify those nasty status effects. I also rearranged my gems at some point, most notably giving Riviera massive MP savings and shorter casting time since she was going to cast Healing constantly (and Quake if there's time!).

    This was basically how I finally beat it. I moved EVERYONE up to at least the middle of the hallway so the reinforcements wouldn't kill my ranged. I used Hans to run around and grab treasure chests. Everyone engaged those first golems until the back reinforcements arrived. Melee kept attacking the front; ranged turned to take out the back. Healing and Refining was going great with the dedicated roles. Once all the golems were dead, I made sure the melee had enough HP, then ran them up to engage Wolfgang proper, for the first time really. Only Wein had ever even made it that far a couple times, and instantly died, before the time I beat it. He died those times because the boss has 3 parts: spear arm, shield arm, and head. He attacks with all of them. So sending one character alone is certain doom. Sending 4 or 5 spread the damage out, and they actually handled Wolfgang pretty fast. Victory. I probably died 15 times before getting it, but proper movement down the hallway and keeping a dedicated healer and refiner were keys.

    (2) Disappearing floor - This one was also pretty hectic, and a handful of failures were caused by that horrible pathfinding. This level is in a warehouse, and the floor is being eroded by acid. As time progresses, the floor drops away, beginning at the end of the level where the party starts, and moving one 'square' of space forward each time. If it's a grid with rows 1, 2, 3, etc., then one whole row disappears at a time. Luckily, the small starting platform is made of stone and is a safe spot. However, after a couple times, the floor around it is all gone and whoever is still there is stuck. So it's okay to leave casters, but if anyone else is going to be useful, they need to get off fast.

    The goal of the level is to get to this antenna dish in the middle or kill all the enemies. The enemies and the rest of the level is set up in kind of hedge maze fashion, which makes moving quickly all the more important. And, if any party member falls through the floor (is standing on it when it disappears) it's game over. So, the first thing I tried was to move fast characters to the antenna. That didn't work because everyone on the platform got annihilated by magic. Turns out all the enemies are casters. There are these spark things that like to cast Fear and AoE Fireballs and Lightning. Not too deadly on a single target, but when 6 characters are grouped together, and there are like 5 sparks casting, it adds up. Then the other enemies were these skeleton mage types who have serious, serious magic. They'd cast Soul Force level 3 and Blizzard up to level 5 or 6. Level 6 Blizzard is no fun to deal with. All these AoEs quickly made me realize I can't group my characters because they'll die in just a few turns. If the healers on the platform die, then of course my fast characters can't live to get to the antenna.

    My next plan then was to move everyone but the casters, split to the left and right of the platform. So I'd have 3 loose groups running around to soak damage. This took a huge amount of practice and repeats because of said pathfinding. The fast character would get stuck behind the slow character, then try to go around him, but walk onto a piece of floor that then disappeared, killing him and losing me the level. Over and over and over! Then I got smart and began using Dash (doubles movement rate) with slower characters, as well as totally micromanaging their movements. Don't think I've mentioned before, but you can basically set a series of waypoints for each character to follow. In effect, 'go here, then there, then there by this trajectory, etc.' It's cool, and useful, but sometimes I wish they'd just be smarter so I wouldn't have to do it. But, good tool. This splitting into 3 groups and moving correctly really helped. There was only one more obstacle to get over. I was still getting pounded by spells.

    I'd been taking out the skeleton mages first since they had the most deadly spells. Then, in a total fluke, I wound up taking Wein to the Secret Arena because I was frustrated from dying on this level, and lo and behold, those spark enemies were there, and I remembered they have tiny HP pools. Aha. So I went back to the warehouse level, took out the sparks quickly and easily, so they did like nothing, then focused on the mages after. But killing half the enemies right off the bat made it way easier to manage. I used the melee and continued using the casters to take out the rest of the mages, and actually won by killing everyone and not by getting the antenna. Success.

    (3) I hate Hans - Hans is the most annoying character ever, and I actually kind of got my wish when I said I hoped he'd die. At the end of the game (and earlier too apparently) you can actually branch the story. The path I chose, because it sounded too stupid to be true, was to side with the bad guy, at which point he plunges the world into mind control in great dystopian fashion. He's always wanted to bring about peace, and figures he can do it by using this Power Mask artefact to pacify everyone, to eliminate competition, hatred, etc., but of course it turns people into boring shells of themselves. Anyway, Max (or the State) partners people up for 'breeding' at the 'Population Control Office,'
    2 kids in 3 years. It's kind of funny. Wein (main character) is somehow unaffected by the brainwashing device, I guess because he's part of the bad guy's control machine. But Wein decides it's terrible that no one has any free will, and as he goes up to the Population Control Office, there's Hans getting coupled with a fat Viking woman who shakes the screen when she walks. Wein tries to reason with him, but he just talks about his duty to the state to produce offspring and goes on his way. So he didn't die, but he got brainwashed, so that's pretty good. EXCEPT...

    Except that Hans appears in the final battle against Max (fighting alongside Max), and since in my training and leveling of Hans throughout the game, I molded him into an amazing fighter, he is a massive pain in the ass. Another story character, Logan, keeps Hans healed, and Hans runs around attacking like 3 times for every other person's 1, and doing massive damage + status effects. It was horrible! I couldn't do anything in that fight until I realized I had to prioritize killing Hans over everything else. The fight actually was fairly easy besides Hans. But yes, I killed him in the end. So he did die. I win!

    Back to other stuff...

    In a Final Fantasy Tactics ripoff twist, there are chocobos in the game, except they just call them 'pack animals.'

    The voice acting is bad. I take back anything I said about it being okay. Besides Hans's voice actor being incredibly annoying, the rest are pretty flat. And it's probably some combination of this bizarre formal writing style the game uses and the acting. No one would ever sound like these people. Oh, and everyone sounds like basic American English (but super formal) except this random Scottish soldier one time, who was also terrible. And I couldn't believe this when I heard it, but the shopkeepers who are voiced, they made them sound Indian. Really really badly performed fake Indian accents. They sound like Michael Scott in The Office in the episode about racism in the office, when he goes up to Kelly and says 'buy my cookie! you know you want to buy my cookie, my cookie!' and she slaps him. It was painful to listen to. But, at the end of the game, there are a bunch of outtakes from the voice sessions. I listened to a minute of Wein's so far and it's pretty funny. I'll listen to the rest for laughs.

    And that interesting and complex story I talked about earlier? Well, about 2/3 of the way through it goes off the deep end into past Growlanser stuff, and I didn't have any idea where these evil beings and characters and such were coming from. There's mention of this great power, the Power of Language (whoa, deep), and this Power Mask, that you don't find out what Max wants it for or anything until the very end of the game. It just kind of jumps from one bad guy to another real fast near the end.

    And the ending, hilarious. You can actually agree with Max to use the Power Mask to brainwash everyone to achieve peace. I did this. You can make the choice to fight with or against Max at the beginning of this battle to confront him. When I sided with him, my whole party was like WTF Wein...except Hans. Hans, blindly following Wein for no discernible reason, and all it gets him later on is brainwashed and killed. So it was fun killing the rest of my party though. The only bad thing is they kept all the gems and rings, and when you realize your mistake later on and come crawling back to beg their forgiveness, there are inexplicably only 4 of them. Serab and Brett and 1 other one I think just aren't ever seen or heard from again. And they've still got the awesome stuff I last equipped them with!

    Apparently you can get endings with all the different characters if you chose to fight Max in the first place, based on who you have the highest reputation with. I just watched them all online. And apparently there's a big branch in the storyline earlier where instead of attacking Wolfgang, you can side with him and his mercenaries. That's a long branch! Looks like it's the same battles, just with different perspective or objectives. Cool though! Aaand, you can apparently save Arieta instead of killing her, of which I had no idea. The game seems to make me feel like whatever was unfolding was supposed to happen that way. I bet some people played this through twice. It's short enough and fun enough to where I wouldn't make fun of someone for doing it.

    One thing that doesn't feel as 'right' is Wein's character development, stats-wise. I started him off, like I said trying to be an attack mage, but that obviously, based on early party characters, isn't the best choice, and I find he tended toward melee attacks anyway. His magic is never stronger than the other mages, and actually his attacks are never as strong as some of the other melee characters. He's this weird jack-of-all trades that isn't allowed to die or else game over. So I tended toward things that made him stay alive, i.e., strapping on some heavy armor, life leech and going toe to toe with a healer supporting him, instead of standing back and being vulnerable while casting in light armor. It just makes more sense. I wonder if he would have been much better had I straight away molded him for melee combat?

    There's also this weird thing with mission success and failure. At the beginning of each mission, it tells you the win/loss conditions. Sometimes when you when, it says Mission Cleared. Other times it says Mission Cleared and there's a sword through it. Other times when you win, it says Mission Failed! But you still win. But it says you failed. It doesn't make any sense, and I don't know the difference between the sword and not having the sword either.

    Oh, and one final thing I have to mention, because I made some use of, is the auto-battle feature. There are occasional random battles on the map. If you push 'start' the AI takes over and fights the battle for you. Now, the AI is not that great. They don't kill magic casters first, which you should almost always do in this game, and they aren't able to think ahead, i.e., go on and charge healing spells because since they failed to attack casters, they're going to get blasted really hard. And they do things like cast Cycle Up and other buffs in what should be a <5-minute random battle. Just kill stuff man! The AI will win probably 80-90% of battles though, which works for what I used it for: level grinding. Yes, on some of those really hard story battles, I retreated to go get a level or two with everyone, then try the battle again with more HP and attack/magic power. Auto-battle allowed me to eat dinner, go to the bathroom, read a magazine, sort mail, etc., etc., while progressing in the game! Thanks auto-battle!

    And there's my super long entry for Growlanser 2. I guess I keep this open since Growlanser 3 is on the same release. I'll play it first when I move in a month. Fun game, recommend, just turn their voices off and don't ask too many questions about the story. Focus on battles.

    This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Jun 30th, 2011 at 05:59:43.

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    [June 27, 2011 09:53:53 PM]
    Might as well go on and write something about Growlanser since I'm in GameLog mode. Growlanser Generations is actually two games, Growlanser 2 & 3, in a 2-disc set. I never heard of Growlanser until like a year or two ago when I was poking around probably I think I was reading the review of Growlanser 5 for PS2, which got crappy reviews, but it pointed me to Generations, which sounded really cool, old school strategy RPGs. Found the game on eBay for cheap, bought and just popped it in the PS2 a week or two ago.

    I really like the game, Growlanser 2 that is. It's very reminiscent of Final Fantasy Tactics, with some differences. Similarities first though. The map is exactly the same kind of thing. You move from node to node and encounter story events and random battles at the nodes. The nodes are towns, ruins, border checkpoints, you know, places of interest. You can stop at each place. Cities for example, you can check out the armor shop, ring shop, sell stuff, etc. Other places are just sign posts or have the option to talk to party members. There is A LOT of talking to party members, and it's really awesome, because this game is heavy on interesting story and character background. The story apparently follows a year after Growlanser 1, which I read some background of to fill me in, because some of the characters and plot from that game is in this one, so it helps me understand what's going on. Just to say, it's a complicated political story with warring kingdoms, but basically, you're a knight leading your team of somewhat stereotypical anime cliches to unravel a sinister plot. I can't explain the whole thing here. The characters are generally likeable and interesting, with one exception, one of the most annoying characters I've ever seen in a game, Hans, who I hope dies.

    The battle system is pretty cool, and it's got some challenge to it! I've spent a lot of time dying. It's not grid-based at all like most SRPGs. So far you deploy your whole party every time, and I get the feeling that you never have to sit characters. Each character has a timer, right, so when it hits 0, the character takes action. They move, attack, or charge magic, basically. The moving happens over time though, which is neat. And the commands are carried out repeatedly until you tell the character to do something else. So if I say 'move here' the character just keeps moving until s/he gets there. While s/he is moving, other characters' wait timers are running out and they're taking actions. It feels very fluid and not turn-based, but it still is turn-based. Kind of confusing to talk about, but it works. Magic is a whole different beast in this game. When you select to cast a spell, you first select the spell and its level. Higher levels take longer times to charge. While you're charging a spell, the character is vulnerable to heavier attacks, so it's risky actually to use them. Once the timer runs out, then you select the targets, and it casts. Character stats are standard. One strange thing is the huge difference between ranged and melee characters. Melee characters have to move to their targets, obviously, but like bow & arrow characters can pretty much attack across the entire screen. Same thing for casters. It makes them really preferable. The melee characters I run up to engage enemy melee characters and as meat shields while the ranged obliterate the enemy ranged, and then enemy melee. Ranged characters feel overpowered on both my side and the enemy side. Often in a random battle or a story battle, there will be some stupid caster/archer hiding behind a rock that I don't see and all of a sudden I'll see like "Fireball Level 8" and I'm like uuuuh. Bam bam bam! Dead. Killing enemy magic users especially is a priority. But it's hard because like all enemy bosses so far are healers, and they stand in the back and heal whoever I'm attacking until they run out of mana. It makes story battles somewhat of an endurance test, making me play really conservatively, saving my mana on healing characters because I know I'll need it all. In sum, two thumbs up for the battle system. It's tough, fun, and strategic.

    Leveling up characters is fun too. Like most strategy RPGs, you get a boatload of experience for attacking or killing higher level characters, then normal and down to just a few xp for lower level characters. When a character levels up you allocate skill points right there, 2 at level 10 and below, 3 so far after level 10, maybe 4 after 20, dunno yet. But there are three categories of skills, and you have a decent amount of choice for guiding character growth, especially the main character, who by answering questions at the beginning, you outfit for one of a handful of basic archetypes (attack magic, defensive magic, melee, meat shield, dexterous). Anyway, of the 3 guiding attributes (strength, dexterity, intellect), the main character seems to always get 5, 5, 5, and the others get some combination of 4, 5, and 6 most of the time. Back to the categories, there are skills, magic, and techniques. Skills are passive abilities like higher crit chance, take less damage when charging spells, etc. I realized they are super useful and have been putting most characters' points into filling up useful skills. Magic is obviously commonsense for characters who come with spells or who have high intellect and mana. I made my main character to be an attack magic user, yet he's not the best at it. I get the feeling you are 'supposed' to make him a melee character, as the first characters you acquire are a defensive magic using archer, a short-ranged fast character, and an attack mage. Only later do you get a couple melee characters. I think because of that the beginning of the game may have been harder than some of the rest will be. So I was putting his points into the magic category, learning fire and ice and such, but have switched to putting them in skills for now. Techniques are like special attacks of various sorts that you have to select in battle, like thievery (steals an item on attack) or some kind of whirlwind attack that hits everyone around you. Skills, magic and techniques have levels, and once you put the initial points in, they automatically increase in levels based on your character level. It's cool. So once I learn 'fire,' I learn it once and it levels up as I do. Some things take more or less points to learn, depending on the character (i.e., magic-affinity characters use say 2 points to learn 'fire' whereas a technique character may take 4 points). Also, depending on the affinity of the character for whichever type of talent, more or less are available. So that annoying character Hans is a speedy technique character. He only has a few options listed under magic at the moment, whereas the mage character and my main character have a ton, and they're not all the same either. I have all these magic traps that she doesn't. She has some Holy spell that I don't. It's nice and makes the characters feel different, and also nice because characters aren't rooted to one role. Just because, for example, the magic character has badass spells, doesn't mean she can't hit hard with her staff. Just because my character focuses on melee and attack magic, doesn't mean I can't learn Heal and use it if I need to.

    And one more thing that is cool is the ring system. You equip two things: armor and rings. Rings have attributes and slot levels. Attributes mean equipping it increases stats, based on the name of the ring. So like Lucky Lord Ardo would increase stats based on whatever the 'lucky', 'lord,' and 'ardo' names do. It's cool. Then each ring has three slots for gems, and the slot levels (and gems) range from levels 0-9. So my ring might be a 1-1-1, meaning I can equip 3 level 1 gems. Or it might be 4-2-0, meaning i can equip a level 4 gem, a level 2 gem and nothing in the last slot. Gems buff your character in a lot of different ways. They might increase attack or magic power, grant a skill, automatically revive you if you die once per battle, increase attack range, etc. etc. Tons of different effects. So these gems and rings are very customizable and further add to the level of control you have over tweaking your characters.

    I think that's about it. Very fun game so far!
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    dkirschner's Growlanser Generations (PS2)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Sunday 19 June, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 1 September, 2011

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Awesome so far! Robotic voice acting with overly formal English, but story is engaging and combat/character development great so far. ------------- I overpowered it. Level design took a turn for the worse from G2. A little disappointed.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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