Since the very beginning, Growlanser’s had a sort of cursed existence in the US. The first game, on PSX, never came over (nor did its PSP remake). The second and third games came over courtesy of Working Designs, but Sony of America only allowed it if they were sold as a pack and (as I recall) budget priced. Atlus localized Growlanser: Heritage of War (I like to call it GrowHOW), but by that point the series had pretty much no fanbase on the continent.
Quick history on the series – the Growlanser games are Careersoft’s continued effort at strategy RPGs now that their Langrisser games have been concluded. They’re pausable, real-time strategy games focused on a small number of playable characters (usually up to 4), with a sort of ATB system reminiscent of Grandia (e.g. you can delay opponents’ turns by attacking them). The hallmarks of the series are its varied missions, politically focused stories, and interesting / unusual / creepy character designs by Satoshi Urushihara, most famous for his work on Record of Lodoss War and in *cough* hentai.
Luckily for us few fans of the series, Atlus was willing to publish the PSP remake of Growlanser 4 (with additional characters, ending paths, etc) as Wayfarer of Time. Though some aspects leave something to be desired – specifically, voices were cut from the US release – textually it’s a very impressive effort, since the game includes such a large variety of response patterns and branching paths. Despite the large volume of text, all of it reads very naturally.
Wayfarer of Time is considered by the series’ hardcore fans (not me – I’m a fair weather fan and don’t like to import much) to be the best in the series, and it’s easy to see why. The politics behind the primary conflict in the game – between the militaristic republic of Dulkheim and the stable kingdom of Valkania – is shown in detail, and offset by lesser conflicts, some of which are more traditional JRPG fare (Angels vs. Humans). Character relationships are built up and change as the war progresses, and tough decisions eventually need to be made.
One of the interesting features of the game is the large number of side-quests, many of which are hidden. For example, there are characters whose life or death depends upon you doing certain things prior to story events. In my own play-through, I missed at least a couple of these. The difference story-wise is often minor, but that’s pretty understandable from a writing point of view. There are also three distinct routes, although one is only available on a second play-through and another is determined based on a (fairly) arbitrary matter of character recruitment.
Play-wise, the difficulty curve seems a bit on the steep end for the middle of the game (~10-20 hr point of 28ish overall for me). Each mission in the game has a “Mission Complete” (ideal) outcome, as well as Mission Clear (OK) and Mission Passed (barely won), and many are pretty much un-Complete-able unless you know what you’re getting into ahead of time. This isn’t a huge deal, though, as only a few endings require certain battles to be Mission Completes.
Overall, the game’s my favorite entry in the series thus far (having played 2, 3, 4, and 5 now) and one of the best RPGs available on PSP. Hopefully we get to see the rest of the Growlanser games in English as well.