The Precarious World of Growlanser VI
Recently I had the luxury of playing the sixth installment of the Growlanser universe only to learn that Growlanser VI, much like Growlanser V, really is a good game that anyone should play if it comes Stateside. Anyone who's played Growlanser V will instantly be reminded of just how VI plays simply because both games are 100% identical in their respective gameplay nature. While the previous Growlanser installment's gameplay was a bit more tactical and point and click, Growlanser V and VI abandoned that gameplay method. And instead introduced a new battle system known as the Seamless Tactics System, where battles are now fought in real time without the game making the transition from exploration to combat. Growlanser VI is an extension to Growlanser V, with the game staring a young soldier named Merklich who, along with his friend Wendy, set out to venture through the continent of Esgerz to understand exactly what is going on between the nations of Hingstan and Fomeros and whether or not their is a means to an end of the war.
As noted above, the Seamless Tactics System makes use of real time elements to make the player a bit more engaged in battle. In Growlanser V, up to five characters can participate with you in battle with you controlling Merklich. What's interesting about the STS is just how streamlined it feels; were I to compare it to an RPG with a similar battle system, I'd probably say Final Fantasy XII. Like Final Fantasy XII, characters in Growlanser VI can attack, execute spells, use items and what not when the little gauge underneath their HP and MP has returned to normal. Whereas in Growlanser V you had to wait for the ATW gauge to fill before moving or executing a command. Unlike the previous installments, characters in Growlanser VI can cast spells while moving and use an assortment of combinations in battle to gain the initiative, much like monsters can do the same. Enemies appear as red dots on a mini map to the top right of the corner, and a battle begins as soon as Merklich strikes an enemy. Of course those who aren't too fond of the STS and its seamless nature, complete with button mashing awesomness, can easily play Growlanser VI too. Similar to Growlanser V, the traditional Growlanser way, you can play Growlanser VI by opening up Merklich's menu, and prompting him to attack and selecting a monster to attack. The same can be said for casting spells.
What happens to be both an eye of interest and a bit of an annoyance is the flow chart Growlanser VI uses for characters to learn spells. Each of the weapon's and armor you purchase for Merklich and his co. are all followed immediately by a colored icon which, when compared to the flow chart of each character, dictates exactly what abilities your characters can use that are, of course, relegated to the color of their weapon and armor that happens to be in accordance with the colors in the flow chart. For example, equipping a weapon that's "red" and armor that's "flow" will allow that particular user to make use of the skills on the flow chart that are red and green, totally leaving out the ability to use the "blue" abilities of the "blue" flow. Careful planning is heavily considered when planning out the flow pattern of your character's abilities because choosing where to place plates to continue the flow of a particular colored ability can really end up hurting you later on in the game, thus making the game a bit hard in the long run. It's recommended you at least keep a weapon and armor of a different color where that same color's flow chart is good enough to the point where things won't be so hard in the long run for you; of course, you're more than welcome to making the game unforgiving.
Also, the game's gem system seems to be a nice way to legally cheat. The gem system is basically comprised of the ability to combine different gems, two per character, for each character to earn some nifty cool pluses in battle as well as make up for each character's weakness. For example, each gem has four slots in them which are used to house abilities; so if one gem has
Defense Up Level 1, _______________, Fire Weapon, ____________
and the other equipped gem has
Defense Up Level 1, Wind Defense Level 2, _______________, Petrify Level 3
then the actual abilities your character has with them are:
Defense Up Level 2 (an ability that has the same slot in one gem adds the level of the same ability in the same slot of the other gem), Wind Defense Level 2 Fire Weapon, and Petrify Level 3. If you equip two gems that have different abilities in the same slot, then said ability won't be available to your character. Making heavy use and careful contemplation of the flow chart and the gem system really does add up in the end since it basically gives you the power to have your characters super strong, thus making the entire game easy for you. Said ideas can be a bit confusing and really annoy you since strategizing is somewhat of an importance, but you're more than welcome to just blaze through the game without making use of either mechanic.
Thus far the game has proven to be really interesting; and anyone whose played Growlanser V and starts Growlanser VI can easily tell how VI is just an extension of V with a few revisions. Even the story feels like a continuation of V with the beginning focusing on Melkich and Wendy and the later parts showing its relation to V. The STS is perhaps the most interesting part of the game, though, as it adds a nice touch to playing through Growlanser in a new way. Should the game be released here and you had your fun with Growlanser V, don't pass it up. It's well worth the time, even if the flow chart and its colored nature along with the super exploitation of the gem system make it easier/complicated.