Alright, well, I'll say this. It's very dependant on your gaming tolerance and stamina, but it has its good points...
Let me lay out the basics of the gameplay real quick, that way we're all on the same page. This is like a 3D version of the NES Zelda games. You are traversing a grid map, but froma "bird's-eye-view." You encounter enemies with whom you will do battle, but with a very awkward battle system, which I will explain later. Just know that it is a "Real-time strategy" based system, though that is giving it way too much credit as far as how much better it's been done in other games.
Alright, so I'd give the game a cop-out line like "It's the PS2 and when comparing it to what's out there now, the graphics are obviously going to be lackluster." However, I've seen beautiful games on the PS2 and the console itself is definately able to handle MUCH, MUCH more than this game puts forth. I'd have expected graphics of this calibur on the Gamecube, but not from a PS2 game, especially this late in the game, if anything, it heralds back to the early days of the Playstation when developers were still testing the waters and pushing the boundries of what the system could handle.
One good thing I will say about having such dumbed down graphics is the fact that load times are basically non-existant. Though, I'd take load time over such life-less graphics.
Now, it does have some sweet looking animated cut scenes that come after each chapter finish or "big" story intervention. Though the animated scenes are sweet looking and very well done, they seem so far and few between, that by the time one finally comes into view, you've all but forgotten that this game even has a "brighter" side to the graphics department, and thus they are lost on you for the meager amount of time they flash by on the screen.
There has to be something done well, or at least decent, so the gameplay might hold the treasure. Not by much, if anything, the gameplay ranks only slightly higher then the graphics simply because of it's "bull-dogged" determination to keep you on track with little or no room for outside exploration. There isn't going to be any "Oh yeah, I remember seeing that a few scenes back" epiphonies. Why? Well, mainly because you won't be allowed to travel ANYWHERE you're not supposed to go. Period.
So with the graphics and the game play failing to bring much value to the game, how about the battle system? Well, you'e not going to find it here either. By the time you figure out the battle system, you will be done with the first four or five battles. But here's how a basic understanding goes. You choose to attack, what type of attack you use depends on how long you have to wait before attacking again. That's it. It's like Final Fantasy X-2 but on a "bigger picture" scale. Many times, you will forsake the strategy part of the battle and just beat the crap out of things. Especially as only a few of the more difficult battles tend to require a "strategy" at all. At times there are conditions by which to win or clear the stage and mission. Most of the time, these conditions feel clunky and somewhat annoying to accomplish simply because of the awkward and weird way you must move around the battle field to get to specific regions in order to complete said conidtions. There is the storyline, it's not ground breaking, but it is interesting at times. Though there are points in the story that will make you cringe. For instance, there are times in the game where they attempt to convey a sense of urgencey and desperation...it is not pulled off well, and ends up being morbidly funny. Other times, the voice acting is good, and at other times you'e wondering how on earth these people passed first grade with such horrible speaking skills. Yet the storyline does carry on well enough, in its own right, to keep the game alive at times.
So given those huge knocks to the game, does the gem of "good game" exist? To be honest that will be up to the gamer to decide. Unless you're a die hard RPGer, you probably won't have the patience, but on the other hand, I doubt you will even think about buying it in the first place. I mean I am an avid avid RPG player, and there were a few times I almost decided to put the game to rest and chalk it up to a bad buy. But I love Atlus and know that they always have something that will make it worth it, even if it is just an average game, at least they will make the game, as a whole, come together in the end.
So when all is said and done, it lies within the whole game itself, there are differing componants once you hit the main storyline that help to enrich the experience. Though they come into the game later, and thus have a lot of ground to make up. I don't feel that they totally make up for what the game lacks right off the get go, but factors like a "romace/friendship" system, a Plate system that allows for all characters to become very versitile skill-wise, and an interesting storyline, do end up gaining ground. Though as I said before, it just seems to ultimately feel like it could have been done better on all points. The only aspect of the game that seems like it was fleshed out wholly and fully, is the Plate-skills aspect. There is something there that is intriguing and unique, it just isn't enough to keep many gamer's attention.
So, would I suggest this game to someone to buy immidiately? No.
Would I suggest renting it first or pawning it off a friend to play and see if you've got the stamina to get through it? Yes.
It's got enough there when looked at as a whole to hold some but not many. And thus I give it an above average score, based solely off of the fact that only the avid RPGers and Growlancer story followers will probably pick this game up anyway.
Peace and Mercy.