Have you ever wanted to change a game’s genre? I know I have. I look at Dishonored and wish it would have been in a third-person perspective instead of first-person. I look at Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword and wish it would have been an action game like its predecessors. And then I look at Grim Grimoire for the PlayStation 2 and wish it would have been a traditional RPG. Or an action-RPG. Or even a grid-based strategy-RPG. I knew what I was getting into when I decided to try this Vanilla Ware title, but I was hoping that everything about it would cause me to overlook the gameplay.
For instance, I thought the wonderful music and solid voice acting backing it up would help drive the exposition. Hitoshi Sakimoto composed a whimsical yet classic soundtrack for Grim Grimoire. His style is in full swing, but there are more touches of fantasy and pep in this collection of music. As you hear this music, you’ll also hear great voice work done by notable voice actors and actresses such as Wendee Lee and Yuri Lowenthal. Also, seeing as though this is a Vanilla Ware title, I figured the gorgeous aesthetics would allow me to overlook the game play. In comparison to other work done by this company such as Odin Sphere and Muramasa, Grim Grimoire features large character portraits, stunning backgrounds and fantastical monsters. In fact, this might be the best looking game Vanilla Ware has ever created and it’s easy to stop what you’re doing due to staring at everything.
The story is also memorable. The star of the show is Lillet Blan, a young magician that has been accepted into a magic academy called the Tower of the Silver Star. This darling little lady has big dreams to become a powerful wizard in order to help out her family. During her orientation, Lillet meets some colorful characters (most of which are named after alcoholic beverages, which is awesome) and learns the ropes. However, during her fifth day in school, a terrible tragedy hits the academy. Oddly enough, Lillet is spared any harm, but she is taken back in time to her first day. Lillet needs to investigate the truth behind the tragedy and the time loop she entered. She is a great leading character and the folks she meets are equally entertaining. The mystery behind the events of the time loop and the events that occur on the fifth day start to reveal themselves as the character’s true personalities begin coming to light. At a glance, GG looks like it would be a Harry Potter knockoff, but it is anything but thanks to the solid writing and characters.
Grim Grimoire is a linear title that plays like this: you see a story event, you are prompted to save your game, and you enter a battle. You can re-watch any story event that you like, as well participate in bonus battles. The game is hands off during the story segments since they consist of nothing but dialogue. When battles begin, you will be in full control. Grim Grimoire is a real-time strategy title; something that I am not fond of. At the start of a battle, Lillet needs to create runes. Runes are used to summon familiars that are used to gather magic power, fight against enemies, provide support, and so on. The controls are straightforward: just point to a unit and tell it what to do. Elves are your token gatherers. They spend their time harvesting magic and making sure that each rune is fully functional. Fairies are able to fly through floors and snipe enemies with their bows. Undead monsters move slowly, but they pack a wallop. As Lillet advances in the game, she will get new Grimoires which are used to create new creatures. One interesting aspect of the game is that each familiar that gets summoned has a strength and weakness, similar to rock-paper-scissors. There are four types of magic: glamour, sorcery, necromancy and alchemy. Obviously, this means there are lots of possible ways to achieve victory, but at the same time, there are lots of ways to find yourself defeated. When you finish your objective, you will receive a ranking based on how many of your units you lost and how much magic you were able to gather.
*sigh* I just don’t find games like this fun. While Grim Grimoire is nothing as basic as Warcraft or as awful/unfair as Heroes of Mana, it still suffers from the same issues of the genre. Also, the battle maps lack variety. Still, gamers that do enjoy this type of game will feel right at home. There are many options at your disposal, so I can understand the satisfaction of building an army from nothing. It’s just not the genre for me and I wish that Lillet’s adventure was in a different type of game.
Grim Grimoire will take about 25 hours to finish. Once you have seen the last of the credits, there is still more to offer such as bonus battles, trials, and challenges. I can say that I gave the game a fair chance. I knew how I would participate in Lillet’s adventure before I even popped in the disc. I’m not an RTS fan, so I recommend this game only to those that are. Had this game been constructed differently, I would be giving it a higher rating because the look, the music, the writing and the plot are wonderful. Like any video game, you should do your research and understand what it is you’ll be doing before taking the plunge into this time loop.