It is an unshakable fact that the PlayStation 2 had a lot of amazing games. There are so many of them that it’s easy for some to be overlooked in favor of other more popular titles. That’s the case of GrimGrimoire, a quirky and unique RPG and RTS hybrid developed by Vanillaware and Nippon Ichi Software, released in 2007. It’s by and large one of the former’s least talked about games, and that’s baffling, because it happens to be one of its most charming.
NIS America is now bringing back that unsung classic in remastered form with GrimGrimoire OnceMore for PlayStation 4 and 5, as well as the Nintendo Switch. If you happen to have missed this the first time around, this new version is very much worth picking up, especially because the original can fetch a high price, but the main reason is that it naturally looks way better than before.
GrimGrimoire OnceMore stars Lillet, a witch-to-be who has just enrolled in a magical school that happens to have been established in a giant tower which used to be the home of a less than saintly sorcerer. As it is expected, things are quite abnormal in there: teachers come in all shapes and sizes, one is even a demon, and it isn’t safe to walk the halls at night because students are wont to be jumped by evil spirits.
Lillet, though, is as happy-go-lucky as any protagonist can be, and is very energetic as she starts taking classes and learning about elves, fairies, and all manner of magical creatures. Thanks to the power of many different grimoires, through her lessons, she learns to control all of them and get them to do her bidding in various screen-filling RTS-ish battlefields where she faces off against classmates and teachers.
Depending on what grimoire you happen to be using, you’ll be able to control units of a handful of types depending on their color. At the outset, you get a green class tome that allows you to summon fairies and elves, but eventually there will be many more to get ahold of, including one that allows you to command demons of your own. Each element is weaker and stronger against others, so it’s important to know who you’re facing off before committing to any particular school of magic.
What makes the gameplay in GrimGrimoire fun is that it’s very easy to grasp and get good at, and there’s a whole lot of variety when it comes to potential combinations of units and spells you can put to work during combat. While the main objective of encounters is to destroy the opponent’s rune and protect your own, there’s plenty more to worry about along the way, such as keeping your production running smoothly and leveling up your troops, much like your usual RTS game.
The original version of GrimGrimoire was already a looker back on PlayStation 2, thanks to the amazing art direction that Vanillaware is known for. Character designs are pretty out there, but unlike Dragon’s Crown, where proportions are completely out of control and are utterly ridiculous, outside of a few slightly exaggerated bust sizes, GrimGrimoire is very tame. The remaster sharpens the visuals, making almost every frame of the painterly animations look pristine. Weirdly enough, the minimap during battles is the only bit of the game that did not get updated, and it sticks up in its fuzziness, which is very odd.
Calling GrimGrimoire OnceMore ‘charming’ would be an understatement. On one hand, it’s by no means mind-blowing when it comes to challenge, but for as easygoing as it can be, its unique combination of real-time strategy battles and RPG. That’s coupled with Vanillaware’s absolutely wonderful art that makes it a game unlike any other. It was in a class of its own back on PlayStation 2, and now it’s set to enchanted a whole new generation with the remaster.