Many people have probably seen the title for this game and thought simply “what?” I recall many people saying that same thing upon approaching this game originally when it released for the PS2 back in 2007. It’s not hard to understand this reaction for many.. Without the ability to demo the game, the box-art looked very childish and strange, and didn’t contain that action-y and bloody feel like many popular games do. And you know what? It does look strange and childish, but it’s far from that. GrimGrimoire fills a void for many in that niche group of gamers, and it does it fantastically well.
There is an interesting story to GrimGrimoire, one that dwells on the mystery and haunts that surround a school for mages and witches. Throughout the game, you play as Lillet Blan, a new witch that has come to the school to learn how to use her powers. Beginning as a new student, she starts her learning about the different schools of magic and how to use them, as well as meeting all of the interesting characters that inhabit the halls. From students to teachers and even ghosts, there is a very strange mysteries at work and even stranger one: why does Lillet keep reliving the same 5 days over and over while everyone else seems to meet an untimely end?
GrimGrimoire’s gameplay is a tough cookie to properly explain, but for many that know NIS and the games they deliver, that’s not a bad thing. It is a hybrid of sorts combining RPG-like elements of story and leveling (learning in this case) with the gameplay of real-time strategy and even a bit of tower defense. When playing the game, you’re brought to a map, where depending on what spells you have and how much mana you can collect (think resources), you can create different spell rings. These spell rings relate to the different schools of magic – some will allow you to conjure fairies, others will bring forth phantom knights. The purpose of all of this summoning and spells and rings at your disposal is to fight against opponents and destroy everything under their control. While you attempt this, they will continuously send their own minions against you, hoping to do the same to you.
The schools of magic are broken down into 4 types – Glamour, Necromancy, Alchemy, and Sorcery. Each school of magic has a teacher – a wide range of strange people including a demon and a man-lion. Each school of magic also has it’s own strengths and weaknesses, as well as it’s own set of defensive capabilities and spells at its disposal. It’s important that as you play through the game you take time to understand these characteristics in order to maximise your score for each level and ensure you don’t don’t get crushed by an army of imps at any point.
Going back to what I said about the graphics – they are a bit childish in their design, but honestly for this game it is perfect. The way the game is stylised is very interesting – almost like everything has been painted into the game. There are some very vivid colors throughout the game and the character designs are fun to see. Topping off those characters are their ridiculous names (anybody up for a drink?) and their voice work – very good by many standards. The voices and personalities fit very well and while some of the “cutscenes” can take a while, I had fun listening.
I do have some gripes through! While there are a lot of things going on whenever you’re on the battle screen, the screen itself – the map or background if you want – is always the same. There are no other maps aside from one that consists of many floors with stairs, stone pillars, and boredom. There has to be at least one more room in this giant castle. That, and the game can get repetitive – every battle is essentially the same, just with some different enemies. Once you master the combat system of the game (what beats what essentially), it gets fairly easy fairly quickly.
Beyond those issues however, the game IS still fun. I enjoyed my time with it and I definitely suggest people give it a shot without going “what?” at the cover art first. It was a solid PS2 title back in the day and it stands as a solid PSN title now.Note: GrimGrimoire was reviewed on PlayStation 3. A digital copy of the game provided by the publisher.