GrimGrimoire OnceMore - Switch Review

GrimGrimoire OnceMore by developer Vanillaware and publisher NIS AmericaNintendo Switch review written by Richard with a copy provided by the publisher.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Those of you who remember the era of the PS2 may recall a somewhat niche title called GrimGrimoire. A title that I felt didn't receive as much attention as it should have, GrimGrimoire is now getting a remaster: GrimGrimoire OnceMore.

The story of GrimGrimoire follows a young girl, Lillet Blan, who has received an invitation to the acclaimed school for magic run by the famous wizard Gammel Dore. Housed in the tower formerly owned by the deceased Archmage, Calvaros, there are still many secrets hidden in the walls. Lillet excitedly takes to her studies, opening her first grimoires and delving into her magic studies. Unfortunately for her, only five days after starting, a horrible tragedy occurs and Lillet awakes five days ago on the eve of her induction into the school. So it begins, as Lillet strives to figure out what's happening in the tower, and to solve the mystery of her looping through time, hopefully while saving the others in the tower.

GrimGrimoire Oncemore is an interesting game, as it's sort of split between Visual Novel-esque storytelling, with battles between. Battles are what I can only describe as a sort of "side-view anime Starcraft", if I had to make a comparison. Essentially, battles are a sort of tower defense/reverse tower defense sort of deal. You'll generally start out each battle with at least one rune and a few gatherer units. You can send the gatherer units to crystals around the map in order to harvest mana. Mana can then be expended in order to summon more runes, upgrade runes, or summon units. Each fight usually has you either surviving a set amount of time, or destroying all of your opponents' runes.

Runes come in four types: Glamor, Necromancy, Sorcery, and Alchemy. Each rune type is effective against one type and weak to another. You can summon new runes for a mana cost, as well as upgrade them to allow you to summon more unit types or to improve the capabilities of your summonable units. Here we come to one of the improved aspects in the Remaster: the skill tree. In order to unlock new units and bonuses, you need to purchase upgrades to the associated runes, and then upgrade them in-fight in order to receive the benefits.
Something you will notice pretty quickly about GrimGrimoire is that there is a bit of repetitive nature to the fights. While you will get a bit of variety in the beginning as you are unlocking more runes, once most of them are unlocked, battles feel pretty similar to one another. The upgrade tree helps add some freshness that is sorely needed. As you complete stages you will earn coins to spend on upgrades. More coins can be earned by completing bonus objectives issued at the start of the fight, or by completing the trial stages.

Trial stages will generally restrict you in some way, or give you specific win/loss conditions. More trials become available as you progress through the story, and can both be a nice break from the story missions, as well as a good source of coins for the upgrades. Another cool addition is that whenever you clear a stage, trial or otherwise, you get a piece of artwork. For story stages, these are some really pretty full size images that were really nice to see after completing a battle. The trials have some interesting themes and layouts, so I highly suggest checking them out if you do pick up the game, although they aren't strictly necessary in order to complete the game.

GrimGrimoire isn't a particularly long game, with my playthrough coming in at just about 17 hours total play time, including the trials. That being said, the game offers three starting difficulties of easy, normal, and hard, with a hell mode unlockable for story missions upon clearing the game. What it does have is a great cast of voice acting, including one of my top 5 favourite evil laughs in gaming, cute animations for the monsters you can summon, as well as a nice background music soundtrack as well as fitting and well-drawn visuals. While Vanillaware isn't able to showcase the full extent of it's art in GrimGrimoire, you certainly do get the distinct taste of it.

Now, for those returning veterans who are familiar with the original, there are a few things new you should make note of. First up, the skill tree system I mentioned. The difficulty rating also seems to be largely revamped, including access to Grand Magic, which can be cast at default once per battle, and can serve one of four functions, such as reversing time, healing units, a large scale attack, or giving you a mana boost. Additionally, and a function that made me squeal in joy, is the ability to fast forward in-battle. Yeah, that's right, instead of waiting literally 2 minutes for mana gathering/unit movement, you can speed up time to zoom through those annoying waiting periods. The visuals have also gotten an upgrade so it no longer looks like a PS2 game.

Now, I would like to point out that despite the fact I mentioned the stages get a little repetitive, that doesn't mean they're all the same. Depending on your play style, each battle can be very different, as you may prefer one unit type to another, or make units based on enemy weaknesses. The stages are also constructed in different ways, as some units may be able to pass through floors and walls, but others cannot, meaning you have to set up bases and organize how you're utilizing your units. While it doesn't help much that the backgrounds are mostly the same, a lot of the time you'll most likely be too focused on the fights rather than what's behind the stairs.

Overall, I have to say that GrimGrimoire Oncemore is a great remaster to a wonderful title from the PS2 era. With a number of greatly appreciated improvements, such as the ability to speed up time in battle or the introduction of Grand Magic, it adds that extra oomph for those who have played the original, as well as reducing some of the more aggravating mechanical aspects for newcomers. With a great story complemented by equally great voice acting, GrimGrimoire Oncemore is a great RTS title for you to enjoy.

Score: 8.5 / 10


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