GrimGrimoire PlayStation 2
Published by: Koei
Developed by: Vanillaware
Release Date: Out Now
GrimGrimoire is one of those rare games which simply can't be compared to any game that's gone before. Looking at the screenshots you'd be forgiven for thinking the game is another of those insanely cute Japanese RPG titles that gamers either love or hate (we’re actually rather fond of them). The truth of the matter is that GrimGrimoire is not a Japanese RPG. In fact if you had to pigeon-hole the game into a genre it would have to be classified as an RTS and a rather unusual one at that. Most importantly of all however, is that GrimGrimoire is a great game that definitely deserves your attention.
In GrimGrimoire you'll play as Lillet Blan who has just enrolled at a magic school that is run by the renowned Prof. Gammel Dore. Essentially you'll play through Lillet's first five days at the school. The first four days go as normal and she'll receive lessons in the usual manner and in between lessons she'll get to meet some of the school's crazy characters. On the fifth day however a major disaster occurs. The Seal of Archmage Calvaros is broken and the evil Archmage escapes and has seemingly killed everyone except Lillet. Just as Lillet herself is about to be killed she's taken back to the first night she spent at the school. However, she has strangely retained the knowledge of all that has happened in the first five days. Lillet finds herself reliving these five days over and over learning secrets and finding out about what went wrong on the fifth day.
The game, as its most basic, requires you to create enough units to wipe out your enemies whilst stopping your enemies from doing the same to you. You'll have to collect mana from giant crystals and with this mana you'll be able to summon units (or familiars as they are known in the game) to harvest the mana and also to attack your enemies. The mana you collect is taken to a portal known as a rune. It's from this rune that you'll summon units to help your cause. If the runes are lost you won't be able to create units so defending them is all important. The runes can be upgraded to give you additional access to other powers that can level up too. There are four different magic schools in the game: Alchemy, Glamour, Necromancy and Sorcery. Units from each of these schools are strong and weak against another school. Necromancy units are strong against Sorcery units and weak against Glamour units, for instance. As you progress through the game Lillet will acquire Grimoires (spell books) that will allow her to use different runes thus allowing her to summon units from different magic schools. The units you'll get to use (and fight against) are all typical fantasy creatures such as Elves, Unicorns, Golems, Dragons, Ghosts and Phantoms.
The control system is both easy to learn and effective. Selecting a character is done by placing the cursor over the unit you wish to give an order to and pressing the square button. You'll then move the cursor to where you want them to go and then press the X button. To select multiples of the same unit type you'll simply press the up directional button once you've selected a unit of your choice. If different unit types are clustered together you can press the left and right directional button to choose which unit type you require. Thankfully the game pauses while you make any kind of selection so you're never rushed or left cursing when different units are seemingly bunched together. Military units can be set to move, attack or defend so it's possible to place them at specific locations on the map. You'll move the cursor with the left analogue stick and scroll around the screen with the right analogue stick and this actually feels very natural. In fact the control system is generally intuitive and doesn't take much effort to learn.
It's very unusual for an RTS to have a top quality storyline. Usually you get a basic storyline that acts as a simple thread for all of the missions you'll undertake in the game. GrimGrimoire has a first class storyline however and you'll want to play through the game just to see how the story unfolds. Despite the characters having some truly bizarre names (Amoretta Virgine, Bartido Ballentyne, Margarita Surprise, Hiram Menthe and Chartreuse Grande are just some examples) they are genuinely interesting and all have their own personalities that add to the game's intrigue. The relationship between the game’s characters is also interesting and as Lillet revisits the five days over and over again, you'll find out more about each of the characters.
Rather unusually for a strategy game, the developers decided to go for a side-on perspective for GrimGrimoire. It may be a strange move but it's also one that makes a lot of sense. The action takes place over the various floors in the magic school so you'll need to not only scroll from left to right but also up and down. The levels aren’t that large to be fair, so the scrolling around isn't as big a problem as you might think. There are no camera issues to deal with and the game is all the better for it. The characters are 2D sprites which might seem a little old-fashioned but the sprites are wonderfully detailed. In fact the game as a whole is both charming and beautiful to look at. If there's one element of the game that does look ugly it's the overlap of units that occurs when a bunch of units are in the same location. It's not much of a problem but it does look cluttered. Still I would rather put up with this minor aesthetic problem rather than be in a 3D environment where camera control could be problematic.
GrimGrimoire is subtitled and deaf gamers won't have any problems with the game. The game’s cutscenes have beautiful, animated character portraits and the character's name placed over the text. You get to read the text at your own pace because you'll need to press the X button in order to move the dialogue forward. The game's tutorial messages are all in text. The comments your units make when you issue orders to them aren't subtitled but this isn't much of a problem and these comments never seem to be subtitled in any RTS. You're always shown how much time you have as a countdown timer is displayed at the top of the screen. All the information you can access between missions is in text and each day that you've played through will have a text summary of what's happened so you can brush up on past events if you haven't played the game for a while.
Creating an RTS for a console has never been an easy task and there have been many games that just haven't got the formula right. GrimGrimoire has to be one of the best console RTS games of all time. There are no camera issues to deal with, the control system is user friendly and will only take a few minutes to master and above all, the storyline is great and gives you a compelling reason to play the game through to its conclusion. There are a few ways in which the game could have been better but for the most part it's an impressive game. It may lack depth when compared to some RTS games that have appeared on the PC but the game has enough charm and personality, and addictive game-play, to more than make up for this. If you're a fan of RTS games and have a PlayStation 2 then you owe it to yourself to purchase a copy of GrimGrimoire.
GrimGrimoire is possibly the finest RTS on the PlayStation 2 so far. The quality of the storyline is surprisingly good and you're going to want to finish the game just to see how the story concludes.