Vanillaware boasts a rather diverse portfolio of titles, ranging from action JRPGs to a beat ’em up and even an RTS visual novel-hybrid. Yet another unique game of theirs is the long-forgotten GrimGrimoire, now seeing a remastered release as GrimGrimoire OnceMore. This unexpected tower-defense-esque magic fantasy adventure has its own place in the developer’s library, and after playing the demo, I’m certainly more interested in the plot and gameplay systems in the later hours. However, it’s already abundantly evident that this outing will not be for the general crowd.
GrimGrimoire OnceMore follows protagonist Lillet Blan, an eager youth who’s the new student at a famed magic academy. She yearns to further support her younger brothers at home by becoming capable in magic. And while her go-getter attitude initiates her time at school well enough, the bizarre teachers and students quickly cause her to question the efficacy of the establishment. Further, an out-of-nowhere tragedy occurs at the end of her fifth day there, leading to her facing a groundhog day-like phenomenon, where she repeatedly re-experiences those first five days.
The premise here is engaging, as the cast share striking, unique designs with standout traits and relationships. Despite the meager five days the game begins with, you’ll remember everyone thanks to their depictions alone, a feat all too familiar with this developer. Although the demo’s other half, which centers around gameplay, can be overbearing. You see, most battles comprise a lengthy tutorial, and many of the mechanics are self-explanatory, with only the controls requiring any explanation.
As for what the combat is actually like, players control Lillet as she creates and directs familiars across vertical maps to defeat enemies and destroy their spawn points. This goal is conceptually simple, but there are several types of familiars that can be made, each with different strengths, weaknesses, and costs to summon.
Unfortunately, due to the frequent tutorials, I don’t believe the demo paints a reliable picture of how the actual game’s regular missions will go. Still, I can easily see these bouts becoming quite complicated when multiple factors come together. Thankfully, there are selectable difficulty modes to tailor one’s desired experience better, but a fundamental understanding of what’s going on is required no matter what.
The end of the demo introduces the skill tree, where the many schools of magic can be honed in on and upgraded in specific ways. Granted, there aren’t any new challenges to overcome in this playable build once this mechanic is revealed, but it’s pretty thrilling.
There are far more upgradeable aspects than I thought there’d be, so player individuality appears to be highly encouraged. Finally, and I know I mentioned this point before, the presentation is stunning. I always adore Vanillaware’s art style, and this game is no different. I’m eager to see later environments, and potentially new characters join the fray.
GrimGrimoire OnceMore certainly possesses that quintessential Vanillaware charm, yet in an admirably distinct way that sets it apart from the developer’s other projects. The narrative is appealing, and I’m excited to learn more about its intricacies. Plus, the gameplay seems enjoyable to experiment with due to the number of options at one’s disposal.
Still, I can see this approach not being an all-pleasing cup of tea, so if you’ve been on the fence about GrimGrimoire OnceMore, I highly recommend trying out the demo to see if the combat is your thing. And if it does compel you, then you can take advantage of the demo’s transferable save data to the full launch.
GrimGrimoire OnceMore will launch for PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch on April 4, 2023.
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