GrimGrimoire OnceMore – Nintendo Switch Review

Overview – developed by Vanillaware and published by NIS America, GrimGrimoire OnceMore is an updated remaster of the original magical real time strategy title from the PS2. Experience the original story of GrimGrimoire, with updated gameplay, new features and remastered visuals. This title is available on the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation systems, with a link to each version of this game at the bottom of this review.

Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of GrimGrimoire OnceMore that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.

Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review, starting off with the story of GrimGrimoire taken from the official website.

Story – Lillet Blan was very excited. She had been invited to a Magic Academy where only talented youths were accepted. The school was lead by the famous magician, Gammel Dore, who had once defeated the Archmage. The campus in which they study, the Silver Star Tower, was once the vanquished Archmage’s castle. The tower was still full of unsolved mysteries and dangers, attracting many who had their own personal agendas in mind.

Lillet opened her first grimoire, and began her studies. But only five days later, a terrifying disaster threatened the academy, and all lives were lost. All except she, who had traveled back through time without knowing why… Will Lillet be able to find the truth in 5 days? Will she be able to bring an end to the endless loop (of 5 days)?

Gameplay – GrimGrimoire is a fantasy RTS title that plays out in two distinct ways, the first is the story segments that occur before and after battles. These scenes tell the story of the GrimGrimoire, adding further depth to the narrative and expanding the world and characters the player encounters. The other is the battles that take place on large 2D maps within the tower, with various victory conditions that can be attached.

The main objective that players will encounter is to destroy the bases of the opponent, deploying forces from their own bases called Runes. Each of the Runes is tied to a grimoire that falls under one of four types called schools. The magic schools are classed as Glamour, Necromancy, Sorcery and Alchemy. These different types have unique themes to them, with Glamour being connected to nature/fairies and Necromancy featuring ghosts/phantoms.

The four magic schools also have their own strengths and weaknesses against other types of magic, in a paper/scissors/rock style of system. This can change the flow of battles as different matchups can sway the tide of battle, or make an objective more challenging for players. The different grimoires of each school also have different features to them, which provide unique options for tactical choices during the different missions when unlocked.

In order to use these Runes, the player needs to collect Mana from crystals that are positioned in different points on the maps. When a battle starts, there will be at least one Rune for players to use and a set of units called familiars to deploy. The familiars have unique skills, with more powerful units needing more Mana to summon, with two distinct forms called Astral and Substance.  Astral familiars are weak to magic, but immune to physical attacks which can help in tense battles.

Knowing what units to deploy and using the correct grimoires can make a world of difference when battling the enemy. This is due to the special abilities that some of the units have access to. For example, the Grimalkin cat familiar is able to put enemies to sleep and the dragon can break through walls. Effective deployment of skills for units will make it easier during some battles, as the difficulty can escalate quickly later in the game.

When a player creates a Rune or summon a unit, it can take some time for these actions to complete. The Runes themselves can be levelled up in exchange for Mana, which will grant the player additional options during the battle stages. These options include additional power to different familiars, new units to summon and reducing the cost of deploying Runes. New skills for Runes are initially locked, needing to be unlocked in the skill tree (discussed further below).

During the early segments of the game, the player is given tutorials explaining all of the features and providing explanations of the mechanics. This is where the player will learn how to use the different systems of the game, allowing players to learn before being dropped into the deep end. It is important to plan out a strategy when starting a battle, as there are a limited number of units that can be deployed and Mana is limited per crystal.

All battles can be won by completing the stated objective at the start, however, there is one universal victory condition that all stages can have. This is to destroy all of the enemy runes that are on the map, which can be very challenging depending on the limitations and enemies that are against the player. Outside of the main game, there are special trials that the player can challenge, offering special unique battles for players to take at their own pace.

Now with the core gameplay mechanics covered, it is time to cover the new features that have been added to the release;

  • Updated Visuals – the visuals of the game have been overhauled, with more vivid and detailed artwork for the battle maps, story scenes and enemy sprites. The screen also has a new wider aspect ratio, which allows players to see more of the battlefield at once.
  • Grand Magic – this is a new special mechanic to help turn the tide of battles, but its use is limited. These new Grand Magic spells can help the player when they are in a pinch, with four different special abilities for players to use. The spells include Mana Burst which deals massive damage to enemies and Sands of Time, which rewinds the battle to a previous point.
  • Skill Tree – this is where players can spend coins to unlock enhancements to runes, new familiars and more during the course of the game. To unlock the levels of a rune, players will need to spend a set amount of coins earned during play. These coins are given as rewards for completing optional objectives and can be refunded to try different skill options.
  • Gallery – when playing through the game, the player will unlock images and special artworks that have been created by the team at Vanillaware. There is over 90 different images for the player to unlock and view, with beautiful artwork depicting various scenes.
  • Gameplay Enhancements – there has been several changes made to the game, with a fast-forward to speed up battles, the ability to save during battle and updates to the difficulty balance.

These changes to the overall game and the new mechanics create a fresh experience, allowing returning players to feel like they are playing the game for the first time all over again. There is a lot of content for players to enjoy, with the ability to return to previous stages and replay them to take on the different bonus challenges. This is alongside the bonus trial challenges for players to take on.

Now with the gameplay covered, it is time to move onto the other aspects of this release, starting with the controls.

Controls – the control method for this game is laid out in a way that works well for a console RTS, as the thumbstick controls the cursor, with the d-pad quickly switching between units. The activation and deployment of units is easy to do with shoulder buttons for navigation, as well as camera controls to zoom in and out of the battlefield. This title plays very comfortably in both docked and handheld mode, regardless of if Joy-Cons or pro controllers are used.

Difficulty – there is a fair difficulty curve to this release, with the tutorials at the beginning laying a foundation for players to take on the later challenges. There is also the option for the player to select different difficulty options, which will adjust the amount of Mana earned from crystals and the damage dealt by enemies. There is also a special challenge that can be unlocked upon clearing the game, ramping up the difficulty even further.

Presentation – the visual style for this release has a beautiful stylized design to it, with the artwork for the characters, familiars and environments having a painted look for the most part. This works very well for the dark setting, as well as familiar designs that contrast well against each other. The cuteness of some units compared to the grotesque look of others, which builds the overall atmosphere of the game further.

The opening and cutscenes further adds further depth to this release, combined with a soundtrack that creates excitement and tension during the gameplay experience. The music and visuals are complimented by the fully voiced dialogue through the game, with a Japanese and English VO to choose from. The English cast features voice talent from Anime and video games, including Yuri Lowenthal (Naruto), Wendee Lee (Cowboy Bebop) and Michael Sorich (Fire Emblem).

Final Thoughts – when GrimGrimoire first came out, I sadly missed out on it, but I am extremely happy that I have been able to experience this refreshed version of this title. The action and strategy is tense, with the deep tactical system that is present via the Magic School and Rune system. This makes for battles that can be approached in a variety of ways, which further adds to the replay value that the game offers along with the bonus challenges.

I am happy to recommend this to players that are newcomers to the RTS genre and veterans alike, as it doesn’t really feel like a traditional title within the genre. The atmosphere, story and engaging gameplay that this title offers really pulled me in. All of these factors combined well, making me excited to see what comes next which is something I don’t often feel with RTS titles. This is one I will return to time and time again.

In the end, I give GrimGrimoire OnceMore a final score of 5/5. This is a fantastic RTS that breaks the mould of what a traditional strategy game has to offer, with a story/characters that have an distinct charm to them, a relatively deep strategic gameplay system and a lot of content for players to enjoy. If you want to check this title out for yourself, a link to each version of the game is below (there is also a demo for players to try before they buy).

Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)

Link to PlayStation version (HERE)

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