GrimGrimoire OnceMore (Nintendo Switch) Review

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grimgrimoire oncemore review nintendo switch 23033103
GrimGrimoire OnceMore
Editors Choice

There has been a renaissance gripping the gaming industry. A myriad of past titles, such as the Metroid Prime Remaster, have been receiving the rediscovery treatment to bring former titles new glory, and GrimGrimoire OnceMore aims to do just that. The original VanillaWare creation from 2007 is back in all its real-time strategy grandeur and stunning artistic direction for an encore in 2023.

A Coven of Misfits

After pressing ‘New Game,’ the player is thrown down a well FULL of exposition. First, you come flying into a magic school on a dragon to meet an older Dumbledore-looking wise man referred to as Professor Gammel. You are Lillet Blan, a new student at The Silver Star Tower, and you’re here to learn about magic. Fortunately, the tower only accepts those recognized for outstanding magical aptitude. Professor Gammel gives you a small lesson on the ins and outs of the university. Although there is MUCH to learn, the tutorial does a solid job of weaving interesting story segments into learning exercises.

Grimgrimoire Oncemore Review Nintendo Switch 23033103

Over the course of GrimGrimoire OnceMore, you meet a mishmash of students/teachers and many other CHARACTERS. One that truly stuck with me was Chartreuse Grande, he’s a literal lion man due to a curse, but he has a very surprising demeanour, a calm voice, and ONLY cares about his research. There is also a Necromancy instructor Opalneria Rain, who operates as the resident Yandere who is madly in love with Chartreuse. All the characters — yes, even Gaff the clumsy elf — are memorable and work well together, but they seriously couldn’t be a more different bunch.

After five days, a huge tragedy strikes involving the return of Calvaros, the Archmage, suddenly bringing ruin to the academy. This sets up a five-day time loop that Lillet must find a way out of. How, might you ask? By doing fun real-time strategy skirmishes with magical creatures, of course.

Magic With A Curve

As I had mentioned, while the story is front and center at all times, GrimGrimoire OnceMore sneakily tries to teach you its game mechanics, although it feels like you’re always learning something new. There are four magic types and three grimoire types for each: Glamour, Necromancy, Sorcery, and Alchemy. Each of these types combats each other better in different ways, a concept done very well, like the Fire Emblem weapon triangle. Glamour trumps Necromancy. Sorcery is weak to Necromancy but strong against Alchemy. It’s a strength and weakness system designed to test the player’s mettle, and it REALLY does.

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While in battle, you have to micromanage every gauge and resource available to succeed. Runes and collecting resources are the bread and butter of success. Upon entering a battle, knowing how you will continue producing mana — the currency to summon fighting units or basically do anything — is always essential, so crystal control is key.

“The original VanillaWare creation from 2007 is back…”

An elf (which acts as a harvester) from the Glamour grimoire can harvest mana from a glamour-captured crystal and only return it to a glamour rune, which also has different types based on the grimoire used to spawn the rune, but different Glamour runes are always green so that provides a necessary clue on how to combat efficiently.

Combat in GrimGrimoire OnceMore quickly becomes chaos. After you’re able to use all 12 types of grimoires and runes, the training wheels come all the way off, and you have to manage EVERYTHING to win. Summoning creatures, collecting resources, building defence turrets (known as Talismans), offensively searching for opponent runes to destroy, managing the terrain and knowing when to destroy it, this game has A LOT of mechanics.

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When in the throes of a Trial Map, I was able to summon four dragons at once by getting their eggs to hatch under an excellent defensive setup. The power of the four dragons genuinely felt like they were an unstoppable army. Even with a powerful dragon, however, small squishy cat wizard units called Grimalkins — who can die VERY easily — can put them to sleep, making it easier to defeat them. Mechanics like this allow for some interesting plays when devising a strategic approach to a hard stage. Ambition recognized.

Luckily there are simple hotkeys the player can employ to make it slightly simpler. Pressing up on the D-pad selects all the units of the same type in the general area of your cursor and allows you to move them. Holding X and scrolling your cursor over units of a different type allows for group movement, and you would think not having access to a mouse would make for a janky experience, but surprisingly the controls are responsive and work remarkably.

“Combat in GrimGrimoire OnceMore becomes chaos quickly.”

Although I did have a few issues selecting individual units for tasks when there was a huge pileup, the real-time game pauses when you’re cycling through, so it can feel tedious but never unfair. When all of the mechanics work, and the steep learning curve is overcome, GrimGrimoire OnceMore becomes a treat to play and addictive to boot.

Breathing Life into A Setting

Vanillaware is back at it again with GrimGrimoire OnceMore. The art direction bleeds their signature style, and it is STUNNING. Characters are dripping in detail, facial expressions are prominent and excellently worked into cutscenes, in-game units like the small Glamour elves sway back and forth with a whimsical bounce that gives off personality, and certain fearsome characters have sharp edges where necessary while softer characters such as the fairies have a softer feel.

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Hitoshi Sakimoto and the sound team finish the setting flawlessly, adding mystery and wonder to menus, a sense of urgency to battle stages with brass horns, and tension when characters are speaking. The whole presentation is a job well done.

Aging Pains

GrimGrimoire OnceMore does have some issues, though. While the chaos that can arise from combat is fun, it’s incredibly difficult to determine how many enemies are stacked on top of each other at times. This has led to many stage wipes and retries simply because there were six demons instead of three. This has even happened with Dragon enemies. Where I thought the enemy had two, there were really three.

“GrimGrimoire OnceMore has aged gracefully since 2007, and with its art style, that’s not a surprise.”

In these same circumstances, precision selecting a unit could go wrong due to an oversight button press, which may not feel like the player’s fault every time. GrimGrimoire OnceMore also requires the player to learn ALL its functions for the game to shine brightest. This can be a big ask for some players as there is an easy-to-pick-up and VERY difficult-to-master gameplay style at the root of magic here.

There is a dark fog covering enemy locations, which is okay to hide them before encounters, but after I locate the enemy and my unit perishes, their base runes disappear from my mini map. I wish there were a way to manually mark the map to remind myself they’re there, as the runes are immovable once placed. More of the pressing maps take LONG to finish.

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I spent 45-80 minutes on one of the longer maps in a single battle, but to give credit where it’s due, there is a save mid-battle function, but in my experience, using this, it was impossible to get back into a battle I suspended for a few hours. This is due to having no idea what my strategy was, so I ended up wiping the map anyways. There’s also no multiplayer function. GrimGrimoire OnceMore would be an awesome way to exert dominance over a friend.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore has aged gracefully since 2007, and with its art style, that’s not a surprise. Each time an older game is brought into a new generation, the remaster treatment usually makes the title more pleasing to the eyes, and quality-of-life improvements are added to help with growing pains, and that is the case here.

Textures have been improved, an art gallery has been added, battle functions have been streamlined to work easier, and a mid-battle save state has been implemented to save the player from a 70-minute nonstop battle. GrimGrimoire OnceMore is a story worth visiting featuring a solid tactical experience, but one a player must learn to get the most out of.

Final Thoughts

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