GrimGrimoire OnceMore is a Vannillaware redux in the same vein as Odin Sphere Leifthrasir. In this hands-on preview, I saw how this withering PlayStation 2 game is being revamped and refined for today’s gamers.
The original GrimGrimoire was an exciting concept that was not executed as well as one would have hoped. Of course, it featured Vanillaware’s signature illustrative art style and deft animation. This was destined to hold up over decades, but the gameplay was a chore to play.
The story is about Lillet Blan and her tenure as a student at a wizard school. She makes friends, confronts spooky ghosts, and gets lectured by stuffy professors. What sells the premise is the art and music; everything works together beautifully to set the tone and ambiance.
There was never any doubt that GrimGrimoire would age gracefully. With GrimGrimoire OnceMore, the boys at Vanillaware found ways to make it look even better.
The painterly style of the art has a sharper and more clear texture now. Brushstrokes are as clear as a crisp spring morning. It always looks like a living painting.
The aspect ratio is now 16:9 and all font and text are big and bold. Image quality is razor sharp and readable. Most importantly, the UI has been redesigned to be more user-friendly and this plays a big part in OnceMore‘s most crucial improvements.
Where GrimGrimoire OnceMore improves upon the PlayStation 2 version’s gameplay is in the inputs. The original game was very cumbersome to play.
At its core, this is a real-time strategy game that isn’t that much different from the old Warcraft titles. Where it differs from Activision’s monolith is that GrimGrimoire has an almost 2D sidescroller point-of-view instead of an overhead perspective.
The problem with GrimGrimoire on PlayStation 2 was that the controls were not ideal for selecting units and giving commands. This is especially true when getting overwhelmed by an onslaught of horned demons looking to gore your dainty troupe of pixies.
The impression was always that this was a game that could have been better with a mouse or maybe a touch screen – thankfully this wasn’t the case.
It took them about 15 years, but Vanillaware finally cracked the code and came up with an intuitive and snappier control scheme that works so well that they had to rebalance the entire game.
The D-pad can now be used to quickly cycle through entire groups of units and commands are cycled through the shoulder buttons. The layout of the information is cleaner, symbols and explanations are made simpler, and there is a greater sense of control over the field.
Combat works with rock-paper-scissors-style weaknesses and mana is the main resource to summon more familiars to do Lillet’s bidding. Manufacturing the familiars and rushing the enemy works out well enough at first, but being irresponsible can leave you high and dry on mana and a lot of mourning elf wives.
The new skill tree fleshes out the combat and you’ll need these new abilities because OnceMore has new challenges with how the greater mechanics feed into each other. Veterans of GrimGrimoire will have a lot to be excited about and newcomers will be spellbound by this lighthearted and engrossing tactical work of art.