|System: PS2||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: NIS America||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Vanillaware||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: June 26, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Tom Becker
June 4, 2007 - Let's just get it out in the open: this game is a glaringly obvious rip-off of the Harry Potter series. It takes place at a school for young magic adepts where a former wizard-turned-evil and has been resurrected and a young student must use her talents to defeat him. I mean, the headmaster's name is Gammel Dore. Really? Yes, really. They may has well have called it "Barry Botter and the Borcerer's Bone". Okay, now that that's out of the way
The Harry corollary here is the young, nubile Lillet Blan. Much like Harry, her superior talents in magic have secured her a place at the prestigious school for magic, the Silver Star. An evil wizard known as the Archmage, thought to be long-dead, has been resurrected and is wreaking havoc at the Silver Star. Lillet must use a series of arcane magical texts known as "grimoires" to secure enough magical might to defeat the Archmage. She comes from a poor background and has two younger brothers to support. It's not just defeating evil and saving the earth - economic survival is on the line, too. The Ron to Lillet's Harry is Margarita Surprise.
Friendship is rare, as the song goes, and when you're fighting the forces of evil you're going to need backup. Lillet's first friend at the Silver Star, Margarita comes from a town known for its persecution of magic-users. Then again, she does walk around with a frog on top of her head. Hey - maybe it's you, Margarita. The upper-classman of the group is Bartido Ballantine, a talented senior student who brags more of his fist fighting abilities than his substantial talent for alchemy. His close friend, the pantaloon-festooned Hiram Menthe, is the quintessential teacher's pet. The game's official web site describes him as a motivated young student with a strong ambition to meet his goals. He's also a staunch follower and defender of their teacher, Ms. Opalneria. Hiram is the sensible one in the double-act he shares with Bartido.
There's not a lot of information available about the suggestively-named Amoretta Virgine. She is a bit of a seductress, with the implied ability to control non-human beings and her fellow students alike. Perhaps the most unique (and Harry Potter-free) character is Chartreuse Grande. The alchemy instructor at the Silver Star, Chartreuse was once human but was transmogrified into a man-lion. Much like the Beast in the classic fairy tale, only true love can set Chartreuse free and return him to his original form. Unfortunately for him, his quest for alchemical knowledge distracts him from anything outside the workplace. He won't be laying aside the lion skin any time soon. The most powerful character and most shameless Harry Potter rip-off is the venerable wizard, Gammel Dore.
Dumbl- excuse me, Gammel Dore, is the venerable headmaster of the Silver Star, the typical wizard: long on knowledge, long on beard. It was Gammel Dore who originally defeated the Archmage along with the devil who the Archmage had summoned and given him such terrible power. It was also Gammel Dore who had the brilliant idea to occupy the defeated Archmage's crib and convert it into a school for advanced magic users. I guess in all his years of studying grimoires Gammel Dore never had time to crack open "The Amityville Horror". Long story short: unspeakably evil dudes, even dead ones, don't appreciate house guests. When the Archmage starts reclaiming his living space, the player must use this varied cast of characters to keep his evil at bay.
The game is essentially an RTS but also contains elements of multi-tiered classics like Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong. The level construction is similar to Vanillaware's other recent titles for the PS2, except that it incorporates a vertical element. The gameplay has been compared to classic RTS like Warcraft, except instead of building various structures which enable new character, structure, and vehicle types, the player must collect mana in the form of giant crystals and open various grimoires.
Crystals are placed in a variety of areas in the game and represent the sort of resources gathered in other RTS. Once you discover crystals, you must call upon your labor units, elves, to mine them for mana. Once the elves draw the mana from the crystals they deliver it to the runes you have drawn, allowing either more familiars to be summoned or various attributes to be obtained from symbols of power. Not only does mana allow you to use magic spells but taking over the enemy's "holy ground" - areas with crystals - can occupy that area and place it under your control. It is in this way that Lillet will slowly reclaim the Silver Star from the Archmage's control. Once enough mana has been generated it is time to start casting spells. In order to cast a spell, it's time to crack open a grimoire.
There are four different types of grimoires, each of which allows the summoning of a different familiar or symbol of power. The placing of symbols of power and the summoning of battle-ready entities begins with the drawing of a rune. Each rune is different and takes time to draw. Even as you're drawing them, runes can be attacked and disrupted by enemy characters, so guard them well. If your rune is destroyed in battle, all the mana you built to draw it is lost. If you successfully complete your rune then it can be placed and either a familiar may be summoned or various symbols of power can be placed on the stage. As you level up your runes, more powerful familiars may be summoned and more powerful symbols can be placed. Once you have summoned your familiars, they can gather resources or, most importantly, do battle.
Like most RTS, Grim Grimoire has a series of simple commands available to your familiars: move, defense, heal, attack, patrol, and gather. There are more moves available to your familiars, but these basic moves are shared among all familiars and allow the basic functioning of the game. Beginning with the leprechaun-like elves who gather resources and operate in a minimal combat capacity, you will eventually be able to summon powerful familiars and place symbols which will allow for maximum destruction in battle.
Like many of Vanillaware's games, Grim Grimoire is fanciful, unmistakably Japanese, and takes full advantage of the PS2 format. While RTS can be problematic using typical console controllers, Grim Grimoire has been praised for its ease of play. RTS are all about micromanagement of resources, land, and units, and the last thing one needs when juggling these elements is a clunky interface. RTS of this sort are a bit of a niche market, but one which Vanillaware knows like the back of its hand. As unoriginal (downright plagiaristic) as its storyline and characters are, Grim Grimoire is a good-looking, playable RTS, sure to please fans of Vanillaware's back catalog.
CCC Freelance Writer