NIS America claims that Grim Grimoire is their attempt to pull in a more casual audience. While I question their decision behind choosing RTS as their genre of choice to bring in the casual gamer, I applaud their efforts. Coupled with developer Vanillaware, NIS America has brought out a game that I would never have expected to work so well on the PS2, both in practice and execution. Grim Grimoire is a title that continues to tell people to shy away from the Next Gen consoles, there is still plenty of life left in the PS2. Behind the cutesy façade this game displays there is a great story, amazing music and graphics, and above all else a lot of fun.
The story feels like some J.K. Rowling Harry Potter recyclables with a few characters swapped out for more stylized counterparts. Lillet Blan is a new student at the Silver Star tower, a place where magicians teach children who show promise in the magical arts. Five days after Lillet’s arrival, all of the staff and students are killed, and just as she is next on the list, she wakes to find herself back at the night she arrived, with all her memories intact. It’s a fairly dark story with lots of twists and turns as Lillet tries to find out the answers to the mysteries of the tower. It’s all told through cut-scenes that look amazing and have some of the best art I have ever seen on the PS2. All of the characters move with an eerie liveliness that really has to be seen in motion.
Once you get underway and start learning the ins and outs of magic you’ll see that this game is highly detailed and yet it manages to hold solid and doesn’t get bogged down with a ton of sprites on screen. Some of these sprites are really large and detailed too. When you’ve got demons or golems on screen, take a second to look at them in motion and just watch them breathe. It’s quite a work of art and is something people who want to make 2-D games in the future should take a look at. As I’ve said before the character’s themselves are fairly animated during the cut-scenes that take place between battles. This is a nice change of pace when compared to other RPGs that use static character art when trying to convey emotion and progress the story. For a 2-D game there is only going to be one to rival Grim Grimoire in the looks department for a long time, and that’s going to be Odin Sphere. So until someone like Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi comes along and says, “The next 2-D Castlevania must look better than this!” don’t hold your breath for something better.
Musically I’m very particular about who handles a Japanese title these days, if it’s not someone like Nobuo Uematsu (Final Fantasy series) or Yasunori Matsuda (Chrono Cross and Xenosaga) I tend not to make a note of it. But I would be doing a disservice to Hitoshi Sakimoto if I did not say that he did a superb job on the music for Grim Grimoire. It fits the game very well, and despite using a lot of the same music in battle it holds up very well and is probably worth importing. The voice acting in Grim Grimoire is also a standout and is one of the best dubs in recent memory. This game shares a lot in common with the recent Atlus release Odin Sphere, both games have a soundtrack by Hitoshi Sakimoto and both have amazing voice acting.
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