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GrimGrimoire OnceMore (Switch) Review

by Jordan Rudek - April 10, 2023, 2:07 pm EDT
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Fantasy-themed real-time strategy coated in classic Vanillaware charm.

Originally released on PS2, GrimGrimoire is a real-time strategy (RTS) game from Vanillaware, the makers of Dragon’s Crown and 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, and Nippon Ichi Software (NIS), the makers of the Disgaea series. The OnceMore re-release features remastered graphics that genuinely elevate the already charming storybook look Vanillaware has become famous for, in addition to a new skill tree and revamped user interface. Across a few dozen missions, you’ll guide a young magician in training as she tries to uncover the mysteries of the Silver Star Tower where she is studying. Even if the narrative can be a bit tricky to follow at times, the controls of this console RTS are solid and the gameplay loop offers a satisfying fantasy-focused take on the genre.

You play as Lillet Blan, a youthful and plucky girl decked out in traditional mage attire. During her first days at her new school, she meets a variety of professors whose lessons teach you the ins and outs of GrimGrimoire’s gameplay. Levels are represented by books on a bookshelf, with cutscenes and individual missions separated into different colors; 25 trial stages have their own row on the shelf, but these aren’t required to see the main story through. Strong voice acting and writing buoy the narrative elements of the experience, but it can be easy to get a little lost by all the quirky names thrown at you from the hop.

While the 2D nature of GrimGrimoire’s real-time strategy can give the impression that the gameplay might be fairly simple, the variety of units and abilities to train and master ensure that almost every stage is a fun challenge. Units are summoned from runes, which function like portals that can be upgraded to produce more units and strengthen them. The 12 types of runes are divided into four magical categories such as Glamour, which can summon elves, fairies, and unicorns. In most stages, you’ll start out with just one or two runes and a handful of units from their respective families, but you can build additional runes to really vary up your forces. Of course, nothing is free; every unit, rune, and upgrade costs mana, which you need to harvest from crystals by sending your worker units there and transforming the crystal into a type of mine. The RTS trappings are fairly straightforward, and anyone who’s played one will likely pick up the mechanics quickly. The addition of Grand Magic spells to OnceMore allow you to perform spells that conjure up flames to damage a wide area or even rewind time, but use of this ability is limited.

Most missions task you with either destroying all of your opponents runes or surviving for a set amount of time. By holding ZR, you can fast-forward time, and the speed of this function can even be adjusted in the game’s settings. From the outset, there are three difficulty modes–easy, medium, and hard–and you can choose which mode you like before each mission. Completing the game unlocks a fourth even more challenging difficulty. Certain skill tree perks are only available at a specific difficulty setting.

The skill tree is one of the most obvious additions to the OnceMore version; it allows you to spend coins earned via missions on upgrades to your units and their associated rune. For instance, for the Hades Gate rune of the Necromancy branch, you can upgrade the ghost and phantom units to boost their attack and speed, lower their mana cost, or even grant them new abilities. The best part of the skill tree is that purchased upgrades can be refunded, so you can play around with different loadouts and take back coins to use on whichever runes you prefer. The presentation of these screens could be a little clearer and the font enlarged, but the way in which you can use the optional trial stages to earn more coins and unlock more upgrades does a lot to make GrimGrimoire a more player-friendly experience.

While the hand-drawn visuals really shine in terms of the cutscenes and character/creature designs, the stages themselves end up being a letdown in comparison. Even though the layouts can change slightly, every level basically looks the same, with the same staircases, black background, and pillars. That there are so many different enemies to deal with adds variety to the gameplay itself, but the playing field could certainly use some diversity as well.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore (with feeling) is a textbook example of how to retain an enjoyable experience and modernize it for a contemporary audience. The whimsical characters and art shine in HD, and the RTS gameplay holds up well on Switch. The stages do get a little repetitive as you make your way through the main story, but there’s more than enough meat on these bones to justify a purchase for fans of Vanillaware’s previous works or anyone looking for a satisfying RTS with a fantasy coat of paint.


  • Charming visuals and characters
  • Dozens of missions and unlockable bonus art
  • Solid RTS-style gameplay
  • Stage backgrounds become stale
  • Story can be difficult to follow

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Game Profile

Genre Strategy
Developer Vanillaware

Worldwide Releases

na: Grim Grimoire Once More
Release Apr 04, 2023
PublisherNIS America
jpn: Grim Grimoire Once More
Release Jul 28, 2022
PublisherNippon Ichi Software
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