GrimGrimoire was released in Japan earlier this month. It comes as a surprise that the North American release is only a couple months from now. We were able to get a preview copy of the game earlier this week, and have been hard at work exploring all we could.
What we've found is a pure Real Time Strategy title. While there was some confusion when it was first announced, NIS America confirms this is their first non-RPG. It has a character tied to the upcoming Soul Nomad, but that's where the relations end. There are no levels to gain, no experience points to earn. The closest there is advancement is the magical rank given, based on how well the battle went.
Lillet Blan, a protégé magician, is starting fresh at a new school for gifted children. Over the first five days of instruction, Lillet learns of the true history of the school. The building used to be home to a powerful Archmage. The teachers at the school know what happened to him, but they're very cautious about sharing the information. It's imperative that Lillet finds out before it's too late.
"...extra time should be spent admiring the imagery while listening to the musical score."
Every day, there's an opening story, then a battle, and finally a closing story. All the stories are told from a side-view with animated two-dimensional characters. The voice acting is good, but anyone who's played other NIS America titles will pick up on the voice actors. There is the option for the Japanese voices, or to turn them off entirely. There's a nice option that allows the characters to continue to speak after one another, instead of pressing a button to continue. The pacing is a bit fast, but it works, and may still be adjusted. Oddly enough, the game allows you to pan around with the analog stick, zoom in and out with L1/R1 and rotate the background significantly with L2/R2. There's no reason to do this, but the options are there.
The graphics and music is outstanding. Every screen or setting is vibrantly colored, be it a story scene, a battle area, or simply a save screen. The theme of the game seems to be to use as many bright colors as possible, and it succeeds with it. Starting from the opening credits, some extra time should be spent admiring the imagery while listening to the musical score.
The battles are designed for just this purpose. They are not a blitzkrieg of mayhem designed to overwhelm all but the hardcore RTS players. Instead, the battles are very slow paced, while still allowing for an opponent to catch Lillet off-guard. They do drag on, however, some battles taking more than 40 minutes. There's no option to suspend a battle once it has begun. You may restart or quit, but those are the only options available during battle. Lillet typically starts with a rune or two, formed from a grimoire, a few starting familiars, and a nearby crystal. The lower units are mostly for gathering mana from the crystals. With the mana, Lillet can build forces from her runes. Each rune has five levels of growth, which can be built up one level at a time. The first two levels are usually to create familiars, and the higher three levels enhance those familiars. Some grimoires are specifically designed only to support the familiars made from other grimoires of the same class of sorcery. Using the three grimoires of a single type of sorcery form an impressive army, but since each class of sorcery is weak to another class, it's usually better to mix and match as your limits of mana and units allow.
GrimGrimoire is not aimed at the hardcore RTS crowd, but at a slower paced audience, perhaps the RPG audience NIS America already caters to. Whether this works in their favor or not still has to be seen. So far, it's been quite enjoyable. As the battles become more and more complex, along with up to 12 grimoires available, each with their own familiar set, and able to be used interchangeably, the challenge and time factors will continue to increase. Hopefully, GrimGrimoire will find the right balance of challenge without slipping into unnecessarily tedious battles.