GrimGrimoire (Japanese: グリムグリモア Hepburn: Gurimu Gurimoa) is a real-time strategy video game developed by Vanillaware and published by Nippon Ichi Software (Japan, North America) and Koei (Europe) in 2007 for the PlayStation 2. Set in the Tower of Silver Star magical school, the player guides protagonist Lillet Blan as she repeatedly experiences the first five days of her tenure, learning the school's secrets and the power behind her journey. The player commands familiars stemming from four different magical disciplines, completing story and bonus missions by completing preset tasks within each level.
GrimGrimoire was born from Vanillaware staff wanting to create their version of StarCraft, beginning development once work was completed on their first title Odin Sphere. Due to various factors, GrimGrimoire released before Odin Sphere, becoming the company's international debut while also draining the company of its funds. Upon release, the game met a mixed to positive reception. While writer and director George Kamitani had planned and wished for a continuation, no sequels to GrimGrimoire have been developed.
The main character, Lillet Blan is a young magician admitted to a prestigious magic school, the Tower of Silver Star. Though she attends normal classes for the first four days and meets the various professors and students, on the fifth day she awakens to learn that everyone in the tower is dead. Before Lillet is also killed, she is suddenly propelled back in time to her first night at the school. She then relives the five days before the tragedy over and over again, retaining the knowledge of the magic she learns in those five days and desperately trying to solve the mystery to prevent the same events (or worse) from taking place. Lillet discovers dark secrets about her classmates, teachers, and even the school itself before she discovers the truth.
Lillet appears onscreen as a cursor which is used to guide troops around the field. Units known as familiars are created by placing summoning circles called runes on the map. Mana can be spent to upgrade the Runes in each fight. New runes and familiars are found as Lillet collects and studies the grimoires. Resource gatherers take the form of elves and other small creatures who harvest mana from crystals. Unexplored areas of the tower are shrouded in a fog of war.There are a number of ways to select individual or multiple units. The game consists of a story mode and a series of bonus maps that are unlocked upon completing the story mode for the first time. The game's plot is presented through cut scenes with large, animated character portraits. Only the familiars are under the player's direct control.
There are four different magic schools with a rock-paper-scissors arrangement of strengths and weaknesses among the schools. Glamour summons fae-type creatures such as elves, fairies, and unicorns. Glamour is strong against necromancy and weak against alchemy. Necromancy summons undead units, which are astral and cannot be affected by most physical attacks. However, they are weak against magic. Necromancy is strong against Sorcery and weak against Glamour. Sorcery are units which are demonic in nature and have high hit points. Sorcery is strong against Alchemy and weak against Necromancy. Alchemy units specialize and have fierce ranged attacks. They are strong against Glamour and weak against Sorcery.
Vanillaware was established by George Kamitani along with a small group to develop Odin Sphere, an action role-playing game that acted as a successor to Princess Crown, an earlier project by Kamitani for the Sega Saturn. While development on Odin Sphere was ongoing, Nippon Ichi Software heard that the Princess Crown team had formed their own studio. Interested in working with them, the then-president of Nippon Ichi Software, Sohei Shinkawa, contacted Vanillaware. Shinkawa later said he "fell in love" with Kamitani's artwork, prompting the initial inquiries. Shinkawa said he wanted to collaborate on a game, and that Vanillaware could make whatever they liked. Due to this, the team did not restrain themselves, not considering long-term commercial issues with whatever project they might create. Kamitani was a fan and avid player of the real-time strategy game StarCraft, and as most of the staff at Vanillaware shared his passion, they decided to create a fantasy-themed side-scrolling RTS. Kamitani later said his state of excitement over the project led to many of the decisions abound the story, deriving thematic cues from the universes of Atelier Marie: The Alchemist of Salburg and the Harry Potter series. Time and budget contraints lead to the number of characters being kept very low, and as a result a repeating timeloop was incorporated into the story. Due to the staff's familiarity with StarCraft, the gameplay was designed very quickly, but as Japanese gamers were not used to the RTS genre, they had to lower the difficulty and make the game user-friendly to genre newcomers.
The initial character concepts were created by Kamitani, while the character designs were handled by Koichi Kozo. Like Odin Sphere, Vanillaware used 2D rather than 3D graphics that were dominating the game industry: Kamitani wanted GrimGrimoire and Odin Sphere to be the new leading edge for 2D art design. The scale and quality of the designs was severely limited by time constraints. A notable part of the collaboration was the character Lujie Piche, who also appeared in Nippon Ichi Software's Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. Lujie was originally designed for use in GrimGrimoire, but she appealed to staff at Nippon Ichi Software, who thought the character would be a good fit with the visuals and style of Soul Nomad. According to differing estimates by Kamitani, the project took between six months and a year to complete. While GrimGrimoire was the second Vanillaware project after Odin Sphere, it was the first to release due to being completed in a shorter timespan, ultimately securing a release date a month before the scheduled release of GrimGrimoire. Kamitani later stated that GrimGrimoire was the only project he ever designed with the intent of creating a sequel, and despite wishes to do so, Nippon Ichi Software did not put in any requests. Based on this, Kamitani has since made sure to write stories that would stand on their own.
GrimGrimoire was well received by the gaming press. It received an average rating of 78% at GameRankings and 79% at Metacritic. GameSpot gave it an 8.4 and praised it for its storyline, characters, and aesthetics. IGN, which also gave it a score of 8.4 praised the cut scenes, battle system, and 2D gameplay. RPGamer gave a score of 3.5 out of 5 and also praised the game's interface and its voice acting.
GameSpot and RPGamer criticized the small soundtrack and the lack of map variety. 1up gave the game a C+ and criticized the game for being "too watered-down" compared to the layers of complexity found in other titles from Nippon Ichi Software America.
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