By Louise Yang . May 1, 2007 . 6:09pm
I feel confident to say that Grim Grimoire may just be one of the best looking PS2 games if not ever, then at least this year. While I drooled over screenshots prior to playing it, they really don’t do the game any justice. In a generation where most companies have moved on to 3D, it’s fantastic to see that games can still take your breath away in 2D. Heck, even the loading screens were pretty to look at. Vanillaware really outdid themselves this time.
Based on screenshots, dialog scenes looked to be your typical static image with two characters facing each other while dialog text in a box on the bottom. In action though, each scene has subtle movements including mouth movements, facial expressions, and 2D sprites moving from one section of the screen to another. These aren’t drastic departures from the formula, but paired with such detailed visuals, these scenes stand heads above similar ones in other games that Nippon Ichi fans should be familiar with.
When I first heard that Grim Grimoire was going to be a real time strategy game (RTS) on the PS2, I have to admit that I was a little scared. My main fear was the PS2 controller would be inadequate for a RTS, but Grim Grimoire proved me wrong. Selecting individual units is easy even when there are sprites piled on top of each other. Selecting groups of the same type of unit can be done by holding down a button and dragging it around the screen over other units or by selecting one unit of the type and pressing up on the d-pad. Issuing commands is as easy as using L1, R1, and X to tell units where to go. All this is explained in an introduction that serves as a starting point for the story as well as a bunch of easy-to-follow tutorials. I thought a few of the tutorials lasted a bit too long and was a bit hand-holdy but it’s understandable that the game designers wanted to make sure the player knew exactly how to play the game.
They also didn’t skimp on the audio side of things. Most of the dialog is voiced and if you’ve played any of the Disgaea games you should feel right at home with the over the top accents. The music is whimsical and matches the magical setting of the game perfectly. Localization is spot on without looking like it’s trying too hard to be funny. There’s definitely some adult humor in the game, but anyone who can handle a RTS should be able to handle innuendo.
As for the actual gameplay, it seems to have all the elements of a RTS: gathering resources, defending your own base (runes in this case), and sending a buttload of attackers to the enemy base to kick ass. The maps are actually multi-floored rooms, which makes things a bit cramped on screen. There are two types of units: ground units and air units. Ground units have to take stairs to get from floor to floor while air units can just fly through walls, ceilings, and floors. There were times where I just had unit after unit piled on top of each other and it got a bit frustrating trying to sort them out, but pressing up on the d-pad comes in handy for selecting all of the same type of units nearby.
It’s sad to see a game like Grim Grimoire come out so late in the PS2′s life, where a lot of people have already moved on to the next generation. It not only fills the void of PS2 RTS games, but also fills it with such a fantastic looking game that I feel bad for people who miss out on it or turn their noses up at the mention of a 2D game.