Over the years, a number of Vanillaware games came back again. Odin Sphere. Princess Crown. Muramasa: The Demon Blade. Dragon’s Crown. Now people are poised to yet again return to the world and characters of GrimGrimgoire with the OnceMore remaster. To help learn more about the game, as well as its influence on 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim and possible upcoming projects, Siliconera spoke with Vanillaware President and Producer George Kamitani, Director Yoshio Nishimura, and Programmer Teruhisa Kanayama. Kamitami served as director on the original game and producer on OnceMore. Meanwhile, Nishimura served as a UI/background designer on the PS2 game.
Jenni Lada: Did you face any challenges in remastering the GrimGrimoire character designs?
Yoshio Nishimura: Since we’d originally drawn each illustration in high resolution already, we honestly did not run into much difficulty renewing the design.
However, since the game is 15 years old, some data had already been lost, and it took some additional work to correct certain anomalies in the animations and to change the screen ratio from 4:3 to 16:9, but with a bit of time, we were able to get it done.
What GrimGrimoire OnceMore addition do you feel is the most extensive, and how difficult was it to implement into the game?
Teruhisa Kanayama: The skill tree. The power-up elements in the PlayStation 2 version used to be tied to story progression, but this time they can be obtained from the players’ abilities of choice.
Maintaining the unit characteristics from the PlayStation 2 version while adding abilities that would broaden the scope of the game’s strategy aspects was a challenge.
Other major additions include an illustration gallery and a fast-forward function.
How did you prepare internally for the GrimGrimoire OnceMore remaster?
Nishimura: We were working on a major project within the company at the time, and it was difficult to secure a production budget and production staff, so we had to make sure not to do anything that could cause problems.
We also gave priority to in-house staff who were interested in the game to work on the title.
How did you decide which quality of life changes to include? How influential was feedback from players?
Nishimura: Things can change quite a bit in 15 years, don’t you think?
It was for that reason that we decided on the content of the changes based on feedback from the production staff this time around rather than from the users at the time.
Basically, we tried to add features that would have been implemented in a typical game today, so that people who played the game 15 years ago could enjoy it with a fresh new feeling and without complaints.
The “HARD” difficulty level is more difficult in GrimGrimoire OnceMore. What did you adjust to ensure it is satisfying, but balanced?
Kanayama: Since there are more power-up elements for the players this time around, such as new familiar abilities and grand magic, some adjustments have been made, like reducing the maximum amount of mana that can be taken from crystals on “HARD” and enemies using more abilities in the final stages of the game.
In the PlayStation 2 version, the “HARD” difficulty was unlocked after the game was completed, but this time it’s playable from the beginning so as to satisfy users who are already familiar with real-time strategy games.
There’s a whole new cast for GrimGrimoire OnceMore’s characters. How much say did you have when determining the new characters? For example, did you know, “We want Iori Saeki as Lillet?”
Nishimura: Some of the voice actors for the Japanese version had already retired from their jobs as voice actors, and there were some issues with the contract for the PlayStation 2 version, so it was necessary to re-record them.
Voices for characters are in high demand due to the influence of the Japanese animation industry, so we wanted to incorporate the current trends in voice quality after 15 years.
How do you feel GrimGrimoire, your first real-time strategy game, influenced 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim? Likewise, how did your experiences with 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim influence the GrimGrimoire OnceMore remaster?
George Kamitani: The original version of GrimGrimoire was remade into 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.
Based on the response to GrimGrimoire, we flipped the “story-to-RTS” ratio and created a totally new experience through the framework of the story. And since GrimGrimoire was a loop scenario, the starting point of 13 Sentinels needed a loop that did not actually loop.
Nishimura: As for influence from 13 Sentinels, we were able to use a substantial amount of materials from the 13 Sentinels setting in this game.
GrimGrimoire actually has a fairly detailed setting, but that hasn’t really been shown off. That’s why we decided to add illustrations and text to OnceMore in order to expand on the setting.
Kanayama: The fact that there were similar features in 13 Sentinels, such as saving and fast-forwarding during battle, made it easy to come up with the idea of trying those things in GrimGrimoire OnceMore.
Could we see a return to other Vanillaware games and further re-releases? Could Kumatanchi or Grand Knights History make a comeback?
Kamitani: Kumatanchi! That’s a great idea! (laughs)
As for Grand Knights History, we may or may not be working on a similar yet totally different project.
I’d like to port something like Muramasa, but there are certain complications there.
At the end of the day, I think I really would love to release a new original title.
GrimGrimoire OnceMore will come to the PS4, PS5, and Switch in North America on April 4, 2023 and in Europe on April 7, 2023. It is already available in Japan. It first showed up on the PS2 in Japan in 2007.