Captured on Nintendo Switch (Connected)

Learning magic is fraught with pitfalls. One day you’re learning the basics of summoning different creatures, and the next you’re trapped in an inexplicable time loop to stop a trapped Archmage from claiming an artifact of unimaginable power. At least, that’s how things go in GrimGrimoire OnceMore when Lillet Blan tries to survive his studies at the Silver Star Tower.

A 2007 remaster GrimGrimorio For Vanillaware, this game does a lot of good in its attempt to capture the action of a real-time strategy title. Things start when Lillet Blan comes to the Tower to study magic. The “new student at the academy” setting is familiar enough to make players feel right at home from the first minutes of the game. Lillet is sent to different teachers, each specializing in a type of magic she must learn. These lessons take the form of RTS battles that make up the gameplay of GrimGrimoire OnceMore.

Players take control of different summoning runes, each of which can bring different creatures into battle. Demons can deal heavy physical damage, while ghosts can avoid physical attacks entirely, but are weak against magic. Learning the strengths and weaknesses of the different schools of magic and using them effectively is the main gameplay loop that players will find themselves in.

Captured on Nintendo Switch (Connected)

Speaking of loops, the story here is one big loop that Lillet is doomed to repeat. Five days after arriving at the Silver Star Tower, a powerful wizard who had been locked inside the tower is released, and Lillet dies a gruesome death at his hands. Don’t worry though; she is immediately sent back to the first night she was at school, with the knowledge of what will happen shortly.

It’s a fascinating setup for the narrative and is easily the best part of GrimGrimoire OnceMore. As in the original, the five days in question play out differently each time Lillet tries to prevent the catastrophe that only she knows is coming. Each loop offers a bit more information about the world and which side students and teachers are on. There are enough twists and turns for us to have a lot of fun along the way. Similar to 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim, another Vanillaware title, mastering time and finding a way to break the seemingly endless cycle makes the journey worth it.

Fans of real-time strategy classics like StarCraft will see many familiar mechanics. Some units collect mana, which can be used to summon familiars, set new runes, or create defensive structures. Each level has a limit to the number of units you can create, so you need to be strategic in how you build your small armies. Even the mighty unit of dragons can be stopped in their tracks with a single sleep spell, so you can’t just crush your foes with brute force.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore Review - Screenshot 3 of 4Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

However, all the cards are frustrating to each other. Because the entire game takes place inside the Silver Star Tower, the backgrounds are always the same, with some slight variations in location and type of enemies. However, these changes don’t do enough to make the cards unique. In a setting that is literally overflowing with magic and otherworldly creatures, it’s a massive opportunity that’s been completely missed. It’s a problem made even worse by the fact that the background is so simple, wasting Vanillaware’s visual talents, that you can’t always see the little details that have been changed.

Despite the legacy of repetitive maps from the original, GrimGrimoire OnceMore does a decent job of improving the PS2 title. Players can now purchase upgrades for the various schools of magic using the game’s skill tree, but this feature seems so basic that it’s surprising the original shipped without it. There’s also Grand Magic, which lets you rewind time to an earlier point in the battle without a full reset, or cast powerful spells on your enemies once per map. These two additions help massively pace the game and keep GrimGrimoire OnceMore from feeling nearly unplayable by modern standards.

However, the game’s biggest improvement is the ability to advance time in battles. Characters move extremely slowly at normal speed and otherwise battles will take half an hour to complete even without risking missing objectives and having to start over. This will likely happen at least once per map as you progress through the story while trying to figure out which runes to place to counter what the enemy is throwing at you.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore Review - Screenshot 4 of 4Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Offline)

Visuals have been enhanced, with art that feels right at home in the game’s fantasy world. Scenes unfold like visual novels, with a single linear path that Lillet follows with each time loop. The character animations are largely static and subtle, but their designs are distinct enough that you don’t completely forget about them between loops. The voice acting has been completely re-recorded and the music is perfectly suited as background noise for battles, without getting in the way or standing out while you play.

It’s a shame that the GrimGrimoire OnceMore maps feel so repetitive as there are enough here to appeal to fans of RTS games. The addition of the skill tree that allows you to upgrade your units and speed up time during combat changes what could have been a slog in a relatively quick title. You can complete most of the story in around 10 hours, and you can come back to complete some of the challenge maps if that’s your thing. The story structure, however, is the star of the show here and still worth it for the uninteresting maps.


GrimGrimoire OnceMore takes one of the most underrated RTS games of its generation and fixes some of its biggest issues, making it an interesting game for new fans as well as those who played the original. While the repetitive maps mean most levels look too similar, the story is fun and the visuals saw a solid upgrade for Switch. There’s enough depth in the strategy to keep you guessing without overwhelming new players.

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