GrimGrimoire - PS2 - Preview

Real-time strategy is not a genre you expect to see much of on a console. Turn-based strategy reigns supreme in the console world, but there aren’t many times when console players can get excited about a strategy game that’s in real-time. PC ports are a given – the new Command & Conquer will steal the hearts of many Xbox 360 owners when it’s released next month. Those of you with a Wii can expect (or at least hope) to see a new Pikmin arrive within the next couple of years.

Will real-time strategy ever find a permanent in console gaming? It won’t happen anytime soon, that’s for certain. But if GrimGrimoire – the latest in Nippon Ichi’s array of quirky Japanese games to come Stateside – has anything to say about it, there might be enough interest to convince RTS developers to start considering a platform other than PC.

Real-Time From Another View

GrimGrimoire has two key factors that set it apart from other real-time strategy games. First, the game is played from a 2D, side-scrolling perspective. Second, you breed new warriors by producing Mana, indicating that there is no limit to how powerful an army can be built. 

Players control their characters – elves, fairies, and other helpful creatures – using a pointer that mirrors the cursor-based, drag-to-select form adopted by most PC strategy games. The game isn’t hard to learn, with three difficulty settings (Sweet, Easy, and Normal) presented at the start of each chapter. Introductory missions are tutorial-based. For those of you who hate tutorials, let me tell you that these missions do not feel forced or incoherent. They come off as real missions but with the addition of helpful tips to get you through actions you may not know how to perform. Anyone who’s played an RTS could figure it out, but it’s a lot easier to pay attention to the mission guidelines.

After that the game becomes an adventure of experimentation and discovery. The main character is a girl named Lillet Blan, a magician who has the power to influence others. Thus, you don’t control her at all – you control the pointer/cursor that influences the creatures needed to win each mission.

 

Of the creatures in question, elves give you the power to grow Mana while fairies attack enemies and protect your base from destruction. Before any excitement can ensue, a Rune must be planted somewhere in the level. Runes act as a breeding ground for new creatures. They are also needed for tools designed to guard your base.

Once a Rune has been formed, breed an elf and direct him to the nearest Mana crystal. He’ll do the rest on his own, moving back and forth between the crystal – which is where he gains Mana – and the Rune, which is where it’s converted into Mana Points.

The first stage is a mere trial for Mana gathering. No fairies are needed. After that, you’d better created as many fairies as possible. However, fairies cost more MP than elves. The more elves you have, the faster you’ll earn MP, and the faster you’ll be able to create additional fairies. It’s a circular experience that, within a matter of minutes, turns into an addiction that rivals most console strategy games.

Players looking to dive right into the action might be a bit confused by the story’s introduction. Four or five sequences (and five load screens) will need to pass before the game begins. You could click through the dialogue, which is very well voiced, by repeatedly pressing the X button. That’s tedious and boring. Instead, set the story advance rate to auto. Now all story sequences will play out as one continuous movie. You’ll still have load times to contend with, but won’t need to bother using the controller.

Granted, if you actually pay attention to what’s being said, you’ll find that GrimGrimoire has the same classic charm Nippon Ichi is known for delivering. But the lengthy intro was still worth noting, as it’s not likely to change before the game ships.

 

Coming to PlayStation 2 later this year, GrimGrimoire could be the most exciting strategy game developed exclusively for a console since Pikmin. Its engrossing battles, addictive combat system and promising mechanics are just what it needs to keep players hooked. At the same time, GrimGrimoire has an entertaining story with great characters, solid voice acting, and an unusual presentation that is sure to earn the attention of retro RPG crowd – especially gamers who love Nippon Ichi’s appreciation for interesting characters and witty dialogue.

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