Review – GrimGrimoire OnceMore

There’s probably never going to be catching the PlayStation 2 in terms of console sales and impact. Purchased by families who cared nothing for video games and everything for a DVD player, the PS2 played host to more titles than I care to list here. Many are well known and beloved, some are obscure trash, and there’s a bit of everything in-between.

These last few years have seen companies realize the investible potential of remaking or even just re-releasing many of these titles, none more so than NIS. With several excellent collection classics breathing life into old games, it made sense that we would see something from GrimGrimoire. This fascinating little game, equal parts visual novel and real time strategy, GrimGrimoire remains one of the most interesting ideas of a dream deferred in existence.

For those unaware, the creator, George Kamitani, specifically made GrimGrimoire with the idea of having a sequel in mind, due to his own love of the lore he created and the world constructed. When sales of the game were middling, sequels went unrequested, and so George returned to the drawing board. He took his disappointment and made sure that his next project would have stories that stood on their own, so no sequel was needed. The result, as some of you may know, was the fabulous 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore Lillet Blan

A flight of fancy that somehow leads to time traveling mechs. Ok.

So now we’re here, in 2023, and the book has been opened again. GrimGrimoire OnceMore, is the updated and remastered version of the original, and little to nothing has been changed except for a visual enhancement. You still have the same plucky, intriguing plot: our main character, Lillet Blan, has come to learn magic at the famous Tower of Silver Star. She is excited and eager to learn the ins and outs of the different kinds of grimoire magic, under the tutelage of all the best teachers (not-Dumbledore, an actual demon, lion, etc.).

After a few days, though, something goes a tad wrong and all the teachers are killed and the evil Archmage Calvaros has freed his spirit, possesses the Philosopher’s Stone (which is BIG magic) and is ready to kill her as well. As the clock strikes midnight, Lillet “awakens,” and she is magically back on the first day of school, with all her memories intact and five days to prevent this catastrophe. It’s time loop magic, ya’ll, buckle up!

GrimGrimoire OnceMore Amoretta Virgine

Don’t worry, she’s just a creepy student, not a creepy teacher.

Players who were fans of the original will want to revisit this new version thanks to the tweaks to the animation, voice work, and overall character design. Though the first incarnation had some delightful stylings, this remaster has been done up with a CGI overhaul of the avatars, allowing for more movement and articulation during the between-combat scenes. Seeing the dubbing and even breathwork of each character is fascinating, as Vanillaware has kept true to the classic style while still making it more modern. It keeps to the stilted, almost manga panel style of storytelling, while adding fluidity that engages the player more. Plus, this will be the first opportunity for many to have the Japanese voices, which I personally enjoy better. There’s a little charm lost by transitioning into such heavy computer-assisted graphics, but I feel the tradeoff is worth it overall.

GrimGrimoire OnceMore Advocat

Advocat evoking all kinds of feelings with his words.

The story itself is my favorite aspect of GrimGrimoire OnceMore. While the whole magic school trope has been worn into the ground (and we have people still actively playing Hogwarts Legacy), the characters and setting are something that helps set it apart. Lillet is a sympathetic protagonist, trying to learn and do her best while also actively changing her stance and perspective as the world shifts and she learns new things.

Margarita, Chartreuse, even Advocat all have their charms and memorable moments, though Opalnaria (the plot heavy necromancer) often steals the visual show. Since the scenes are parsed out so well in a semi-linear fashion, players can easily keep up with story developments as they occur and also can jump back at any point to view previous scenes. I really loved how the beats are kept on a literal bookshelf, divided between days and specifically which number of days (day three, third time).


This is more about teachers arguing and not about the whole “I’m stuck in a time loop” thing.

As for the RTS portion, this is where things get a bit sticky, which is a shame. GrimGrimoire OnceMore is built around the act of completing a simultaneous offense/defense setup in a 2D map where sprites can move every which way, depending on their type/allegiance. Lillet initially can only use the specific grimoire (magic type) that the combat issues her, but future tussles allow her to customize.

Usually, the idea is to summon a bunch of fantasy monsters, protect your own magical ring and destroy all of the ones belonging to the enemy. Some enemies are corporeal and can fight directly, some are astral and need to be dealt with through other astral beings or magic, and some seem to tread the boards in-between. This updated version also includes the Grand Grimoire, a once-per-battle spellbook that lets you choose one element to turn the tides of battle.

I am a firm believer in doing real time strategy with a mouse and keyboard, having grown up in the shadow of Warcraft I, II and III. I spent hours summoning orcs, chopping lumber, eventually crafting a navy and then asking my friends “you want axe?” to their chagrin. So I sincerely appreciate that GrimGrimoire OnceMore did a lot of work to make full fledged RTS experience on the console.

There are hotkeys abound to help you quickly do many things that you simply need: select multiple troops, jump to specific spots, zoom the map and rifle rapidly through actions. The action flows smoothly but stops on a dime the second you need to adjust something, allowing for breathing room within reason when there’s combat à go-go. One of the earlier missions has you dealing with invading dragons, and being able to quickly put them to sleep while hurriedly trying to hatch your own seemed, at first, impossible. Once you get the hang of the buttons, though, it works seamlessly.

Real Time Strategy

Go, my minions! Go get utterly destroyed by a far superior AI!

That’s the throughline for GrimGrimoire’s main gameplay aspect is “when it works, it works.” I adored the times when I would zip between Chaos Nests, Fairy Rings and Hell Gates, summoning, leveling, sending squads to various map points and building as fast as I could. With the maps limited to spaces within the Tower of Silver Star, resources were limited every time, so it was important to figure out (fast) how much of whatever I needed to summon. Running trial missions meant earning more gold, which, in turn, unlocked additional monsters to summon, traits for said monsters and even more skillwork to make the game sing.

As you unlock more and more schools and chances to diversify your magic, the strategy element becomes more exciting, more challenging. It really consumed my time, even with the coveted fast forward button moving things along when I was desperate to hurry along my unicorn summons. Once again, the Grand Grimoire really helped give a little umph when things weren’t quite my speed.


Like all great victory moments, a team of fairies steals the spotlight.

But when it doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work. The maps never feel too big until they are, and now I’m desperately zooming in and out, trying to figure out where the spawn points of all these damn imps are. I keep mis-clicking my directional pad, accidentally targeting all the fairies instead of the grimalkins, and now I’m just sending winged fodder to that damn dragon. In order to progress, you need to often abandon your concept of fluidity and go back to an almost stop and start rhetoric, which put me off my groove. I wanted to keep it flowing, not need to be considerate of my actions!

Chaos Nest

Natural magical progression: first summon cats, then dragons.

Yet, in spite of this, it was still something that I kept coming back to time and again. Switching between difficulty levels allowed me to first understand what I could do wrong, how to fix it, then upping the difficulty (for better rewards and skills) and trying again. The way chapters unfolded were compelling and kept me going in lieu of simply throwing it away. And the voice work and storytelling helped me want to keep finding out what would happen next, and how many times we would need to repeat this time loop until all was well. I love that this was another opportunity given to players who maybe didn’t get a chance to see this the first time around.

As a Vanillaware fan, GrimGrimoire OnceMore is a spectacle to behold, to see what was, what is and what could have been even as the company moves forward with new and exciting projects. It’s got a great set of characters, some solid gameplay and a lot of heart. It’s engaging, maybe more tower defense than true strategy, but still a great time sink for upwards of an hour at a time. I highly encourage players to take a look at this stunning update to a classic game and see what happens in a magic school where at least someone is competent.


Graphics: 8.0

The preservation of the original core designs with upgrades through newer technologies helped to improve the visuals overall, though I’m a bit wistful for how the characters moved and acted in the original.

Gameplay: 7.5

The incorporation of additional elements helps to smooth over some more difficult moments on lower difficulty levels, but, at the end of the day, RTS titles just flow much better with a mouse and keyboard.

Sound: 8.5

Obsessed with Advocat’s voice actor (Takeru in Lost Judgement!) and the overall atmospheric quality of sounds and vibes. Vanillaware seriously captured what a magic school where everything is going to hell in the best way.

Fun Factor: 7.5

While the actual playing sometimes felt like a chore I had to do to advance the story, it was always incorporated in a way that made sense in terms of storytelling. I loved following along and improving my skills, and, in the end, it was a delight.

Final Verdict: 7.5

GrimGrimoire OnceMore is available now on PS4, PS5, and Nintendo Switch.

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.

A copy of GrimGrimoire OnceMore was provided by the publisher.