The French novelist Jean Giraudoux once said, “Only the mediocre are always at their best.” If that’s true, then Gongoria has created its magnum opus with its first work, Grimoire Chronicles. Of course, the savvy reader will accuse me of hyperbole, to which I will respond, “you are correct.” Sadly, this is because where Grimoire Chronicles doesn’t meet the mean, it falls short and disastrously so.
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Grimoire Chronicles (GC) is the story of a magic-using girl being hunted by a society that secretly uses prejudice and religious intolerance as a method of world domination. However, the girl gets rescued by some rebels, and has to help them overthrow the evil organization and free the Espers, er sorry, witches from the Empi… uh CHURCH that wants to use them to rule the world. Look, just go play FF6 if you want everything this game is but ten times better. I have a hangover from trying to drink away my memories of this experiment in IQ reduction.
Sadly, my handlers who whip me daily usually like me to go into more detail, so here we go. The game’s story suffers from three main flaws:
Flaw 1: The dialogue is poorly written. Conversations are unnatural, stilted, and uninteresting. Attempts at humor fall completely flat, the only cue being a little “humour jingle” that plays when something’s supposed to be funny. This is the point at which I’d compare the depth of story to a kiddie pool, but at least my 20 month old son can splash in a kiddie pool. Some 13-year-old basically read bad anime-inspired fanfiction and before someone could take RPGMaker away from him, whoops! Story poop.
Flaw 2: The dialogue has not been spell- or grammar-checked. Message to indie developers: when English is clearly not your native language, or if you just don’t speak it well because you were the product of whole language or some other such ridiculous literacy experiments, you have one of two options: get someone to go over the script and proofread/edit it, or don’t charge $20 for your game.
Flaw 3: The plot is extremely derivative. I know, I know, there is this trend going on right now to go all retro with RPGs. It’s hip, it’s now, it’s the cat’s pajamas. But just a suggestion here about progress; it happens for a reason. We move on from trite methods of storytelling, develop narrative flow, and come up with new ways of examining social and moral issues. We don’t remake Final Fantasy VI. That is Square Enix’s job, and they have done their job multiple times. They will probably do it again, and if there is any justice in this world, they will send a cease and desist notice to Gongoria. And then Grimoire Chronicles and its terrible, terrible story will go away.
Grimoire Chronicles’ gameplay is not novel. When I say this it requires some qualification about my opinion on the importance of novelty in gameplay, which can be summed up by the following statements. I enjoy Dragon Quest games, and have played every one, save IX. I have loved all the 2D Castlevania games since Symphony of the Night, and have played every one that has come out in the US. I will continue to buy every Dragon Quest and 2D Castlevania game that comes out from now until the heat death of the universe, and enjoy them and their gameplay with all my heart.
So when I say that Grimoire Chronicles’ gameplay is so uninspired and uninteresting that I can find no redeeming quality aside from it giving those in vegetative comas a way to experience role-playing games, then you’re doing it wrong. You go from town to dungeon/forest/cave/tower, and your job is to get from point A to point B while picking up treasures and fighting (no joking) the two or fewer monster types in the area. Monsters appear on dungeon maps often as puffs of purple smoke or soldier icons, and touching them triggers a battle. Once in battle your options are Attack, Skill, Defend, and Item. Sometimes you fight a boss. Sometimes you find equipment and put it on. And if any of this sounds remotely new and inspired, then you must, right now, stop reading this review, go out and get a copy of the latest Madden title, and shove it up your ass.
Compounding the problem of unoriginality is the repetitiveness of it all. There are way too many enemies, they respawn, and paths were often too narrow to avoid them. Most of the time the only difference between one battle and the next is the number of the one or two enemy types which appear, none of which use any strategies aside from attacking. Boss strategies involve spamming your most powerful special attacks until the foe dies. To top it off, about two hours into the game, I encountered a glitch that caused one of the main character’s sprites to look exactly like one of the other main character’s sprites, and when I exited town, I went to a camping screen and couldn’t talk to anyone or leave. Though, in retrospect, it did make me have to stop playing, so maybe it was a feature.
Graphics and Sound
If there are any redeeming qualities about Grimoire Chronicles, they are the graphics and music. Dungeons, towns, and the like are relatively well-detailed for a 16-bit game, and although character sprites are exceptionally tiny, you can differentiate between two characters after a few seconds of study. Moreover, combat backgrounds and enemy designs (the few there actually were) are actually quite good, and would fit well in a mid-cycle Genesis game. Unfortunately, the crap train makes a stop at Graphics Junction just in time to unload its cargo: animation. The animation is abysmal, to the point where the only way you can tell if a rail car is moving is by noticing the spinning wheels. Enemies don’t have any animation, and character movement is wooden at best.
Ah, but when we get to the game’s music, then we see where all the developer’s energy went. The melodies in Grimoire Chronicles are above average, especially if you’re a fan of ambient light jazz. For those of you who aren’t freaks like me, however, the soundscape may leave you wanting to put on something else, perhaps a polka, or one of those hip-hop jams the youngsters enjoy with their sarsaparillas. Sound effect are dull though, and after a few hours, suddenly that old adage “never put anything sharper than a Q-tip in your ear” just might start sounding like a challenge. Take that, sage motherly advice!
Controls exist. They are the arrow keys, the Enter key, and the “Z,” “X,” and “C” keys. They move you around the world and navigate menus. That is their function, and they do it, move along.
Now, we’ve all experimented with RPGMaker at some point or another. I, myself, tried making an RPGMaker game back when they brought it out for the PSX, and it was bad. It was, frankly, boring. I don’t think I even finished making it. But it was more engaging than this, and I didn’t charge 20 dollars for it. And that has made all the difference.
So don’t buy this game. Seriously, don’t buy it. I can’t imagine anyone outside of Lehman Bros. who would consider this a sound financial investment. It wouldn’t be good as a $0.99 iPhone game, it certainly wouldn’t be good as a $20 PC purchase. I didn’t even have to pay for it, but I still feel violated. I want my time back. And maybe a hug.