(3DS eShop)

Grinsia (3DS eShop)

Game Review

Grinsia Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Ron DelVillano

The trouble with nostalgia

In 2008, Matrix Software and Red Entertainment teamed up to develop a turn-based Role-playing game for the Nintendo DS appropriately titled Nostalgia. Incorporating classic JRPG gameplay and mechanics with modern visuals, this game was designed to tug at the heart strings of ageing gamers while still managing to provide an experience for the younger among us to enjoy. As our review shows, Nostalgia's intended charm was effective, proving that there's plenty of room for classic goodness to sneak its way into the pantheon of modern gaming. Following in this trend, Kemco designed and developed Grinsia, a mobile game that employed similar gameplay to the classic JRPGs of old, even going so far as to incorporate a 16-bit art style reminiscent of similar Super Nintendo forays. Now Nicalis, a developer best known for porting and publishing indie hit Cave Story, has brought Grinsia to the eShop, finally giving 3DS owners the chance to experience a game that should feel right at home.

Following a family of archaeologists turned treasure hunters, Grinsia puts its players in the shoes of a young man in charge of guiding his clan on a fantastical quest to uncover ancient ruins and protect the world. The plot isn't original or even that interesting, following many tropes and plot devices that are often seen in RPGs, but it serves its purpose in guiding the action forward while still leaving some decisions up to the player. There are plenty of non-player characters that are eager to dole out entirely too much information and set you on the right path towards your goal of discovering ruins, but at times it can feel contrived. As the plot progresses, it becomes more and more obvious that you're really just participating in a series of fetch quests that link together to keep stringing you along until the end. In spite of this, the dialogue is surprisingly modern, making use of current slang and peppering in plenty of jokes to keep the otherwise wordy game from feeling entirely too mundane.

As this was originally a mobile game, it’s safe to say that Grinsia has received its fair share of scrutiny from opponents of mobile platforms. One of the biggest issues that decriers of mobile games point out is the lack of physical inputs; though touchscreen technology has advanced an incredible amount in the past decade, it's still difficult to surpass the tactility that hard buttons provide. Upon playing Grinsia, it becomes immediately obvious how it effectively stood out as a success on the iPhone, and that's because it's gameplay and controls are so basic that there's never any real need for precision. Movement around the map and within towns and dungeons is all based on a grid, only allowing for travel in four directions. As a turn-based game, action in battles is commanded through a series of menus, again, not requiring any form of strict movement that can’t be undone or ruined with the accidental slip of a thumb. For as simple as the controls are, we would be remiss not to mention that they work well; it would be baffling if they didn’t, but at least there are no issues in this respect.

Gamers experienced with turn-based RPGs will find the battle system familiar, almost to a fault. Of your menu selections, the standard options are all preset with little variation on the formula. Your characters can attack, use special skills or access items, along with a handful of other options that can be found in any game of the genre. There’s not much depth to the battles beyond choosing when to best attack, use magic, or heal, meaning that the bulk of the actual gameplay leaves very little to be experienced. During battle players can optionally set the action to be automatic, giving the game permission to choose targets and attack for you. This is an easy way to quickly run through battles for the sake of level grinding, but it also takes away from the necessity to actually play. The automatic option is like the game recognizing that its own battle system isn't very much fun or particularly engaging, so it wants to give you the option of setting your 3DS down for some time while the programming takes care of everything for you.

As you progress through the campaign, new characters with varying specialities who can equip new weapons will join your party. Only four members are allowed on your team at once, so choosing the right characters to strike a balance is necessary in order to be competitive and survive. Despite the variety in characters, the complete lack of a class or job system coupled with monotonous battles makes the game feel flat. It’s not a requirement that every game make an attempt at reinventing its respective genre, but any effort to make the gameplay feel fresh was completely lost here. Grinsia does well in its attempt to emulate early turn-based RPGs, but it ends up feeling much more like a relic than a magnum opus forgotten by time.

Not only does the gameplay reflect a bygone era, but the graphics and soundtrack also play contributing factors in pushing the nostalgia forward. The first thing that anyone should notice upon loading this one up is that it looks a lot like the 16-bit RPGs of old. Pixelated sprites plastered on top of flat environments with the illusion of depth give this one the appearance of a game that could be 20 years its senior. It's an artistic style that will feel comfortable and familiar to those who grew up with a SNES plugged into their parents' CRT television, but it may not entice younger gamers who never had the chance to experience games such as Final Fantasy II – FF IV in Japan – or Chrono Trigger in their original formats. Battle animations aren't fleshed out and consist mostly of characters swinging their weapons forward in the general direction of their targets. Story sequences also lack any visual flair, employing still images of characters accompanied by boxes full of blocks upon blocks of text.

The 3DS' ability to take flat images and transform them into full environments with tangible depth is the only thing that launches this game into the 21st century, but even that is used subtly. The 3D effect leaves the characters and environments flat, instead opting to push the map and text boxes forward for a more refined but still very attractive and clean look. As such, even Grinsia's use of modern technology is done in an effort to reject what is expected from games today and stick to the classic roots. For what it is and what it aims to do, the aesthetic style works well, but it leaves a bit to be desired — the influences from the past are all present and clear, but Grinsia lacks the polish that accompanied the games it aims to imitate.

Despite a nondescript update to the game available from the eShop — presumably for stability — there was still an instance when our game crashed, causing the entire 3DS console to shut itself down and losing us a significant portion of unsaved play. Saving is as simple as choosing the option from a menu wherever you are in the world, so it’s important to save often as this game is not without its bugs. There are also several spelling and grammatical errors, which isn’t entirely surprising in a game with so much text, but it’s far from problematic and provides little more than a minor nuisance. Slight issues aside, Grinsia is nowhere near broken and its faults shouldn’t be considered as hard-and-fast rules for immediate rejection.


Grinsia does well to bring classic 16-bit era RPG action to the 3DS eShop, but what it fails to do is make dated gameplay feel fresh or interesting. Gamers looking to relive their glory days full of RPGs on the SNES will definitely have a good time exploring the world within, but that shouldn’t be taken to mean that this is an experience that will appeal to all fans of the ever-changing genre. As time goes on and games advance further both aesthetically and in depth of gameplay, the demand for games like this that call upon nostalgia as a selling point is becoming smaller and smaller. Despite its flaws and repetitive nature, Grinsia effectively nestles itself into the void that it aims to fill, but it’s up to the player to decide whether or not another throwback is what they’re after.

From the web

User Comments (37)



Andremario said:

Damn! A 6? Really? not a 7? It screams old school Final fantasy all over! I'll still try it out. Ha! I'm the first to comment!



Robo-Knight said:

What was in the new patch for Grinsia?

Does anyone here know, I'm just curious because I can't see anything new added on too the Game with the new patch.



edcomics said:

I'm not sure this game was scored on its merits. It sounds like the reviewer is just suffering from old RPG burnout. If this was the first game available in the 3DS eShop when it launched, I expect the score would have been much higher. Maybe scoring is just too subjective in general.



BinaryFragger said:

I played it for a few hours and it reminds me of Black Sigil for the DS: an old school RPG that is fun but not as polished as the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest remakes on the DS.

It's a good game to get if you want to relive the 16-bit RPG era and its priced pretty well at $10.



Tops said:

Always seemed unremarkable to me. Guess I wasn't too far off



ricklongo said:

I'll definitely get it at some point. I'm a big sucker for SNES RPGs; Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI are still the pinnacle of the genre in my opinion (perhaps along with Skyrim).



Maelstrom said:

Nothing can be as good as chrono trigger.

But If you're looking for a modern classic JRPG, Bravely Default is much better.



Kaze_Memaryu said:

I dunno if I wanna try this. I didn't really like most SNES RPG's (yes, including Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy), so the nostalgia factor isn't an argument for me at all.



DiscoGentleman said:

Yeah, this probably isn't a buy for me. I'd just as soon revisit Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, Lufia, Super Mario RPG or any handful of Final Fantasy games.



ManateeBlubber said:

@Kaze_Memaryu I'm glad I'm not the only one. My attention span doesn't really do well with turn-based battles.

This isn't on my radar. I've still got to pick up Pushmo World, Kirby Triple Deluxe, MK8, and Dillon's Rolling Western.



Zodiak13 said:

Want it but the crashing I have read on comment boards here and elsewhere has me holding back til it gets fixed, or maybe not at all if they don't fix them.



ueI said:

Recent Final Fantasy ports feature an autobattle. I agree that there is an underlying problem if the devs think you'd want to skip battles.



Dodger said:

I still have too many jrpgs that I haven't finished to add another that is a copy of the ones that I haven't finished.



Mikeopferman said:

I really like this game so far, I am only 2 hours in to it. The writing is what sets it apart, from other jrpgs. Enjoyable, definitely worth $10!



CaviarMeths said:

I haven't played the game, but going off of this review, it seems that the developers wanted the utmost fidelity to classic SNES RPGs, but forgot what made those games classic in the first place: a compelling story with interesting characters. Without that, you're not making an homage to Chrono Trigger. You're making an homage to... Paladin's Quest?



Spoony_Tech said:

Thanks for the review Ron_Delvillano! I got enough to know I would enjoy it. I don't need a fancy new battle system just good old school rpg is enough for me. Also auto battle is not a bad thing. It saves time over some mundane battles that other wise would require un-needed attention.

Secondly and more important thanks for the link to the Nostalgia review, I've had it on my radar for years now and think I would enjoy that even more so then this. Either way I want both now thanks to this review!



audiobrainiac said:

I definitely still want this game. I appreciate the review, but can't let it sway me TOO much, though it is enlightening.



Windy said:

I kinda Knew it would go this way for Grinsia. The Denpamen 3 came out same week there is just no comparison as to which RPG is higher Quality. I'm shocked It appears Grinsia is out selling The Denpamen 3. It leaves me kinda scratching my head. The Denpamen 3 is just short of being as good of quality as Bravely Default at a much less price. I'm going to pass on Grinsia until its confirmed that the town lockout bug is fixed. Pulls out his nostalgia cartridge from his bag of tricks



BulbasaurusRex said:

I don't see any reason to bother with this. I'll download Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV from the Virtual Console over this when I'm ready for some classic turn-based JRPGs.



Aerona said:

Definitely passing. RPGs are a big investment in time, and this just doesn't seem worth it.



River3636 said:

But if UR an RPG fan you should try this game. The crashing is ridiculous but just save often.



jackson15 said:

I certainly wants the game.. but.. some people suggest me that it is out dated. Is that so?



MeloMan said:

I would still like to play this as I am that such sucker for old school JRPGs. Problem is, it's going at the bottom of the list-- I gotta get caught up on all my Wii U games since I'm about to buy one finally.



NodesforNoids said:

Really, what I want from Nicalis is a mix between Grinsia and Cave Story. Or, more accurately, a mix of Phantasy Star 3 and Super Castlevania IV. Great platforming, an easy to access yet tough to master battle system, RPG elements with a bit of customization and a sci-fi / Victorian steam punk setting. I love the intricacy of JRPGs and all the little details that really bring the world to life. I know of games that are like what I've described, but that's what I'd like to see more of: action RPGs with more action and more RPG.



Kitsune_Rei said:

I was going to pass on this because it looked too generic for me. I like RPGs, but I'm looking for a GOOD game, not something to fill a nostalgia-hole. I can play the ACTUAL classics if I really want to, and there are PLENTY of clones. I'm still into the pixel art, but I won't get a game if its pretty shallow otherwise. As someone else said, RPGs take a lot of time since a main mechanic is still grinding. If I just want parties and grinding there's even stuff like Knights of Pen and Paper. I'm enjoying Bravely Default so I don't mind milking that for all its worth.



Windy said:

Well I couldn't stand it and bought Grinsia. Other than the game crashing 1 time per hour and it seems to be on the nose of an hour. There is a mighty fine RPG with a decent story going on. I managed to get into the game 5 hours. I'm very impressed with the way they handled the 3d and the storyline is excellent. Battles play out quickly although they seem to be slight slow motion. Even though the game crashes I love the game so far. If you get this game save often cause the timer is ticking every hour for the game to crash. Weird how that is happening



RabidPikachu said:

I bought this in October awhile after the last patch was announced and I'm loving it. No problems with any crashing. I took a long break a couple of days after downloading to play the ORAS demo and Alpha Sapphire and now I'm back to Grinsia. I love this because the gameplay is simple. The story line is recycled from other titles but I'm the weird type that loves familiar repetitiveness in both story and gameplay. In other words this being mix of already outdated mechanics and story telling is why I absolutely love it. I guess familiar gameplay mechanics would be why I'm good at RPG's but never beat a platformer before the VC.

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