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Grinsia (3DS) artwork

Grinsia (3DS) review

"This one won't be on my "Best of 2014" list."

Grinsia is a turn-based role-playing game. Originally made for iOS in 2012, it was ported to the 3DS' eShop as an indie game last year. Your main character runs around with his father and sister searching for treasure, but after encountering imperial soldiers, things balloon into something so much more than the simple acquisition of personal wealth. He and his family will find allies, battle the forces of the land's emperor and eventually find themselves settling a feud between a pair of goddesses. While nothing is particularly challenging, memorable or even all that interesting, Kemco was able to give us a respectable homage to JRPGs that adequately connects the dots, but isn't anything that will excite anyone beyond the most ardent fans of the genre. We'll attach a middling number such as, I don't know, "5" to it and call it a review!

Wait, you're still here? And you're saying this is a pretty half-hearted and lazy attempt at a review that wasn't even worth the energy it took to click the link? Well, as the guy who spent 27 or so hours on this game, welcome to my world. If anything, I might question the part where I hinted Grinsia might excite the biggest fans of RPGs, because as a proud, card-carrying member of that group, I spent much of my time with this one feeling a bit bored. As an original creation, it does nothing beyond hastily running through the most ancient of time-worn tropes. As a retro RPG, it also fails due to completely foregoing the difficulty those games could possess. If anything, this game reminds me of the Game Boy Advance's port of the first two Final Fantasy offerings, as it shares a similar graphical style and similarly neutered difficulty.

I mean, on the surface, you can at least tell the programmers had reverence for classic titles and what makes them tick, at least superficially. A lot of the sprawling dungeons force you to devote a good bit of time to exploring them in search of treasure. You'll spend a lot of time hunting mystic MacGuffins, only to lose them to the baddies. Upon confronting those villains, you'll of course find out they weren't the true evil, leading you off to the true final confrontation. You'll get to handle divine weaponry, sail the seas, fly through the sky and save the world!

Which is good and all, but that's only the surface stuff. Grinsia's failings lie beneath the skin.

When I think back to what got me into RPGs in my youth, I remember how the old Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy games were essentially carried by a "risk/reward" system. Since you could only save in certain locations--usually in towns--each dungeon you entered offered the risk of lost progress. You had to make sure your party was well supplied before you ventured into a cave or tower, and you had to monitor your party at all times while exploring, constantly ready to retreat at any sign of real trouble. Sure, you could try to clear a couple more rooms of their treasure, but if doing so led to death, you just lost a good bit of progress and had to start from scratch.

Well, Grinsia is about as far removed from that as humanly possible. You can save at any time, as long as you're not currently in battle, so you never have to worry about a particularly tough boss nullifying your progress. To pound that point in further, this game also uses a teleportation system so you can warp quickly from place to place. The teleporters in dungeons tend to be located shortly before boss fights, essentially serving as a big warning sign: *ALERT: TOUGH FIGHT AHEAD! RETURN TO TOWN, HEAL UP, RESTOCK AND RETURN.*

Oh, wait. You won't even need to follow that advice. Grinsia's most egregious error is its generosity. Not only do characters regain all their health upon gaining levels, but after seemingly every fight, foes drop a few nice items. You'll be swimming in all sorts of potions that replenish life and magic, cure status ailments and bring fallen allies back to life. Besides that, you can carry 99 of anything. By the time I finally started running low on potions, I had acquired a ton of the more powerful high potions. When those also started running low, lo and behold, I had 99 of the super-powerful extreme potions in my inventory. Or I could be more efficient and use a different item which healed everyone with slightly less effectiveness than a high potion (150 health for all, instead of 200 for one in a game where my melee fighters finished with a bit over 400 health). I had about 70 of those in my possession when entering the final couple dungeons.

So, yeah, there's not really any "risk" here, which made the "reward" part feel hollow. Getting through dungeons, beating their bosses and collecting their artifacts was simplicity itself. The only real challenge came from navigating the maze-like caves and ruins, and guess what? In any town's item shop, you can buy magic maps that display your immediate surroundings for 300 steps in order to make even that aspect child's play! I guess it's something that you do actually have to buy these things for the most part, as opposed to simply having tons of them dropped into your hands, but, man, Grinsia just makes everything too easy.

To illustrate this, let's compare the final stretch of this game to the classic RPG that obviously was the inspiration for this conclusion. In Dragon Warrior II, you access the final region of the game by going through a long and very dangerous cavern highlighted by a room loaded with invisible trap floors. Making matters worse, when you get back to the trap-floor room after falling, the game hasn't provided any markers, so it's very easy to repeatedly blunder into the same pits if you're not keeping careful notes about where it is safe to step. Get through this place, though, and things aren't any easier. The path to the final castle is loaded with super-tough monsters with only one safe spot available for healing and saving. While that castle isn't long or particularly complex, it's loaded with a number of powerful bosses, including a cruel trick at the end, when the true final boss comes from out of nowhere after you think you've finally defeated the evil mage Hargon.

In Grinsia, the dungeon leading to the final stretch is based around those invisible trap floors, but whenever you trigger one, it remains visible, so you (hopefully) won't make the same mistake twice. Get out of there and not only will you find a temple for healing, but also a well-hidden town in the unlikely event you need to restock on anything. The final dungeon is longer and more complex than that in DW II, but only features two boss fights, of which only the second is particularly challenging. Oh, and through all of this, there are three or four warp points (two of which are directly before the bosses), so you'll be able to zip to a town and rest at an inn if you don't feel like burning through a few items to fully restore everyone before resuming the adventure.

Sigh. Grinsia is a decent game on a superficial level, as it succeeds in giving the immediate impression of a throwback RPG, but after a few hours of play, it became obvious that its quality is only skin deep. Beneath that, you have a game where victory is all but assured due to the game being far too generous. With no risk to make the rewards worthwhile, this experience just became annoying to the point where the random encounter "swoosh" grated on my nerves because I just wanted to rush through and finish it so I could devote my leisure time to something a bit more engaging. Man, after all this, now I'm thinking that middling "5" is too generous...


overdrive's avatar
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (February 05, 2015)

Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.

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