Title: Girlish Grimoire Littlewitch Romanesque
Release date: 7-29-05
Littlewitch is one of few companies I can call my absolute favorite, for while unfortunately defunct, for years they flourished for their heartfelt stories and incredible illustrations, presenting title after title with not only exquisite packaging, but with plots to match, and indeed surpass, the high standards of the artwork. It is the absolute last company I would have expected for Western license, primarily because of their indefinite suspension of activity, but also because their games lack the intense gameplay or dark storylines that a majority of overseas fans seem to want most. As an ardent Littlewitch fan, to hear otherwise is an incredible surprise, even a minor miracle, and very pleasant news.
In celebration of JAST USA’s recent acquisition, and since Girlish Grimoire Littlewitch Romanesque is still largely unknown, consider this enlightenment, to show that an abundance of sex or violence are not essential components for a perfect story.
War from the previous era had left the country in ruins, driving entire races to extinction, taking lives without end, as the raw power of sorcery was used as a method of murder and destruction, until it almost disappeared entirely. In the aftermath of those terrible and bloody years, a new time of recovery and prosperity has begun, and within the Grimoire Magic Academy rests the remaining vestiges of knowledge on the lost art of magic and the terrible powers it once held, where great warlocks and witches, deprived of their strength, seek to regain their former glory.
However, rather than using it to promote peace, many instead use magic for their own pursuit of power or personal gain. As the ninth great warlock of the academy, Domino intends to research magic in a historical context, and decides to leave the academy behind. As punishment for abandoning his duties, he must train two young girls to be graduated witches, a task which would take decades, but he is given the time limit of a meager three years. His students, Aria and Kaya, each come with their own set of problems, and they must be taught not only the basics of magic, but also the proper conduct of a witch.
During their teachings, Aria and Kaya meet an assorted array of colorful characters, who eventually come to live with them: ghosts, princesses, angels, elves, knights, each imparting their own lessons to the girls, and giving Domino a chance at romance. But even if one chooses not to pursue any of the more exotic residents, there is still the option of teaching Aria or Kaya more than just magic.
The system is a combination of three different types of gameplay: a raising simulation, a puzzle game, and a map-roaming adventure all in one, as the reader chooses and creates various spell combinations during each lesson, gathering points. With enough, each pupil will learn different spells, each more powerful than the last, signified by a card they earn with each accomplishment. Or, there is the option to miss classes for the day, choosing to instead send the girls off to explore caves and romp through the lush forests. There’s also an inventory, where known spells, items, and awards are kept organized for reference.
Everything is filled with whimsy and charm, even small details like the text. Instead of the usual display at the bottom, the text is displayed in speech bubbles, which change font, shape, and even color according to the mood.
The music uses orchestral instruments, mainly strings and woodwind, and compliments the time period as well as the medieval setting. The vibrant and sugary-sweet art is by the talented hand of Oyari Ashito, who lends an adorable, girlish charm to every character, giving each one a memorable design. The paper dolls are abundant, with various different costumes, and a large selection of expressions and poses per character. The great use of dynamic movement and painted backgrounds only further immerse audiences into the dark, sinister depths of a cave, or the splendor of a flowering meadow.
As it is, the excitement for this title is disappointingly low, perhaps from ignorance of how truly phenomenal it is, or just because word hasn’t gotten around yet. Still, as its release date approaches, I only hope that it will be a resounding success, as an eroge of this quality so rightly deserves. Whether it will remains to be seen: after all, there are no scenes of gratuitous sex or hot-blooded action, lacking clashing swords and convoluted quests for glory, and instead takes a softer, more delicate approach to the fantasy genre. It focuses instead on two girls as they grow into adults and forge precious relationships, it’s about happiness triumphing over cynicism in the wake of cruelty and destruction, and it’s one of the very best titles, not just produced by Littlewitch, but perhaps of eroge as a whole.
Domino strives to set a proper example for his two students, scolding them when their antics interfere with classes, but also serving as a kind, and rather understanding, paternal figure. In the name of research, he investigates places where he suspects old and forgotten magic may still lurk.
Aria is a sweet and cheerful girl who treasures her friends more than the world, though her unrefined manners and spoiled, forceful nature might give the wrong impression. She is a relentless troublemaker, always enthusiastic and constantly getting into all sorts of mischief.
She is actually the missing daughter of the aristocratic Vancleef family, whose vast fortune and long history of royal blood is known throughout the land. However, with growing conflict within her family, she abandoned her home, setting off on her travels to learn how to become a witch.
While Aria is brash and tenacious, Kaya is soft-spoken, intelligent beyond her years, and unusually mature. She favors logic instead of emotions, although there are moments when she loses her composure to just enjoy herself and act her own age.
Kaya is one of the few remaining people of a small tribe, whose magic has been isolated from the rest of the world. After the death of her mother, she keeps a book of spells as a memento, and has vowed to honor her family by becoming the best witch she can be.
Domino’s close friend, Mariella is an ambitious architect with a passion for history, restoring historic ruins and also dabbling in magical research. She dispenses advice to Aria and Kaya, and occasionally even teaches them spells, but her visits to Domino aren’t for purely professional reasons.
The princess of the Mellowa royal bloodline, Fianna is a pure-hearted woman who has come from her own country to inspire warmth and kindness in her subjects from different lands. She is loved by her people for her peaceful and optimistic outlook, showing respect and courtesy even to non-human species. Rather than reveling in her extravagance and luxury, she is instead content with simpler pleasures, and welcomes all who come to her in times of need.
As a race of entirely women with animal features, Tillet’s kind have been oppressed and enslaved by humans throughout history. Tillet was captured with the rest of her family, to be sold into a harem when Fianna rescued her, ensuring her a life of comfort and peace. In gratitude, Tillet adores Fianna unconditionally, working tirelessly as her servant, and having found happiness at last.
Blessed with incredible powers of healing, Olga is considered similar to a goddess, capable of performing even the most impossible of miracles with her medicinal skills. While she has earned many reverent and admiring titles, her mature reputation is mostly exaggeration, as she is easily flustered, and reacts with amazement over almost anything. She refuses to prioritize one person over another, willing to help injured children, as well as soldiers and knights.
Rosetta’s stern and abrasive manners began from her many long years in battle, constantly wary of potential threats and always travelling with a weapon. In times of peace, she has become deeply religious and protective of Olga, fretting over her and wishing to serve her in any way she can.
Olivia was born into slavery and fought her way to freedom through violence, performing as a ruthless gladiator, whose control over wild animals, specifically wolves, made her a terrifying and undefeated opponent. After the war, she has taken up bounty hunting instead, and enjoys using her magic for minor trickery. Her arrogance is unmatched, and she considers her wolf familiars to be her family.
Her looks are deceiving: Constantine, while appearing human, is actually the queen of fairies. Typical of her kind, she is always playful and enjoys teasing men and women alike. She frequently causes accidents and frightens people for her own amusement, for she believes that happiness is found through misfortune.
Sealed away in the depths of a cavern and held in an enchanted sleep, she was awakened by Domino upon his discovery. Sepha is a relic of the former era, a mystical angel, and her innocent mind comprehends only the wishes of her master.