La Pucelle Tactics
comes at an interesting time. Riding on the coat tails of success Atlus received by Disgaea, lesser known publisher Mastiff Games decided it was high time to grab and publish the first of the Nippon Ichi PS2 trilogy with only a 3 month gap between it and the next Nippon Ichi title Phantom Brave, so give some credit to Mastiff for making a bold and dangerous move. Not a prequel to Disgaea by any means, La Pucelle Tactics
provides gamers with an interesting strategy title rife with a good story, lovable characters, especially the adorably evil Prier, and a very interesting combat and recruitment system you have to see to believe. Unfortunately, since this is a game that came before Disgaea it is going to feel like it is ripping a lot from Disgaea, and then it’s missing a lot from Disgaea, so this is a title you really have to be dedicated to if you want to stick it out. The differences in battle, character, and subtle charms however do make this a must play title.
Getting right into it, when the prince of darkness (not Laharl sadly) rears his ugly head, the goddess of light will grant all of her powers to one person (specifically a girl of the church), creating the Maiden of Light. At the outset we’ve got our lovable female lead Prier who aspires to be nothing less but the best Maiden of Light possible. Her and her orphan brother Collete work for the church of Pot au Feu City as a crack squad of demon hunters known as La Pucelle. The story follows the tales of Prier and her brother along with a group of other characters, like the perverted old church pastor, Father Salade, a gun totting wise guy with amnesia, Croix, and a princess with a whopping case of split personality disorder, Princess Éclair, and a few other… interesting individuals to say the lease. . Suffice to say the story is wacky and light hearted but not without its own bits of seriousness here and there. Mastiff performed a wonderful job on the localization. Not quite up to snuff with that of Atlus but it is a superb job nonetheless.
Now, what would a strategy game be without a good effort in the combat system? A pretty dull one if you ask me. Such is not the case however in La Pucelle, it has a rather refreshing battle system that has you wrapping your brain around how to pull off the sweetest of moves and taking out all of the toughest of enemies. After playing La Pucelle through the first chapter you can see where Disgaea’s battle system spawned. What you’ll also notice is not the Geo Symbol system of Disgaea but something slightly different. Dubbed the Dark Portal system, it’s an interesting system where your characters and their placement can determine the flow of dark energy that is present on the map that you can manipulate to your favor. For starters when battle begins you are given a maximum of 8 characters for your party. You’ve got the starting portal like in Disgaea so if one guy is not working out for you then chuck him out and bring a more capable fighter in. However should a unit die you will not be able to bring in someone to replace them, so be wary as your resources are scarce, however never will you feel so overwhelmed with enemies that you’ll be cursing the eight member limit.
Before heading into battle it would be wise to stock up on some armor and weapons. What is interesting here is that you can equip multiple weapons to a person in an effort to make them stronger, so if you want to beef up a character for battle then you can forsake the armor in exchange for raw power. Or you can make an ultra defensive healer or supremely offensive destructive mage. The choices are literally endless. Of course some monsters make better healers than others. Yes I said monsters. Over the course of the game in order to get new members of your party you need to persuade them to join your cause. Most of the human characters in your party have the ability to seal the evil powers in the monsters you come across and they will join your party. From there you can send them to the Dark World to sort of buff them up you could say, or you can bring them along in your might quest to save the world. But you must be careful to keep them happy or else they will run away. But there are also bonuses for keeping them happy, be sure the treat them kindly, they may be monsters, but just give them a chance.
Now getting back in to the battle system, it’s quite simple yet complex at the same time. Once you’ve got your demon demolishing squad out on the battlefield it is time to get down to business. The simplest way to take out the baddies is to defeat them all by going heads up with them. Send three or four guys up to him and if they are will bunched together they will execute combination attacks that have them all ganging up on the one enemy. However this system is not without balance. For if the bad guys have some of their pals nearby then they will also get the chance to let loose with some counter attacks of their own. Or you can play the safe route and just chuck special skills over at your enemies, at least then they won’t be countered, the choice is really up to you.
Now if you go all out in each battle then you’ll be missing out on one of the key aspects (and most fun I might add) of battle; the Dark Portal/Dark Energy system. When you start a battle you’ll see portal from which monsters spring forth. These portals can be sealed right off the bat or you can have some fun with them, increasing your experience point count in the process. From these dark portals there is a flow of energy, each portal supplying a different color/element flow. Placing characters within this flow can help shape victory for your party whether it be by doing massive damage to the enemies or healing your party, it’s all dependent on how you want to cross the energy flows. Sound confusing? It is at first but after a really easy tutorial it’s quite simple. When you are able to change the flow of energy and forming a full circle (this doesn’t actually mean make a circle) more than fifteen spaces long a special entity will appear and do something to either you or the enemies. The skills for each creature that appears are static so you don’t have to worry about random status affects knocking out your party.
Another thing to be wary about in battles are special events that will help lead to other areas of the chapter that will help you to get special good or bad endings per chapter. If you are able to fill certain requirements (mostly just visiting specific maps and hitting a switch) then you’ll most likely get the best ending on the chapter and a bonus in cash. However how you play all the previous chapters has no bearing on the final ending which is kind of a let down. No multiple endings here folks, just a straight shot to the end, along with a few side quests near the end. Remember Prinny Baal? Remember what he looked like before Laharl banished him? Just be prepared, that’s all I have to say.
Let us not forget the aesthetics of this game, for they are mentionable and are what give the game most of its heart. Graphically you already know that it’s a Nippon Ichi title thanks to the sprite based 2-D with some 3-D maps. The character designs are whimsical and cute, Prier, being as cute as a button never ceases to amaze when it comes time for her to get tough. Some of you may be thinking you’ve heard the name Prier before. That’s because she was one of the hidden bosses at the end of Disgaea. So now’s the chance to see her grow up into the little alternate overlord with over two million hit points. Musically Nippon Ichi never fails, the music fits the mood of the game perfectly and the voice acting is surprisingly good. Of course after the bar had been set by Disgaea I would expect no less.
Of course this game isn’t without its flaws. There are a few little things that just happened to bug me quite a bit. Namely the recruiting system, I seriously liked it a lot better when all I had to do was have enough energy points to materialize a new party member. I don’t like having to sit in a battle persuading my enemy to join my cause while I’m getting whomped on by him or his cronies. Secondly as I said before, I really wish there was the options for multiple endings just because the story looks like it could go anywhere at any given time. Ah well, I will always have Disgaea in that respect.
In closing, if you liked Disgaea then you are going to want to snag this game, if you haven’t already that is. You’re in for a good story, some fun battles, and a game that will hold you over until the eventual pick up of Phantom Brave, the next Nippon Ichi title to come stateside. Just be prepared to get into it for the long haul with this game, as you’ll constantly find yourself giving this game another play through just for the great story.
If you liked Disgaea then you'll love this game.