Braving the dangerous streets of San Francisco (and their maddening parking structures and pricing, 23 dollars for 3 hours, THAT IS AWESOME) I made my way to Vessel in the heart of the shopping district just a slight north of Market in hopes of getting to see the latest titles coming from NIS America. Besides walking away with a new pink prinny of the Disgaea cannon I left with a great sense of excitement for the titles that will be hitting the US shores in just a few short months. NIS America has now publicly announced the following titles that will be out over the course of the summer. Grim Grimoire for the PS2, an RTS, Soul Nomad, a strategy RPG with a lot of interesting twists, Dragoneer’s Aria for the PSP, and lastly Disgaea for the PSP.
The first title I got to check out was the title that NIS was hoping would rope in some more casual gamers. Titled Grim Grimoire the game is an RTS developed by Vanillaware known for their “Princess Crown” title for the Sega Saturn and “Odin Sphere” for the PS2. Grim Grimoire is a very colorful game and I feel like saying that is an understatement. It looks really nice and has a lot of interesting looking character designs, which is evident by the character portraits that have an almost eerie movement to them when the characters are speaking with each other. Game play wise this game feels more like a game of chess than an actual RTS. From the little bit of time I got to actually play this game, I had a large cluster of fairies trying to fight off ghosts, and then a large dragon appeared and made a mess of things, the system follows a rock-paper-scissors mentality where certain types of magic are strong against another type but have a corresponding weakness. Controls were the biggest surprise as it was really intuitive to select units and get them around the map. Another interesting thing about this is how the game is not displayed in the typical top-down style. Instead it is a cut-away of a giant tower with a number of portals that the user must control and tap for assets. The game’s story looks like an interesting cross between a Harry Potter book and the movie classic, Groundhog Day. As our heroine Lillet Blan repeats the same five days at her school so she can figure out the how and why all of the other residents of the school have been killed and to prevent it from happening. Look for this title in the early summer around June.
Next up for the PS2 is the newest entry in NIS America’s long line and catalog of Strategy RPGs. “Soul Nomad & the World Eaters” (Soul Cradle in Japan) takes a lot of conventional rules for a strategy RPG and decides nuts to that noise. For in Soul Nomad you’ll be able to cheat in a number of ways in order to destroy your foes. One of these interesting cheating facets to the game is that you can become powerful enough to defeat the final boss within about twenty minutes in to the game. Or you can steal from any of the townspeople, or kidnap them if you feel so inclined to make them join your army. Depending on how you decide to gain strength in this game also affects the story. Let’s say you did want to become powerful enough to take out the end boss right away. Then you are going to be trading your soul for power. The amount of your soul that you give up will indeed have some bearing on the story.
Battle takes place on a grid, and you designate your troop battalions with preset battle commands and once you and your foes clash it will switch to a real time attack setting. One other interesting thing to note is that you don’t really need to level up any time you make a new character, as they can become as immediately powerful as the main character. So no more useless grinding to get your characters buffed out. Unfortunately there was no playable demo available on the show floor, but this title will be hitting during August 07, so be sure to check back here later for a preview.
Moving on to the PSP, we have two new entrants coming from NIS America, one Dragoneer’s Aria from their partnership with Hit Maker, and another, well one that we were all expecting, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness.
Dragoneer’s Aria is a new title that is being co-developed by Hit Maker, the company that was responsible for last year’s Blade Dancer on PSP. Dragoneer’s Aria was also not available to try out, but from the explanation given at the event it looks very promising. First up, the game looks great. For a PSP title this game looks really good, which is a surprise because Blade Dancer itself was a good looking game, and Dragoneer’s Aria looks even better. Beyond that there are a number of promising features in the game, like the removal of random battles, or the ability to save anywhere. Looks like Hit Maker noticed that the PSP doesn’t quite have the juice that every handheld wishes it could have. Also something of interest is leveling up weapons alongside your characters. By combining “Dragon Orbs” with your weapons, you can level them up and gain more skills. Also, magic abilities are powered by the mana that is earned through battles. Magic can be used out on the field or in battle until all your mana is drained. The battle system itself holds a few interesting aspects as well with a new turn system that allows you to set up the order of character attacks as you see fit, and then on the defensive end, a rhythm game mold is used to allow you to augment the amount of damage to be received. Like Blade Dancer, Dragoneer’s Aria will also feature some Ad-Hoc wifi play that will allow the player to gain items by teaming up with other friends with copies of the game. Be on the lookout for Dragoneer’s Aria when it comes out this July.
Last up on the announcement block was Disgaea for PSP. For those who have not seen anything about Disgaea at this point in time go check the review
I wrote back in 2003. Anyway, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is coming to the PSP. And because Sony won’t simply allow a PS2 port to show up on the PSP, they added a few extras that make this a must own title. First off, we have multiplayer, that’s right MULTIPLAYER in Disgaea. This is going to be a ton of fun, and I am eager to see how it plays out, however my biggest concern is how they intend to balance this out and prevent one player from being ridiculously over-leveled in comparison to their friends. But I have faith that it will turn out well. Not content to just add multiplayer NIS America has also included a new story line. Based around the evil overlord Prince Laharl’s matron Etna, the story follows what would have happened if she had actually killed Laharl during the game’s opening segments. I expect a lot more comedy on that side of the story and I hope it turns out well. Disgaea PSP does not have a solidified release date yet, but I expect it to be out by the end of summer. I assume this because the game is already translated and the only thing that needs to be re-written would be the Etna story.
So after the party was all said and done, announcements were made, people were pleased, and I was excited. I didn’t mind the twenty three dollars I paid in parking so much any more. Though I was disappointed that I could not speak more with various PR individuals and members of the NIS staff on hand. Be sure to check back here at Gaming Nexus where we hope to bring you preview coverage of all the above titles coming soon.