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La Pucelle: Tactics

Platform(s): Arcade, Game Boy Advance, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, PSOne, PSP, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Wii, Xbox, Xbox 360
Genre: Adventure


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PS2 Review - 'La Pucelle: Tactics'

by Hank on May 28, 2004 @ 1:40 a.m. PDT

Genre : RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Publisher: Mastiff
Release Date: May 5, 2004

Buy 'LA PUCELLE: Tactics': PlayStation 2

Nippon Icchi software has slowly begun its invasion on American soil. This isn’t a war; rather, they are making a small cult out of us gamers thanks to the popular title Disgaea, a game that was nominated for Game of the Year by several prestigious gaming magazines. Due to the success of this title, Nippon is bringing out the sequel, Phantom Brave, later this year. But before this release they are marketing their newest yet older release, La Pucelle: Tactics. What I mean by “newest yet older” is that this game is the prequel to Disgaea, meaning this was produced and distributed in Japan long before Disgaea reached the States.

So for fans of Disgaea, it should mean you must pick it up, right? Well, yes and no. Like the Final Fantasy series, the stories are not linked up, but they do have some similarities to one another. In this case, the battle systems are a recurring theme. The battle system is tactics-based, and I personally love tactics games, especially Disgaea. Flonne and Laharal were some of the best characters I’ve become attached to, aside from the few characters from FF such as Cloud, Aerith, and Tifa. Sadly enough La Pucelle characters are nowhere near as endearing as the characters in Disgaea, but they make up for it with a more complex and advance system than the one seen in the sequel. It sounds odd, but it’s true.

The tactical system seems identical to the system seen in Disgaea, but at the same time, it’s very different. In Disgaea there were items called Geo-Spheres and panels which had a dramatic effect on the battle. Instead of Geo-Spheres, this game has switched to Dark Portals. Dark Portals are places where enemies respawn and are given an extra boost in their stats. The Dark Portals would differ in color, ranging from red, green, yellow, blue, purple, light blue, to white, each with different attributes that affect your characters and the enemies. For example, if the enemy is on a red Dark Portal, it will gain more power for fire, and if they were on blue, they would heal after every turn. As seen in the manual, you can also use these colors to your advantage listing what colors are weak against the other, so use that knowledge wisely. At times, there may be colors aside from those I’ve listed. This only occurs when colors overlap and produce a new color (much like kindergarten paint). When these are dealt with (purified), there will be some special effect like crosses or feathers. A more impressive event that may happen is a “miracle.” This is where you purify a circle of Dark Energy that covers fifteen or more squares calling a sort of goddess to help in your battle, and it affects all enemies within the area. These miracles can be considered similar to the sprites seen in Disgaea, but they are not nearly as visually appealing.

One thing many may complain about is the simplistic graphics seen in this game. The game plays similarly to many of the 2D RPGS we are used to seeing on the original Playstation, but at times, we can also see that there are certain aspects that only the PS2 can achieve. The game is in both 2D and 3D; when in town, it’s 2D – a very linear environment in which your character can only run left and right. The map is in 3D, and a majority of them allow 360-degree rotation. A specific few will have a locked view. These maps have differences in height, obstacles in the path, and many more. The coolest thing is actually the secret places on the map (usually necessary to get the good endings). There will be a pink glowing thing that will show a special entry to unlock an event. Of course, the battles take place on the same board, but it’s not 3D. It is like the town map in 2D – all of the characters are placed on the right side while the enemy is on the left, but one aspect that makes this system different from Disgaea is that you can have up to eight of your characters attacking the enemy simultaneously. For this to happen, you must have your characters surround the enemy in every given direction. Well, this is only a four-person team attack. To pull off the eight-person attack, you must then have teammates adjacent to the ones surrounding the enemy, all of whom are prepared to attack in order to execute the full team attack.

Well, team attacks aren’t the only times when the members will work together. They will also support each other on defense. It is the same theory as the team attack, but support only occurs when the enemy launches a physical attack against one of your characters. As for magic attacks, your team cannot give you support in the same fashion. However, if your character has Aid magic, you can increase your defensive, attacking, and many more stats of that caliber. Unlike Disgaea, in which learning magic depends on class and the mentor/student dynamic, you can only learn magic in La Pucelle if you have a power level of at least 2 for the skill. In order to get a level of 2, you need to wear equipment that gives you that stat. These items are called “Elemental Alignments.” And like Disgaea, until you level up the magic to level 1 or above, the skill will disappear when you un-equip the item, losing the ability. But if you have it at level 1, it’ll stay with you throughout the game. Magic isn’t the only thing you should level up; you should also consider leveling up items.

In the sequel, everyone remembers the Item World. Well, in this one, that isn’t available. The only way to level up items is to purify Dark Portals. Once you purify them, everything you have equipped gains a level. So what exactly is purification for? In this game, purification is the only way to recruit other characters to your side, and it is similar to Disgaea’s Geo-Sphere system. One great feature is that once you have purified the enemies enough that they are willing to convert, you then must defeat them and they immediately become available for use. The other use of purification is to cleanse the area of dark energy. All humans come with this ability, and monsters gain it once they reach a happiness level of 10 or higher.

You must train the monster to get it to achieve a happiness level of 10. Training has got to be one of the toughest things in the game to master. If you have played Monkey Island, you know how one says a comment and you are supposed to give the right reply. Well, it’s the same here; they have three questions or statements for you to decipher, letting you try and figure out what exactly they want. Training ranges from just letting the monsters play around to harsh training that will improve all of their stats. Stuff that makes the monster happy is easier to achieve, but to make them train and stay happy, that is a different story. I have only deciphered one monster’s request. Harsh training usually makes the monster mad at you, and when they go under 10, they lose the purify ability. This ability is a very important commodity, since Dark Portals are the enemies’ Achilles heel – if you take away their ability to respawn, the battles are just that much easier, but if you don’t act fast enough, enemies will constantly reappear.

Luckily, I have not had battles that last forever, but I did do something stupid. I accidentally leveled-up the monsters on the first missions without knowing it. Thankfully, La Pucelle has safe exits. When you face too difficult of an enemy, you can just exit the map and try it over again. This is a cheap way to level up, but it’s also a strategy; retreating is a legitimate tactical plan. But how exactly do you level up the monsters? In Disgaea, the method to level up monsters was through the Senate, but through this one, you level it up through the store. You simply choose between stronger and more expensive items, lower and weaker items, or maintain your current selection. When you choose stronger and more expensive equipment, they will eventually ask if you want to fight stronger enemies, increasing their power and difficulty. To get to this screen, you must purchase something from the store, and after your purchase, you take the “Survey.” Always remember to hit the survey after your purchase, or else you may be stuck with the same weaponry throughout the entire game.

One way to get really unique and special weaponry is by introducing your monster to the Dark Community. First, place two items in the monster’s inventory, and you will receive one leveled up product. If he proved useful, you will gain special items as a reward. These items are clearly random, so sometimes you can get better items than the previous time when you reload the game. One downside is that the game does not have a soft reset that most RPGS usually have. So if you did something wrong, you can’t immediately reload it, which would have been really helpful in understanding the monster training system.

Well, the monsters aren’t the only things that you can level up. You can also level up your character by equipping items. As you level up, the stats will increase, focusing more on the item’s stats focus. The layout of the equipment is similar to those in Disgaea; to be precise, I feel that the layout is identical with one big difference: La Pucelle allows you to equip more than one weapon. So if you want to, you can equip one character with four different weapons such as staffs, gloves, swords, and so on. But I strongly suggest a balance of items, since that will yield the best results.

I have gone straight into the game-play, so I’ll give you a little detail about the story and the characters. The character you play is Prier, a very energetic and powerful girl who is part of La Pucelle, a group of Demon Hunters from the Holy Maiden church. In a sense, La Pucelle is really a cult where they try to purge the darkness, and like in real life, the world doesn’t have only one religion. The Holy Maiden is the one with less say, while the evil Holy Mother is the one with 70% influence. This is somewhat similar to our real life percentage where one religion is significantly more popular than the other. The story behind La Pucelle is this: “Once the Dark Prince will appear as the servant of the Angel of Calamity there will rise a Maiden of Light who will defeat him and perform miracles.”

Naturally, miracles cannot occur without the help of an amazingly soothing soundtrack, one that seems to have spiritual energy but not feel like gospel. I personally enjoy the introductory song, even though I couldn’t understand a single word of it. As people say, music breaks language barriers. Although I don’t think it’ll be able to break the barrier of me understanding a foreign language, I am truly glad they kept the original Japanese language (even in the battle cries). In Disgaea, I hated the Prinnies going, “DUDE DUDE DUUUUUUUDE!!!!” The game is subtitled in English due to the Japanese audio, and at times the translations of the Japanese seem to be a little questionable, but it seems pretty reasonable throughout the majority of the game.

Overall, this game is incredibly well done. It may even be considered better than Disgaea, at least on the game-play side. The tactics in the game are pretty fun and yet advanced, and most players can easily enjoy the system. It also brings back the old school feel like how it felt when we used to play on the Playstation or SNES. While it may not have the most eye-catching graphics, you never complain about it. The only time you may complain is when you do not get the good ending. But unlike Disgaea where the ending is only at the end of the game, La Pucelle has different endings for each chapter. I have not achieved a bad ending yet, so I do not know how it goes but I don’t want to find out though I have read that there are special endings for specific chapters, but getting those is considered incredibly difficult unless you level up beforehand. I personally love both La Pucelle and Disgaea; both are very solid games. La Pucelle will definitely tide me over until Phantom Brave comes out. I would suggest buying it, but go try it out first. Hardcore tactic fans should definitely buy it.

Score : 8.7/10

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