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La Pucelle: Tactics PlayStation 2

Published by Koei
Developed by Nippon Ichi Software
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £29.99

La Pucelle Tactics, an introduction.

So far we've looked at two strategy RPG games from Nippon Ichi and we've been highly impressed with both of them. Both Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Phantom Brave are must have classics for anyone who likes turn-based tactical RPG's. As we've mentioned before though the games haven't been released in chronological order here in the UK. Nippon Ichi actually made La Pucelle: Tactics before Disgaea and Phantom Brave so it seems a little strange that we are now looking at a game that may not actually be as refined as their later games that we have already seen. Whilst it's fair to say right at the start of this review that whilst La Pucelle: Tactics may have been the earlier game, it's still deserving of your attention.

What's the game about?

As we've already said La Pucelle: Tactics is a strategy RPG played out over a number of chapters on grid based maps. You'll encounter a wide variety of zany enemies who differ vastly in difficulty and you'll also have to deal with powerful bosses that will probably require you to replay earlier missions in order to level-up your characters. Like all games of this nature, a great evil is about to descend upon the world and you have to do all you can to defeat it. In the words taken from the manual:

"Legend warns that one day the Dark Prince, beloved and powerful servant of the fallen Angel Calamity will rise to cover the world in darkness. But where there is darkness, so must there be light. When the Dark Prince appears, so too will a girl known as the Maiden of Light, servant of the Goddess Poitreene and worker of miracle…"

You control the sassy madam who believes herself to be the 'Maiden of Light', Prier. Prier, along with her brother Culotte, works for the La Pucelle, the demon hunting squad of the Church of the Holy Maiden. They are demon hunters but at the beginning of the game Culotte and Prier are novice demon hunters and need to learn much. Thankfully they are accompanied by Sister Alouette who is on hand to correct the fiery Prier.

What's good about the game?

What I like most about the Nippon Ichi games is that although there are a lot of similarities between the games there are sufficient differences to make them all feel like unique experiences. Disgaea had the Geo stones, Phantom Brave had confinement and La Pucelle: Tactics has purification. Essentially in La Pucelle: Tactics if you want to recruit more members to your party you're going to have to purify them and then defeat them on the battlefield. You can't simply create characters and then have them battle for you (like in Disgaea). This may seem awkward but believe me it doesn't feel that way at all. Actually it makes you selective about which characters to recruit. If you face a difficult opponent in battle the chances are you'll want to replay the battle and purify them in order to recruit them.

Purifying isn't just confined to characters though. On each map there are dark portals which emit dark energy. There are various kinds of dark energy (they are different colours) and each has its own detrimental effect. New enemies can enter the map through these dark portals (signified by a black cloud emanating from them before an enemy appears). Naturally you are going to want to neutralize (through purification) these portals as quickly as possible but you can channel the energy through your enemies (by placing one of your characters on a square with dark energy flowing through it and facing them in the appropriate direction) and set up elaborate attacks such as Miracles which can be incredibly powerful and damaging to your enemies.

Like Disgaea, La Pucelle: Tactics doesn't take itself too seriously. Character names such as Bones Gravy and Father Salade are proof of this. Talking to different characters outside of battles will sometimes give you a few humorous comments that will make you smile and the look of some of the characters is definitely meant to make you laugh. It works of course and you find yourself liking the game even more because of it.

What's not so good about the game?

It's difficult to pick fault with a game that keeps you playing hour after hour for weeks on end. Naturally some aspects of the game are not as polished as in Nippon Ichi's later titles and this is to be expected so it's difficult to complain about it. If I had to pick one fault it's that should you fail a mission that had a cutscene before it you'll have to watch the cutscene all over again when you come to retry the mission. It's not a major problem but I could see that it would irritate some gamers. Like Phantom Brave and Disgaea you'll reach a point where the difficulty level rises quite sharply and you'll need to replay earlier missions in order to improve your characters. Personally I didn't mind this (having played more than my fair share of RPG's) but again I could see how this could prove frustrating to some.

How does it look?

La Pucelle: Tactics may have been released before Disgaea and Phantom Brave but if you've played those games you'll realise that all of the games have a similar appearance. That said there are some differences. When you're walking around between battles for instance your view is a 2D side-on view instead of the isometric view that you had in Disgaea and Phantom Brave. Battles are carried out on grid based maps but unlike in Disgaea and Phantom Brave where you could always rotate the maps here you can only do it sometimes. You are visually notified if you can (or can't) rotate the map through 360° (in 90° increments). When a battle takes place the view will switch to a side-on view of the characters (similar to Fire Emblem on the GBA) instead of the camera remaining of the battlefield like in other Nippon Ichi games. Thankfully these battles are short and snappy so they don't bog the game play down.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Deaf gamers will have absolutely no problem with La Pucelle: Tactics. Some of the character dialogue is speech whilst some is just text. The dialogue that is spoken though has subtitles, which means you'll be able to follow the game's story. Most of the dialogue requires a button press to move forward so you'll be able to read the text at your own pace. Sometimes you'll see a picture of the character who is talking next to the dialogue. These pictures are useful as they show you the attitude or mood of the person speaking (something that's not always evident from just text). All tutorial messages and all information within the game are shown in text so you'll have no problems at all in enjoying the game. The only snippets of speech that are not subtitled are the occasional comments that are made during a battle. Whilst it would have been great if these had been subtitled their omission is no great loss. Usually only one or two words are spoken and what is said is usually repeated too much.

Final thoughts.

With La Pucelle: Tactics being created before Disgaea and Phantom Brave it's easy to come to the conclusion that it won't be as good. Overall it's probably not quite up to the same standard but there's not a great deal in it and La Pucelle: Tactics is another must own PlayStation 2 game for fans of the genre. The battles are engrossing and the story, which is occasionally humorous, makes you want to keep playing to see how it progresses. Like the other Nippon Ichi games the longevity of La Pucelle: Tactics is astounding with 120+ hours on offer. Whether or not you own Phantom Brave or Disgaea you owe it to yourself to pick up La Pucelle Tactics. In fact fans of the genre should really own all three because strategy RPG's don't really come any better than the ones we've seen from Nippon Ichi.


Overall Game Rating: 8.8/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

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As we might have expected La Pucelle: Tactics isn't as refined as the games that were developed after it such as Phantom Brave and Disgaea. It's still a great game though and fans of strategy RPG's can't afford to miss out on La Pucelle: Tactics.