Friday 17 September 2021

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol 1 Review (Switch)

While Disgaea has gone from strength to strength in terms of releases, a number of other NIS releases have seemingly fallen by the way side. Phantom Brave for instance has remained fairly dormant aside from a PSP and Japanese only Wii release since it first arrived on the PS2 back in 2004. With Nippon Ichi now seemingly looking to revive some of these forgotten franchises through the ‘Classics’ series gamers are getting to experience them again. As well as Phantom Brave, this collection also contains the even more obscure Soul Nomad and the World Eaters and both are well worth looking at. 

Phantom Brave follows the story of a 13 year old girl named Marona who is protected by a phantom named Ash after losing both her parents to an evil spirit some years before. Marona is a young Chroma – a sort of sword for hire, and your initial goal is for her to earn enough money to buy the island she lives on. 

The humour and art style is very much in keeping with other Nippon Ichi games though it is perhaps a little less full on than when Etna appears in Disgaea. This is a PS2 game at heart and there is little chance of disguising that. The menus now look lovely and HD but level textures look decidedly muddy, sprites are pixelated and it is hardly a graphical tour de force. That said it looks a whole lot better in handheld mode. Soul Nomad is set up in much the same way.

There’s also a bit of a clunkyness to it but on the whole the Switch controls work well for both games. Once you have got used to the controls it’s clear that Phantom Brave remains a really good game and the depth of the thing begins to come to light quite early on. It shares a fair bit with Disgaea in terms of it being a turn based RPG and in terms of classes and skills levelling but there are key differences that the game is built around. The most obvious is the fact that you no longer have the grid system and instead everything is done with range circles. This really took us some time to get used to and to be honest it seems an odd design decision that doesn’t really add anything. 

A more significant and important difference is the summoning system which is the games whole ‘thing’. Instead of lining up characters to take into battle your game will revolve around Marona summoning phantoms to aid her. Marona confines phantoms to objects which then come to life for a set period of time. For instance, if you want a tough fighter then confine them to a rock to give them strength and defence bonuses. Mages are best confined to plants as that boosts their magic ability. The options are long, complex and incredibly deep. The catch is that after a set number of turns the phantom will turn back into the original object and not be summonable again. This means that if you aren’t careful you won’t be strong enough to down the enemies and complete the level.

The range of classes you can summon is huge and then you can give them all sorts of weapons and objects as well. You can also give phantoms bonuses by confining them to objects which are receiving environmental bonuses. There’s the whole being able to pick up and throw things off the map as well but we suspect your head is already spinning enough.

If Phantom Brave isn’t hard core enough then Soul Nomad will push you that little bit further. The game revolves around the idea that your hero is bonded with this crazy super powerful being. You can draw on this beings power to overcome enemies but if you sue it too much then ‘Gig’ will overpower your body and cause chaos again.

As well as this risk/ reward element the game also focuses more on a sort of squad system where when you engage in battles you fight as a team instead of one on one. It seems to be where some of the ‘room’ mechanics have stemmed from for later Disgaea releases with part of the research element of the game about setting up new rooms that allow different formations and bonuses depending who is in which slot. Perhaps even more so than Phantom Brave, Soul Nomad will take hours upon hours to truly understand the nuances of.

Overall, Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad are both showing a bit of age in their presentation and control scheme but put that aside and both are good games. Phantom brave in particular has got to be one of the deepest and most rewarding games out there. It’s a massive level grinding dream which is easy enough to get into but will take hundreds of hours to master. There is also a stupid amount of secrets in here and it would take the most dedicated of fans to see everything both games have to offer considering you get all the extra content included from the various releases over the years as well. Even if a lifetime of grinding doesn’t sound like you it’s well worth giving this if you are a Disgaea fan or someone who is into strategy games and wants to take on something a bit different.

Overall 8/10

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