Review: La Pucelle: Tactics (PS2)

Title: La Pucelle: Tactics
Format: PlayStation 2 Disc / PlayStation Network Download (1199 MB)
Release Date: May 4, 2004 / September 10, 2012
Publisher: Mastiff
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: T
La Pucelle: Tactics is also available on PlayStation and PSP.
The PlayStation Network version was used for this review.

Most well known for the Disgaea series, Nippon Ichi Software has been famous for Tactical RPGs for the past decade. Unbeknownst to many players there was a little game back on the PS2 that could be called the spiritual prequel to Disgaea. That game is La Pucelle: Tactics. La Pucelle is an excellent strategy RPG, with just as much charm and depth as the Disgaea series, and without the convoluted story and atmosphere that the later games in the Disgaea series are known for. If you love strategy RPG games, this is one that you’ll definitely want to pick up.

Gameplay:
La Pucelle: Tactics is a very straightforward strategy RPG game. You control your party of characters as you move across a level grid and eliminate all of the enemies. Between grids, you use menus to travel around to other grids and levels. Even though it sounds simplistic, the pace of the levels and progression in the game is quick enough to keep you engaged and interested. The difficulty curve is perfectly paced, never leading to moments where you feel that you need to shut the game off or throw your controller.

In the game, you take control of Prier and Culotte, two demon hunters in training at the Church of the Holy Maiden in the kingdom of Paprica. Heavily influenced by French nomenclature and architecture, La Pucelle: Tactics has a visual style that is unique while still evoking themes and elements from the Disgaea series. Rather than playing a part on the side of evil, La Pucelle puts you on the side of light and good, with a goal to eliminate all demons in the kingdom.

Rather than gather dozens of party characters along the way, La Pucelle: Tactics employs a purification system. By purifying the enemies that you encounter, you increase the chances of them joining your party after defeating them. Lower level enemies and non-boss characters are much easier to purify, but they are in turn weaker and not as effective on your team. It also becomes more difficult to purify enemies of the same type (for example, if you already have one zombie on your team, it’s hard to purify another one to have him join your team). This purification system allows you to customize your team exactly the way you want it. Do you focus all of your purification attempts on the stage boss in hope that he’ll come to your side, or do you purify every smaller enemy in order to have an enormous amount of party members? The choice is up to you.

The purification system also plays into the environment itself. As you progress in the game, you’ll find that certain squares of the grid are colored. These colored squares serve a multitude of purposes, from giving stat boosts to spawning more enemies. By purifying these squares, you’re able to eliminate the squares and cause damage to anyone on the squares themselves. You can place your own party members in the line of color in order to steer the squares around, potentially making a color circle that causes damage to every player inside the loop. It’s a cool system that I’ve yet to see duplicated in any other RPG.

If you are looking for something other than straight strategy RPG goodness, you will probably be disappointed. There are some light leveling up mechanics and resource management, but the rate at which your characters level up seems random and inconsequential in the end. The biggest aspects of strategy lie in the purification system. The story is fulfilling and quite good, taking a much darker and more meaningful turn towards the later half of the game. With multiple endings and easily over 60 hours of gameplay, there’s a lot to love in this game.

Visuals:
Even though this was released on the PlayStation 2, the visuals of this game still hold up to this day. Characters are still expressive and fun to look at, though I do miss some of the closer up character drawings that became standard throughout the later Disgaea games. This game looks on par with the first Disgaea game, which is still a good thing. Attacks could be animated better, and it would be nice if the PS3 upscaled these PS2 classics to make them sharper. In the end though, it’s still a good looking game, but nothing about it will blow you away.

Audio:
The audio in this game is par for the course. Attacks and sound effects sound very basic and reminiscent of older RPGs. Music is quite forgettable, though it can get annoying and grating after hearing the same music on a lot of the battlefields. Later games in the Disgaea series have more varied music, and it’s a little hard to go back. The PS2 classic gives you the option for English or Japanese voices, but most of the dialogue is read and not spoken. Since the main portion of the voice acting occurs during attacks and some small cinema tics, the choice doesn’t make that much of a difference. I played with the English version for the most part, and it wasn’t a bother.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single player only.

Conclusion:
I thoroughly enjoyed my time with La Pucelle: Tactics, much more than any of the Disgaea games. The story is extremely enjoyable, even taking on a deeper meaning towards the end. The tactical gameplay is great and satisfying, with a good difficulty curve and pacing. The idea of turning foes into friends is something that doesn’t get old. This is a great game to pick up in the PS2 classic lines, and is undoubtedly worth the $9.99 price of admission. This isn’t just a great strategy RPG, this is a great game that has been given a second chance for exposure.

Score:
8.0

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Written by Eric R. Miller

A 21 year old multimedia student who lives, eats, and breathes everything Playstation. Follow me on Google

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