Nippon Ichi’s second PS2 TRPG, La Pucelle: Tactics maintains the same quality found in Disgaea and Phantom Brave. This one (like Disgaea and Phantom Brave) keeps with the happy, funny dialog while offering a solid (and surprisingly disturbing) plot. The game features the decent, but in this case rare, voice acting found in Phantom Brave and the normal grid system found in Disgaea. Though it isn’t as inventive as Phantom Brave, Pucelle provides another unique version of TRPG combat and parties, which seems to be innate in NIS titles.
Now the plot is a bit clich?. Many years ago, the Dark Prince, the loyal servant of a powerful fallen angel, came into the world and was ready to destroy all life, until the Maiden of Light appeared and defeated him. Of course, this is bound to happen again, and a new heroine will come forward to defeat the Dark Prince. You play as a teenage orphan named Prier who resides in La Pucelle, a church establishment that trains children to hunt demons and purify all forms of evil. Another demon hunting prospect is Prier’s brother, the child prodigy of La Pucelle, Culotte. The two of them work under Sister Alouette, a mysterious nun who was discovered without a single memory. The head priest of La Pucelle, Father Salade, immediately recognized her exceptional prowess in battle and instantly gave her a high position in La Pucelle. With Alouette and Culotte at her side, Prier is sent out to hunt demons and solve the many mysteries of the world. As happy as that sounds, at some points it is as joyful as a Steven King novel. The first couple of missions really make you question the Teen rating on this game. The first mission sends you investigating the presence of a few hundred zombies that are roaming around an abandoned castle. In the second mission you investigate a man who takes over people, has them kill their families, then slit their wrists and write messages in their own blood. So at times the happy anime demons and their saucer-eyed commanders just don’t seem like they’d mix too well with the stern-faced storyline, but the enthralling missions and constantly developed characters will keep you interested in the plot and will drive you to continue.
Now for an entirely different note. Nippon Ichi offers another original TRPG in La Pucelle. The game uses the standard graphics and grid system, making it look like just about any other tactical game, but unlike others it offers only a handful of playable characters. Because of this, you are required to recruit a vast number of demons in order to get the job done. To recruit demons, Prier, Culotte and Alouette have the “Purify” skill. You use Purify on the enemy demons to cleanse their souls and convince them to join your cause; the more you use it on an enemy, the more likely they are to join. This allows you to thoroughly customize your party, and gives you lots of flexibility in forming your crew.
Another unique feature of La Pucelle is the Dark Portal. Dark Portals are the centerpiece of combat in La Pucelle and are major players of the game. Though they can spawn an infinite number of enemies, Dark Energy is incredibly helpful in battle. Placing a unit on top of a Portal causes energy to flow out of it in a straight line. The Energy can be redirected by placing a teammate on the flow and facing in a different direction. You can then have Prier, Culotte or Alouette use their Purify ability to send a shockwave that either strikes an enemy with elemental damage or heals allies. Finally, you can create a “Miracle” attack by forming a full circle with the Dark Energy, which eliminates all the enemies within. The battles are always original depending on the locations of the Dark Portals, and depending on location they can either finish a battle quickly or drag it out for a very, very long time. Either way, you can replay the battles over and over and over and still feel the same warm tingle you did first time around.
That said, I can finish by saying La Pucelle is a game worth picking up. The story and excellent character development will keep you playing for hours on end, despite the actual lack of characters. The battle system is unique, inventive and never has the repetitive feeling found in some lesser TRPGs and recruiting demons can become somewhat addictive. So head out to a game store and pick this up if you are an RPG fan. Get started on it soon. It will take you well over 100 hours to beat.