La Pucelle: Tactics Review

I’ve been a big fan of tactical RPGs since their inception.  Games like Tactics Ogre, Master of Monsters and Final Fantasy Tactics all had me hooked for very long playing sessions.  Unfortunately, the strategy RPG genre has been very quiet for a substantial period of time except for a few titles on the Game Boy.  “Bring me more!” I shouted at the Gods of Games That Are Good.  “And make them for one of the 3 main consoles!”  The developer Nippon Ichi heard my cry, andsix or so months ago we saw the classic Disgaea: Hour of Darkness come out for the PS2. Now they’ve released La Pucelle: Tactics, which. it is interesting to note was actually created BEFORE Disgaea.  Does it uphold the tradition that it kind of started long ago overseas?.

Can you say PS One?  Yes, it’s true.  The graphics for La Pucelle: Tactics are a little dated.  All characters, friend or foe, are hand-drawn 2D sprites.  The only 3D stuff in the game is the battle map terrain…

THANK GOD!  Finally someone who realizes a great game doesn’t have to be in 3D to be successful.  There are some neat animations and a huge amount of cool battle effects.  All cutscenes and storytelling are done in 2D and are fun to watch.  The graphics for La Pucelle have a nostalgic, old school feel and have plenty of variety and depth. 

After engaging the start battle or end turn sequence, combat takes place not on the battle map but on a cut screen that contains all involved characters.  This is different from Disgaea as all the action took place on the battle map.  Overall the graphics for La Pucelle are very similar to Disgaea’s except with a few small subtle differences.

The music for La Pucelle ranks just under some of the great Final Fantasy pieces.  Music is light-hearted and fun for the most part, but a few of the pieces were very engaging and deep.  Most of the tunes are extremely enjoyable to listen to.

Sound effects are good.  Some of them have that throwback feel of old school RPGs of the past.  Quality, clarity and choice of sounds seems carefully picked and serves that nostalgic purpose perfectly.  Voice-overs are very well done and fit well with the game’s overall comedic feel.  Almost everything in the is voiced over with a few exceptions which are spoken through text only.

The game only supports stereo and mono modes but does offer those extreme fans the option to listen to the voice-overs in English or Japanese… always a nice touch.

There isn’t much to say about strategy RPG games in the realm of control.  Most of the game is menu driven so performing actions consists mostly of highlighting what you want with the analog stick and pressing X to select.  There are a few useful added quick controls to keep the player from having to go through menus ALL the time.

There was really only one negative thing I noticed about the controls.  You are unable to select orientation of the control pad with map direction.  Ironically up on the D-Pad is mapped to “North-West” on the battle map.  This is different from Nippon Ichi’s previous title, Disgaea, where up is mapped to “North-East.”  It was very difficult for me to switch from playing Disgaea to La Pucelle because the cursor control mapping was switched.  There really should be an option to select what orientation the D-pad has for controlling the cursor and characters on the battle map as many other games have certain orientations and getting used to a new one shouldn’t be required.

La Pucelle’s storyline follows a young teenager named Prier and her younger brother, Culotte, who are members of a demon hunter force called La Pucelle.  Prier and Culotte are both fairly new to La Pucelle and are still a little wet behind the ears.  Throughout the game there are a whole slew of surprise plot twists and character developments that really bring you into the game and make you become attached to the main characters and their friends.  Although the general theme of the game is light-hearted and comical, there are a few very serious parts that involve murder, grisly death and betrayal which only seem to suck you into the plot even more.

You begin in the game’s main town where you can talk to people and use the local shop.  Game progression consists of finding out what’s going on in town to open up plot locations in the overland map.  The overland map is a very simple screen with flashing dots for plot locations.  After selecting where you want to go on the overland map you are brought to a location selection screen.  If you’re at a location for the first time you’ll probably see some plot development then you’ll be tossed into the battle screen.  You can go back and re-do any battle you’ve previously done to gain EXP, increase your attribute levels or build up your items.  Battles are standard tactical fare with magic, special moves and attacks.  To make things interesting, there are “Dark Portals” on each battefield that can be used to cause Miracle attacks, build up item levels and be used strategically be either side.  These dark portals are elemental sources of energy that spray out across the map and that can be guided by any character standing on them.  If not kept in check these portals will spawn more enemy creatures and can also hinder the strength of your characters if they are standing on bad energy.  There are all kinds of tricks that utilize the dark portals to assist your characters.

In addition to the party members you gain throughout the game’s plot, you are also able to convert monsters to join your party  This is almost a necessity as you’ll need the extra man-power to tackle most of the maps.  Monsters are much more useful than just having around for cannon fodder.  You can level them up, train them and then send them into the dark world to give you access to heavy duty items you wouldn’t normally be able to use.  In addition, sending monsters into the dark world allows you to combine items to make them more powerful.

The player that just wants to get through the storyline will probably only get to level 40 or 50.  Any that choose that route will be missing a lot of extras!  In addition to the main storyline there are quite a few side quests like the entering the tough but rewarding Dark World.  The level cap for characters is a monstrous 9999. 

Although La Pucelle doesn’t have nearly as many extras as Disgaea, it has plenty to keep anyone going for a long time.  Almost every chapter has multiple endings, the character level cap is 9999, and there are plenty of side quests and extras to figure out and do. 

Unfortunately, I found out that there is some very good content missing from the game due to censoring of the original Japanese version for English localization.  That said, La Pucelle is still well worth the $50.

Ron Burke is the Editor in Chief for Gaming Trend. Currently living in Fort Worth, Texas, Ron is an old-school gamer who enjoys CRPGs, action/adventure, platformers, music games, and has recently gotten into tabletop gaming. Ron is also a fourth degree black belt, with a Master's rank in Matsumura Seito Shōrin-ryū, Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do, Universal Tang Soo Do Alliance, and International Tang Soo Do Federation. He also holds ranks in several other styles in his search to be a well-rounded fighter. Ron has been married to Gaming Trend Editor, Laura Burke, for 21 years. They have three dogs - Pazuzu (Irish Terrier), Atë, and Calliope (both Australian Kelpie/Pit Bull mixes).
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