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FlonneMcNinja avatar 11:02 AM on 05.25.2008  (server time)
I F*cking Love Tacticals, Part Two--La Pucelle: Tactics

I will admit this. I'm a sucker for anything from NIS. I love their stuff like crazy, and they glory in their tactical mastery. So when I found a copy of this for fifteen bucks used at GameStop, of course I jumped on it.

I haven't had a lot of time to play, given that I just bought it two days ago, but from what I've seen so far I'm impressed. It's no Disgaea, but that makes sense--this game came out in, um, 2002 in Japan, I think, and got ported here two years later. The first Disgaea game came out in 2003 in Japan. That's not much time to polish, but it's some, and the first Disgaea game is slick. Cursed Memories is even slicker. But La Pucelle is a glorious start.

The gameplay is occasionally, I'll admit, a little clunky. I don't like that once you've acted, you can't move, even if you haven't moved already, nor do I like that special abilities (spells and such) activate immediately instead of waiting for the execute command. It robs me of the ability to chain together a frillion attacks on one person, as is my wont in Disgaea. And sometimes you can't rotate the map enough.

But hey, like I said. It's pre-Disgaea. They were still working out the kinks. And La Pucelle has some amazing coolness going on, too. And one of these cool things is the purification system.

So some basics. This here is Prier.

She's a demon hunter in the Church of the Holy Maiden, and the main character. You start out with just her, her little brother Culotte, and Alouette, a senior demon hunter. If you've played Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, or its PSP port, you may recognize her as the boss for the extra stage Alternate Netherworld, who joins your party once you kick her ass. She's crazy strong. She kicks down a lead door in a cutscene.

Anyway, she's a demon hunter for a church. Her job is to go around fighting zombies and stuff so that their troubled souls may rest. But she can also purify them, sucking the evil from their bodies and making them nice people. And if you purify a monster enough and then defeat, it'll join your party, and hey, ready-made character. Needs equipment, but still. They get useful monster-only skills, and you can train them and make them strong and then trade them to the creepy guy in the Rosenqueen Shop for cool shit.

There are also Dark Portals and Dark Squares, the predecessor to the ever-delightful Geo Symbols of Disgaea fame. Dark Squares emanate from Dark Portals in a line; you can stop the flow by standing upon and facing it, or divert it by standing on the flow and facing somewhere else. If you let the Portals sit around for too long more monsters come out of them, which can be useful for leveling. You can also purify them and destroy the squares, which looks like this:

And if you get Dark Squares to flow in a closed box around a bunch of enemies, you get insane shit that looks like this:

And that is super cool.

So far I haven't run into any create-a-character options; I'm not sure if there is one, but if there isn't, monster training amply makes up for it. You can teach any magic to anyone, though! There are elemental staffs which teach spells in the same way that a master learns from an apprentice in the Disgaea games--use the staff's spell enough, and it's your permanently.

What I really enjoy about this game, though, is the level-up system. It's fascinating. There is, of course, the normal experience-points-to-level thing. That's standard. It'd be silly to cut that. But your stats also gain experience, and which stats these are depend on the items you have equipped. Physical combat weapons up things like attack and defense, for example. Staffs do intelligence, eyeglasses do intelligence and speed, armor does defense, and there are special wearable stat items. When you kill a monster, your experience goes up, but your stat gauges go up too. And when you purify a Dark Portal, it powers up your items.

Which is not to say that gameplay is all. The story is fun. A lot of the characters are named after weird things in French, and the monsters chat with you while you train them. Prier is a bit shrill, but I can handle it. I'm a big girl. Anyway, it's a fun game to play. It's no Disgaea, but then, what is? Don't let that stop you from enjoying it.

Now I've got to get back to that Gamestop. They had a copy of Phantom Brave for thirteen dollars.

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