Tactical RPGs take a very special gaming personality to enjoy. You have to be one of those people who loves spending dozens of hours fighting wave after wave of turn-based baddies to get just a few more experience points and one step closer to leveling up. These are the types of games you see only the truly hardcore enjoying, as typically, they take too much time and effort for the casual gamer to enjoy. This tends to make these games very niche, and as such, you don’t see many on the market these days, with a few notable exceptions, such as Final Fantasy Tactics (Game Boy Advance) and Disgaea (PlayStation 2.) Both of the aforementioned titles were very good, and well received by fans of the genre, which is probably why Nippon Ichi, developers of Disgaea, has developed La Pucelle: Tactics for the PlayStation 2. La Pucelle is a sort of sister title/sequel to Disgaea, bringing with it many of the tactical elements seen in Disgaea. Whether that borrowing is good or bad is an arguable matter of opinion, but as a whole, La Pucelle is a good tactical RPG for fans of the genre.
La Pucelle’s story follows the adventures of two player-controlled characters, Prier and Culotte. Both characters are beginning their studies in demon hunting, and as you can imagine, it’s up to you to lead them through dozens, if not hundreds, of battles. These battles are in no way quickies, as you’ll spend hours figuring out how best to position characters and their helpers to optimize battle functionality while making use of the special dark portals system. Dark portals are spawn points on the board (noted by diamond-shaped markers) that demons will appear through. If you can get one of your characters to block a Dark Portal, they can redirect the energy for your team to use. If you can build a circuit of energy, you can dish out some serious damage, and if you can purify the Dark Portal, you deliver massive pain to any enemies caught in your circuit. Circuits are a very cool and unique idea, but they lose their appeal when you discover this game is really quite difficult. Enemy AI is ferocious, and very rarely will you ever be able to complete and hold a circuit for more than a few turns. However, seeing one powerful circuit in action is enough to keep you playing for hours in hopes of creating more.
The demons, also known as your opposition, are sneaky and get pretty powerful in later levels. Thankfully, you can convert, or purify, some of them to your side. By using the purify system, you try to coerce these minions of evil. If you’re lucky, they’ll see things your way and join your team. Having the bad guys working for you is not only a great way to boost the firepower your team, but it’s also a necessity, as going it alone simply isn’t an option in La Pucelle.
As this is a tactical RPG, your characters will continue to grow and become deadlier as the game progresses. Characters not only gain new powers as you play, but so too do their purified minions and magical items. Magic items become stronger and more useful at higher levels, making them very valuable to players.
If there were a weakness to be found in La Pucelle, it would have to be the presentation. Much like Disgaea, the graphics are intentionally cartoony, yet they are so dated, you’d swear you’re playing a PSOne or handheld game. While some spells and combat effects are visually stunning, the rest of the visuals leave you with and empty feeling. Ditto for the sound, which is just another pack of upbeat music, limited voice work and generic effects. While La Pucelle isn’t a horrible looking or sounding game, it could’ve used some polish before heading out the door.
Even with its weak presentation, La Pucelle: Tactics is a great game for fans of the tactical RPG genre. Its difficulty and niche sensibilities prevent me from recommending it to casual gamers, but those hardcore tacticians with at least 30 hours on their hands will not be able to get enough of it.
- Gameplay: 8.2
- A tactician’s dream.
- About on par with a GBA or PsOne title.
- Sound: 6
- Cutesy and tiresome at the same time.
- Dozens of hours of gameplay, and dozens of hours to play it that much.
- Overall: 8.2
- Great gameplay is unfortunately hobbled by a weak presentation. Still, the perfect title for the tactical RPG fan.
Author – Craig Falstaff