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Playstation 2



Strategy RPG






Nippon Ichi



T (Teen)



Q2 2004



- Dark Portals

- Purifying Monsters

- Nice Visuals

- Spiffy Music



- Story's appeal is very limited

- Visuals slightly dated

- Some songs get played too much

- Slightly less polished due to age



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Review: Disgaea: Hour of Darkness (Playstation 2)



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La Pucelle Tactics

Score: 7.9/10


Last year, console owners with a taste for strategy RPGs had themselves a nice little treat with the release of Nippon Ichiís Disgaea on the PS2.  At its core, the game held many of the traditional gameplay elements people have come to expect from the genre, as seen in titles like Ogre Battle and Final Fantasy Tactics, but also put a few twists of its own into play with its tile-based Georama system, and a very nice tongue-in-cheek flavor of humor in the storyline.  Now gamers have a chance to taste another of Nippon Ichiís strategy RPG efforts with La Pucelle Tactics (also on the PS2).  Those who have played Disgaea will find themselves very much at home with this title, and strategy fans who missed the boat with Disgaea last year will still find much to enjoy in La Pucelle through its solid tactical gameplay and well-drawn 2D art, but watch out for the slow-paced gameplay.


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Itís important to note that La Pucelle was actually made before Disgaea, and this shows itself very quickly while playing the game.  The game by no means feels dated or out of step with what one would expect from the strategy genre, but for those who have played Disgaea, the gameplay wonít feel quite so polished.  Regardless, La Pucelle still provides a very engaging experience.  Players have a vast assortment of character classes to sink their teeth into over the course of the game from the usual stock of magic and melee-based character classes, as well as the ability to win monsters over to the playerís side, who can later been trained to become better fighting machines.





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Once your characters take the battlefield, the meat and bones of the game come out.  Thereís the usual scooting around on tiles to maneuver around enemies, so to set up attacks, as well as the ability for groups of characters to gang up on a nearby enemy for extra damage.  However, the two many features that help to set La Pucelle apart from its contemporaries are that players can bring most enemies onto their own side if they choose, and there is also the presence of Dark Portals.  Taming enemies is fairly self-explanatory, as 


players have the chance to winner over just about any monster in the game other than bosses to fight for them.  Dark Portals take a little bit more explaining.  Firstly, these devices allow new monsters to slowly spawn on the field, and secondly they emit various types of elemental energy, which can be pushed in specific directions by enemies and friendlys standing on the portal.  On a simplistic level, players can just as well destroy the portal at its source, ensuring that no new enemies spawn.  However, it is also possible to push the elemental energy from the Dark Portals around the battlefield until they form a ring.  At this point, destroying a portal will cause a cascade of ever-increasing damage all around the ring, ending with an extremely powerful blast, devastating any enemies unfortunate enough to be in the ringís center.  Itís a nice piece of strategy trying to pull it off, but not as satisfying as the Georama system found in Disgaea.


In between battles, thereís plenty of plot and dialogue to get through as the story advances.  La Pucelle follows the adventures of Prier and a group of monster hunters, out to purify the countryside of all the nasty evildoing beasts that lurk there.  Of course it doesnít take too long before things escalate and the player learns thereís more afoot in the big, scary (in an oh-so-cute sort of way) world around them.  The way in which the story unfolds is very similar to the cheesier anime lurking on cable TV with overly cute character.  As such, the story and the dialogue will only really catch the interest of those who are really interested in that sort of anime.  For others, myself included, make sure that there are no heavy, blunt objects laying nearby, as they may very well find themselves soaring toward the television after one too many sugary sweet cutscenes.  And on a side note, make good and sure not to die; otherwise, you will have to re-watch the pre-battle cutscene again, wasting time in the process.


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The visuals and sound, too, have a cute theme to them, but thankfully in these to areas it is much more tolerable.  The gameís graphics sport colourful 2D art, with lots of detail and smooth animation.  The imagery doesnít feel quite as vivid to that found in Disgaea, but that is to be expected given that La Pucelle came out first.  Nonetheless, the visuals are very enjoyable.  In terms of the music in the game, there are plenty of happy-go-luck themes, as well as the expected assortment of action-packed ditties for battles.  The one area to watch out for is that some pieces do get too much play, and will have many leaping for the mute button, especially in prolonged battles.  However, when all is said and done the music is certainly well above average for a game.


For fans of Disgaea, checking out La Pucelle is definitely something to consider.  The game walks a very fine line in providing something that is familiar, with something that is new for those who like Nippon Ichiís other strategy RPG effort.  For those who missed out on Disgaea, but still like games of this genre, La Pucelle is still a title worth trying.  The depth of battles, and the overall presentation are sure to keep most strategy RPG gamers happy for some time.


Mr. Nash

(July 24, 2004)

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