Developed By: Nippon Ichi Software Published By: NIS America Categories: Strategy RPG, Compilation Release Date: 08.31.21
The PS2 is what many people will consider the golden age of JRPGS. This is no different with a developer like Nippon Ichi Software, who I’d say and many would agree had their best games in the early to late 2000’s. NISA must have noticed the love for their earlier games because they’ve started a line called “Prinny Presents Nippon Ichi Software Classics”. In this first release we have Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. Two games that could not be any more different in tone.
First, lets discuss this collection as a whole before we get into the details for each game. Two games, both strategy RPGs. This is NISA’s bread and butter. That and their fantastic sprites and music. Characters have that cute chibi style, but the shading and sprites for everything is just tops. Good spritework is an artform that really just is a dying breed nowadays. The more opportunities I get to see it, regardless of it being re-releases the better. Music though? There’s a reason I’ve always considered PS1 and PS2 era RPGs the king of soundtracks, with both of these games being no different. Find time in your day to listen to these, the physical releases have those CDS with the OSTs.
Both games have some nice voice acting as well, which can be toggled for English or Japanese, for whatever your preference is. Other toggles are the standard for releases like this like screen size and the like. Please for the love of god do not use the stretched option.
The first of the two games, Phantom Brave is quite a bit more colorful and cute. This game has seen quite a bit more mileage of the two with this game having been ported to Wii, PSP, and PC beforehand. The PC release included content added in both of those previous re-releases and this built off of that. Technically, this would be “Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle HD”.
Phantom Brave is the story of Marona. Marona is a special girl, she has what’s called “Chartreuse Gale”. This ability allows her to speak to phantoms, to the dead. This unfortunately makes her a pariah, with almost nobody willing to even get near here, like some sort of monster. People either are scared of her, or see her as less than human, someone to scam or talk poorly of behind their back. This ability however, does allow her to communicate with out other main character Ash. Ash has a special relation to Marona, being a fellow Chroma with her parents. Consider him an honorary godfather. They work though many a odd job until a familiar evil returns…
Phantom Brave upfront with combat piqued my interest. In my head, I usually imagine SRPGs to be grid based. Even if it’s with different plateaus and terrains, still grid based. With Phantom Brave, it’s free movement within a certain distance. I suppose this means nothing at the end of the day and makes the same results, but I love the freedom, the less blocky or archaic movement. If you’ve played Disgaea, stacking and throwing enemies or teammates will come familiar. There’s edges to the stage, try to think about that when you toss things around or when the floor might seem a tad slick.
Marona doesn’t just use Ash to help her, but other phantoms, of which you can summon to do what other classes in RPGs would. You see that twig or bush, or that big stone? Confine your phantom to it to send them into battle! I prefer to match classes with those certain parts of the environment. The stones are great for stronger phantoms, and the more floral for mages. Equip your phantoms with different items, weapons, etc… to get new abilities and attacks. Maybe you want those wind gusts that knock enemies back, maybe you just want to hit REAL hard.
Fights are fun and quick, but there is a bit of awkward jank to some parts. For those abilities and special attacks, I found it at times tricky to get the right distance for using something, as if I got too close for an attack, I couldn’t use it. The act of tossing or going on top of enemies was a little awkward initially for me too.
Ohh lordy is this game edgy. Or rather it can be. First thing you’ll notice is the different art style the game has. I like this art style, though it’s very much different than the one NIS games are known for. Spritework will be very familiar however. The playable character is a blank slate with a name you choose, so most of the personality comes with Gig. Gig, the master of death. Trapped inside of your sword. He is one edgy SoB, fitting well into the age this game came out, not to mention his…questionable choice of language.
The titular World Eaters once were destroying the earth, under Gig’s control. They became dormant as he was trapped in a blade. Now the World Eaters are causing a ruckus once again. With his help, you can make quick work, but that’s to say *if* you want his help.
So you can play the game on the straight and narrow. Or you can allow Gig to control your body. This can lead to alternate endings and an entirely different, darker, edgier path. This is probably what the game is most known for. Lordy almighty, does it go places, but that you’ll have to experience for yourself.
Much like Phantom Brave, Soul Nomad is a strategy game. You build your own groups with their own formations, and each class has their own perks. You do this with your rooms, which you can buy and upgrade to better ones to better suit your current party or preferences. Maps in combat segments are boring. They’re detailed, but flat. So you’ll get all of the environment nerfs and buffs, but with no real bumps or shapes.
Combat cinematics are much more exciting however, with animations, which include group attacks. It’s like a Intelligent Systems game. This is a turn based game, but a lot of the time, it’s attack, counter, attack counter. It never feels slow. Even better, is that this is not a grinding game. You’re constantly given opportunity to buy stronger, even leveled team mates and you can’t just stick in once place.
So port wise, where do these stand? Menus, especially main menus or other non-scaleable, pre-rendered art stuff can look bad. For the most part, in game everything looks great for both games, but it’s a very obvious cheap port, not a remaster. Not that there’s a whole lot wrong with that, but it’s obvious there are just the old SD games now in HD. Functionally, these are entirely competent ports, nothing really wrong, but I did get a softlock after starting a game again from the save menu, after putting the Switch in sleep mode. Thankfully AFTER I saved.
The way I see it, any excuse for people to play games from old on modern consoles. It’s great to see some games, get second…or third chances, especially those rarer or more obscure games. I think if you like NIS’s style of game, or the strategy genre, you owe it to yourself to play this bundle. It’s only the first in a series from NISA to reintroduce their classics.
Buy Now: $39.99 Digital – $59.99 Physical – $99.99 Limited
*Game Download Code graciously provided for the purpose of review