By William Haderlie / August 15th, 2016
Even though the story does go to some pretty dark places, you are not in a Netherworld. So even the creepiest location, the Island of Evil, is still an island in the middle of a water paradise. The locations combined with the music give this game an entirely different feel than the Disgaea games or other offshoots like Makai Kingdom. You still have some hardcore strategy, but it is also nice to have it be located in such an entirely novel environment. And while the character models bear some of the NIS resemblance, there is also a lot that sets them apart. So I would say that if you enjoy the other NIS SRPG games, you are more inclined to like this one, but it’s not a 1:1 comparison. For the most part the classes are also different, so there are not many that match the character models of the other games either. It’s actually admirable how much there is in this game that has never been revisited in any subsequent games by the same studio.
That is not to say that everything that was changed is for the better. The movement system for this game is an interesting change, for example. You do not have a movement range that is measured by spaces, your movement is measured in meters and is indicated by a range circle. It mostly works well, but there are some large drawbacks to this style. One of the drawbacks is that your movement circle is seldom accurate. There are fairly few areas that are totally flat and not slippery or bouncy or have any obstacles. That is the only time that movement circle is entirely accurate. Some obstacles can also make your character cycle back and forth trying to get to an exact spot, and thereby you will lose all the movement you gained. You can undo your action, but sometimes you will have to take a slightly different route that isn’t a straight line. However, you cannot undo your movement if your action pushed you off the edge to an Out of Bounds state. As long as you weren’t tossed out of bounds by an enemy, though, it won’t kill you. It’s a little difficult to explain, as any major SRPG would be due to their extremely complex mechanics, but it’s good to know that it doesn’t always work well and it’s for good reason that this movement system wasn’t revisited and they’ve kept with the Tactics Ogre style of tile movement.
A more interesting mechanic that was added to this game is that you don’t actually have a base tile where you summon enemies from. You also don’t have a starting formation, like the Tactics games. Instead, Marona is the only one on any map to start with. She has to summon her phantoms by confining them into random objects scattered around the map. The object she chooses to confine them to will have a very large effect on that character’s stats when they are pulled into the world (as you can see in the above screenshot). They will also come equipped with whatever weapon you had equipped on them from your island base before battle. You can also choose to keep them unequipped and they can pick up any item in the world and use that as a weapon. So, yes, you can have your big bad ass warrior carry around a sunflower and attack enemies with it. Each type of item in the game has a different confine attribute set and a different ability set. However, one thing you have to really pay attention to is that Remove number, seen above. That is how many turns they can be on the map before they disappear. This is mostly a bad thing, but in particular instances, it can be good. The Take Home % determines the chance that when the character disappears they will bring the item they were confined to back to your base. Sorry, complex I know, but there is no more simple way to explain this system.
The fun part about this system is that it was ripe for exploiting. So, unlike the movement system, I’m actually a bit sad that we haven’t seen the confine system since. It’s very cool that there are so many different types of weapons, and the plethora of different abilities also have a different set of ability points attached to them. So when you use up your Energy SP in a fight, you can switch to Physical SP or Magical SP and still have different abilities to use. Anyone who gets really into SRPGs knows that the most fun is had from finding ways to break them. And this one is possibly the SRPG that I can break the easiest. The weapon you see above I was able to create before I even reached map 1-2. And with it equipped on Marona she was able to solo kill every map in the game without needing to summon any phantoms. That may seem boring to some, but you can always just play the normal way and succeed just fine. This game just allows you to be very crafty and the freedom to just annihilate everyone. Believe me, I can take that weapon a lot farther than that. It’s just with SPD and ATK that high, the enemies already were never going to get a turn, and I could one shot kill the last boss with one Heliotrope use. Marona is intentionally the weakest character because she can’t be killed by an O.B. toss or removed by turns. But with a weapon like that, she melts face.
So because of knowing the mechanics so well I was able to roll credits after 15 hours of gametime. I could have done it much faster if I wanted to save scum or if I got better luck with which dungeons the Dungeon Monk was able to create for me. But realistically if you play the normal way and don’t have much experience with this game, you should at least double that amount. And that’s before you even get into the Another Marona story, which I would highly recommend you don’t touch until you’ve played through the entire main campaign. You will have no reference point for the characters without it. Much like the Disgaea games, though, there is almost infinite amounts of content to be had here. You can play this one for months or even years if you want. The updated graphics make it more appealing, and the music and fighting style have always been great. The localization of NIS America really entered into its stride during the PS2 era, and this game is no exception. It is a very quality translation, and both the English and Japanese tracks are included and worth experiencing. I personally like the Japanese track more, but that also tends to be my personal taste for almost any game. Really, the fact that you can get so much great SRPG content for $19.99 on Steam makes this a steal. I may already have this game in two other locations, but having it on my PC really makes me happy. And there are enough upgrades to the visuals that I would consider this 1080p version to be the definitive edition of the game. If you are looking for many hours of SRPG fix, as I often am, you definitely don’t need to look any farther than this. A really solid translation of a really great game.
Review Copy Provided By Publisher
Pages: 1 2Nippon Ichi SoftwareNIS AmericaPCPhantom BravePhantom Brave PCPhantom Brave: The Hermuda TriangleSRPGSteam