Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered by developer Nippon Ichi Software and publisher NIS America Inc.—Nintendo Switch review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
As the start of something new in order to bring older titles back to the forefront of today’s gaming platforms, Nippon Ichi Software has created a new label dubbed “Prinny Presents: NIS Classics”. Taking two PS2 era Strategy RPGs, the first of these volumes is concentrating on a title that has seen several other ports over the years such as the Nintendo Wii, the PlayStation Portable and the PC. This is Phantom Brave.
Phantom Brave is one of those titles that not only have I played every iteration of, I never seem to get tired of it. Having had the pleasure and for me the honour of reviewing it for the PC several years back, I was excited to see it back again and on a platform style that it should fit well on having both visited the home and portable based console environments.
I’ll start off with perhaps my only issue with the package that Nippon Ichi Software has put out for us. Unlike the other iterations of Phantom Brave that had a bit of reworking and upscaling for the platforms that they were targeting, this version looks really great until you look at the sprites themselves. For some reason, while everything else is clean and crisp, the sprites, combat or story in their 2D animated status, are blurry and just don’t fit the rest of the world. Bottom line is that they haven’t been reworked, just ported in.
If you can get past this however, there’s an incredible strategy RPG to be found. Taking place in the fictional world of Ivoire, Phantom Brave follows the story of a young Chroma (mercenary) named Marona as she works towards saving enough money in order to buy the island that she calls home. Aided by Ash, a phantom that used to be a friend and Chroma alongside Marona’s parents, the two of them will go from job to job and face some rather impossible situations together.
The story, unlike a lot of other entries into the Makai universe such as Disgaea, Makai Kingdom, the attached Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, La Pucelle and more, is a more serious one even if we are dealing with loads of supernatural elements and talking wolves. Unfortunately due to her ability to see those that are still around Marona even in her early teens have lived with a stigma which has resulted in the “normal” people shunning her. In a world that has talking wolves, owls, and other creatures, this was apparently where the line was drawn for the normal folk and the story while well written and paced is hard to stomach at times as you wonder why people are so cruel to someone who just happens to be a little bit different.
It’s this that keeps Phantom Brave both grounded and worth coming back to time and time again because unlike the more slapstick and dark as hell / hilarious humour, jokes will only be funny for so long before they lose their luster. A well written story will continue to be enjoyable for years to come and it’s with this that I was more than happy to sit back down to Phantom Brave yet again on another (PS2), another (Wii), another (PSP), another (PC) platform.
Merging the narrative concepts into gameplay is another area that makes this title stand out just a little bit more. Surrounded by phantoms that can be summoned to the field, Marona who may be the only living person on her team will always have plenty of support as long as objects exist in order to help bind the phantoms into the real world. Rocks, trees, swords, minecarts, bombs and flow pots, each of these can act as a temporary vessel for a phantom but like everything else in existence, there’s a cost.
Depending on the phantom and their power, they can only stay in the real world for a limited time before having to phase back out and rest up a little while. Well rounded, Ash can stick around for five turns while a soldier unit can stick around for seven but they aren’t exactly the most powerful. Fighters, Valkyrie, Witches, Owl Ninjas will range the four to five turn range while other much more powerful beasts may only be able to stick around for two turns but the damage that they can pull off is incredible.
Now where Phantom Brave takes this concept up a notch is that phantoms count as “one” to the total count of what can be summoned to the field but then so do any weapons that they hold. So working generally off of a count of “two”, it doesn’t take long to max out who’s been summoned to the field in order to do battle. A good way to manage this concept is that because anything that a phantom can be bound to can be used as a weapon, over time, you can establish tactics that will have phantoms summoned later in battle summoned into the weapons left behind by the first wave that are no longer present. It adds a level of strategy and it can really help out on stages where the difficulty is already higher due to a lack of objects or due to enemies targeting these objects as soon as they are able.
A bonus to this package is that it contains everything that has been published up to this point from the Nintendo Wii “We Meet Again” to the Sony PSPs “The Hermuda Triangle”. Continuing on the bonus is that Phantom Brave works just as well full screen in the dock attached to a TV as it does comfortably in the palm of your hand. Adding another layer physically (which I’ll be honest that I did order a copy to showcase my support as always to NIS / NISA), there’s an artbook and OST alongside a collector’s box.
So overall, even if the quality of the sprites have not been updated to be as clear and crisp as the rest of the world and the interface, Phantom Brave alone is a worthwhile reason to pick up this package especially if you’ve never sat down to it. With a well written story and a great combat system that has a variety of quirks to master, there’s more than enough strategy here alone before getting into the second half of the package Soul Nomad & the World Eaters.Score: 8 / 10