Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: Soul Nomad & the World Eaters 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: 9 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 also concentrating on a title that is bringing a rather niche title back from almost obscurity with certain gameplay elements that I would like to see again within a NIS strategy RPG. This is Soul Nomad & the World Eaters.
Unlike its counterpart Phantom Brave, until now Soul Nomad & the World Eaters had never seen another release outside of Sony’s Playstation 2. There was no PSP or PSVita port and unlike the Disgaea series which continued onto the PS3, PS4 and Nintendo Switch, this crazy adventure had remained hidden in the shadows. Back again for another appearance though, this more hardcore strategy RPG while worth it may end up punching your ticket more than a few times.
Now, getting the biggest issue out of the way first, like Phantom Brave there’s been no graphical upgrade done to the experience. Unlike Phantom Brave that eventually saw widescreen support, Soul Nomad has remained in its original 4:3 format with the ability to stretch it out if you did back in the day find yourselves with one of the first wide screen television sets. In a way though, not having been stretched out in a way did do a bit of a service for the quality of the sprites but I would have liked to have anything to the left and the right of the screen instead of just blank television screen. Ah kids have it so well these days in a world of wide and ultrawide resolutions!
What had me excited for this dual pack is that I’ve never actually got to truly play Soul Nomad & the World Eaters when it was released. Instead, I was doubly cursed with both a PS2 in which had been used to the point of the optical drive dying as well as my first TV that I bought on a payment plan die on me one night while playing Growlanser: Heritage of War that has been released a week prior. Eventually getting a PS3 to replace the dead system, for some reason Soul Nomad remained something unplayed until the last several weeks and I had to wonder a few things. Why had NIS never revisited some of the elements showcased and does it have too high of an entry fee for those not prepared for the realm of SRPGs.
Taking an approach only seen here by NIS, Soul Nomad & the World Eaters stars a nameless protagonist that gets the “honor” of becoming a vessel for a crazy and crazy powerful god-like figure known as Gig. In English voiced by Yuri Lowenthal who really sells just how vicious Gig can be verbally, your protag will soon find out just how vicious Gigs powers are capital IF you decide to use them. Playing the choice game, you can decide whether or not to use godly powers or go about it the good old fashioned way. By grinding experience points.
Where Soul Nomad differs from the other SRPG titles that NIS / NISA have done over the years is that there’s no actual easy way to grind experience and level up your units. Instead, the story follows a path and unless you look into a specific side feature that’s mentioned and then never really mentioned again, you’ll spend plenty of time polishing off just how badass you can be with limited forces until a boss stomps you flat in a totally unfair manner. Really annoying and awful especially if you’ve been at it a few times.
Taking it from the top though, once our nameless protag takes on a sword and becomes a vessel for Gig, the journey to put down Gig’s World Eaters begins. In a way because I really played Compile Heart and Idea Factory International’s Trillion: God of Destruction first, I found some similarities in going up against a foe of immeasurable power knowing that you could easily die in the process. I guess it’s also the same concept as Z.H.P. but that’s another story entirely. To take on these world eaters though, you’re going to need to level up and to build an army from next to nothing and manage your bank account all the while as nothing is free in this world and that includes summoning your troops onto the field.
This in a lot of ways is where I was getting a bit disconnected with Soul Nomad as in order to survive battles, you’re going to need to build up a variety of teams to be summoned to the field. In order to summon teams to the field, you’re going to need money. But you also need money to buy the units to bring them into the field and it goes without saying that level 1 units are fairly useless even two chapters into most SRPGs so what the hell are you supposed to do short of stacking your main force and hope for the best? That’s where a previously mentioned and not really explored upon feature comes into play, Room Inspection.
Taking a few pages out of Intelligent Systems’ Fire Emblem where you can partner up your units for more oomph, Soul Nomad works with this concept by immediately putting units into what are known as rooms with a front, middle, and back row. Random in how the room will be composed as you could have one front spot, nothing in the middle and three back row openings, there will be some mixing, matching, and hoping that a room will give you enough of these slots in order to actually make something worthwhile once summoned to the field as this process is anything but cheap.
So by inspecting rooms, you can go into a series of fights that allow you to level up your current troops much past anything that the main story could allow you to do and also do it for free. While inspecting rooms, any and all squads summoned to the field are free allowing you to finally really let loose and grind monsters for all of the glorious experience points as well as cash, loads of cash, which in turn, will let you finally survive some of those battles “in the real world” as you’ll have both the experience and the bank rolling to pull it off.
The system once you get the hang of it, and like a lot of NIS titles know how to abuse it to make it work in your favor, works but the cost of entry is so damned high especially if you simply read the “hey you can inspect a room” but then never actually looked into it. The other page that is taken out of Fire Emblem is more in the battle in which you get to see whoever is on the right battle whoever is on the left in either a short or long form animation. Archers and mages will shoot arrows and fire spells differently depending on their position while front line warriors will have different approaches whether in the front or the middle lines. There’s a LOT of experimenting to do such as a healer will heal one unit very well while deployed on the middle line but they will also to a reduced capacity heal the entire team if stationed on the back row.
From that standpoint, Soul Nomad is amazing to get to understand as it’s not just a game of numbers at this point where you can say to yourself, I’ve got level 10 knights in front with my protag and a level 8 mage in the back with a level 9 healer. It’s an actual game of strategy. You need to worry about how the enemy is composed as just a few mages throwing full column fire spells will easily knock your front line forces out before you’ve even had the chance to heal whoever is hopefully left over.
Only adding in another stress to this whole process is that if a unit designated as the leader is taken out, the whole squad perishes. This makes moves that target leaders so brutally nasty when used against you, but absolutely amazing to hold onto if you do that that ace up your sleeve. It also creates stress especially if the battle has been dragging on as you really have to ask yourself is it worth putting your main unit up? Or do you potentially sacrifice another just to deprive the last unit standing of potentially taking you out in one go?
And it’s this level of combat tactics that make Soul Nomad so enticing to lovers of the genre, especially the ones who are constantly seeking tougher challenges. So Catch-22, Souls Nomad’s difficulty by this very aspect could also alienate newcomers due to how tough it is, but again, packages with Phantom Brave while also a tougher title in a lot of ways, has a lower barrier of entry to introduce new players to the crazy phase that NIS had with these two titles and Makai Kingdom.
So while Soul Nomad & the World Eaters hasn’t been upgraded from it’s PS2 version and is a direct port over to the Nintendo Switch, it’s an SRPG that I had wished had sat down years ago. As a whole package alongside Phantom Brave though, I wish that the graphics had been polished up in order to better suit the newer platforms. Both are incredible titles offering countless hours of strategy and combat and I look forward to what we can come to expect with Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2.
Fingers crossed for a combination of Makai Kingdom and La Pucelle.Score for Soul Nomad: 7.5 / 10
Score of Phantom Brave: Score: 8 / 10
Total score of Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: 7.75 / 10