Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol 3: La Pucelle: Ragnarok by developer Nippon Ichi Software and publisher NIS America Inc.—PC (Steam) review written by Pierre-Yves with a copy provided by the publisher.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
Having originally released for the PS2, La Pucelle Tactics would remain one of my favorite SRPGs within Nippon Ichi Software’s universe for a long time to come. Having eventually released an upgraded version titled La Pucelle: Ragnarok for the PSP, it was sadly never released outside of Japan until now through the Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol 3 collection.
Note: Please be aware that this review contains some spoilers either in the text or in the screenshots taken during gameplay.
Before the Netherworld(s) of Disgaea with the insanity of becoming an Overlord, overthrowing an Overlord, being a delinquent or taking out a Corrupternment dood, we had a follow-up of sorts to Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. Getting started at the beginning of this adventure, La Pucelle is a branch of the Church of the Holy Maiden that trains Demon Hunters on the downlow and keeps the regular population safe from the supernatural. Having recently graduated, our protagonists Prier and her brother Culotte under the wing of Sister Alouette start off with a hunt for zombies in a nearby sewer though things may not exactly be what they seem.
Set in the same world of the Marl Kingdom, La Pucelle instead of following along the themes of love and friendship instead went towards some darker humor tones that lends itself well to the world of the more supernatural. This naming convention however is honestly still one of the best especially for a French person as while half of the names have a religious base like Prier (Prayer), Croix (Cross), you have others that are food based like Father Salad, Eclair and Captain Homard (Lobster) of the Escargot (Snail). Hilarious naming conventions aside, La Pucelle is still a solid SRPG adventure that will often challenge you.
Still remaining fairly unique in its approach even this many years later, La Pucelle has a style of its own that I do wish NIS / NISA would revisit at some point. Starting off with town-like explorations not unlike Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, once you leave town and head towards the dungeons things get interesting. Doing away with the JRPG exploration, La Pucelle’s dungeons are all maps that can be challenged, or run through, on your way to find whatever it is that you are looking for. An item? A boss? A cure for someone? Each of these can be hidden within the maze-like structure that will be set before you.
Now the reason I use the term maze-like, is that each map acts as a stage that NIS / NISA have used ever since with the Makai universe (Disgaea 1-7, Makai Kingdom, Phantom Brave, etc.,). Unlike the rest of the titles that have come after however, these maps can have multiple passages forward. Only adding to this is that you often don’t actually have to complete a stage in order to move forwards. If you have a character reach an exit point, you can simply move on without having to complete the current objective which is normally to defeat all enemies. For those that want to move fast, this is an option, however, if you don’t complete the stage, you’ll have to keep up this process every single time you want to move through.
If you do go ahead and complete the objectives, the map will be deemed cleared and you can simply move through the nodes in the dungeon menu map. The main reason you would want to do this would be to make it easier on yourself especially if you’re planning on not getting a “bad” chapter ending, more on that later. The second reason is that until you move back to the world map, your characters won’t replenish their Skill Points making certain combats a bit tougher if you can’t use ranged abilities, magic, or heal up when things start to get a bit dicey. The final reason that you would want to do this is that some dungeons have dead ends forcing you to have to double back through the last zone to find another way forwards.
Outside of the ease of dungeon exploration, the other reason that you would want to make sure to clear a whole dungeon would be for the more obvious element of an SRPG. Experience grinding. La Pucelle does not hold its punches and if you don’t use EVERYTHING in front of you at times and perhaps level up a little bit? You’ll lose. Starting off with a few human characters, Prier, Culotte and Alouette, you’ll either need to seriously grind exp, or, recruit monsters over to your side. Unlike a lot of other entries, monsters in La Pucelle are just as useful as human characters being able to equip all weapons and be upgraded in a similar fashion.
Moving into “twist #1”, all characters can only really improve on their Atk, Def, Hit, Res, “insert” HP, and SP through their equipment in battle. Without any gear? These cannot be leveled up otherwise. Whether physical based weapons, magical based staves to use magic or more defensive gear like shields, glasses and shoes, each of these will contain a stat modifier. Starting low, it doesn’t take very long for better gear to not only provide the ability to upgrade your Atk, but also your Def and / or your Res. Also possible is double Int or Hit. What all of these upgrades do is provide better combat skills to your characters such as the ability to jump higher, attack or defend better, or the ability to purify dark energy from further away.
“Twist #2” is a double header. Before we had to deal with Geo blocks or cubes or squares, there were currents of Dark Energy. These currents of energy start from a select point known as Dark Portals and then move forwards until they hit something. What these currents actually do however is potentially spawn new enemies through the portals if left alone for too long, so while you want to take these out, you’ll want to be creative about them first. Having mentioned that these currents move forwards until they hit something? These currents can be blended together and even turned to face new directions by placing a character on the flow and then turning them to face another direction. The longer the current, the more potential destructive force can be applied and don’t forget to use your enemies to help you out!
Red currents represent fire, green represents wind, and blue ice. Having default RGB colors however, once you start meshing currents together you can get yellow for lightning, turquoise for healing, purple for darkness and a form of gray for holy. To remove these currents from play, you’ll need to purify them with a human character as this is the only real area that monsters differ. Each current has its own hit points and depending on the character doing the purification, it could take one or two characters to pull this off. Once you’ve pulled it off though, get ready as this can change the entire course of battle.
Once a current has been purified, it will start to deal damage to any enemy that happens to be standing in its path. Your own characters do not receive damage but can be healed with the above mentioned turquoise color. What will happen to your characters however is that they can get an extension to their turn if they are in the path. If they had moved? They can move again. If they have attacked, they can attack again. If they did both? They can do both again. There’s no downside to trying to make these currents work for you while on your turn as once the enemy moves, they can disrupt whatever you were trying to do as the current will stop if it’s being faced head on.
Finally in regards to the currents, purifying them is how you’ll be leveling up your gear. New gear is always nice to acquire as you can get better upgrades for your attributes, but in the meantime? Upgrading them will also help you keep your edge against your enemies as the stages become tougher to complete. Furthermore, because it’s only your human characters that can purify, you’ll most likely be finding yourself getting them the newest gear, protagonists for the win, and then giving the previously upgraded gear to your monster friends to keep them more up to date. It works out well enough and there’s no real downsides short of the amount of time it can sometimes take to get it just right for maximum efficiency.
Now with all of the talks of dungeons, maps and stages, there’s still a JRPG quality to La Pucelle which can change the outcome of the story. If for example you were to simply move straight through and defeat a boss, you may get a normal chapter ending but you could also just as easily get a bad chapter ending. There’s often a bit more going on than what you can see and it’s up to you to control your characters to move around town, talk to people and put together bits of information to get a better understanding of the current events.
Furthermore, re-exploring certain stages could lead you to find something that you missed before such as an event square that could lead you to something new, weather information or a quest. Quests have their own rewards and in some cases, you could avoid a good part of a chapter by simply cashing in on a reward and buying what you need instead of having to fight for it. It’s a neat approach and that’s what makes La Pucelle different from the rest of the stage based SPRGs as there are sometimes more than one way to do things whether for good or for bad.
Otherwise, La Pucelle is just as good as I remember, and La Pucelle: Ragnarok with its extras have made it even better. If I had perhaps one “complaint” it would be similar to that of the other Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volumes in that the sprites have not been upgraded to match the rest of the presentation. Otherwise though? That’s it and this remains a solid SRPG experience.
As a final note, for the Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol 3 collection on the PC through Steam, I did notice an issue at times that I want to mention as someone else may encounter it. While my Desktop is pretty shiny in its specs, still being fairly new, my laptop is now getting pretty old and showing its age. While playing on my laptop, everything was smooth, responsive and enjoyable until I plugged it into another display. When plugged into another display, there was a noticeable lag in the graphics and in the animations making the input speeds feel “heavy” to get anything done. If you do encounter this? That would be more aging hardware and system specs, not the actual Volume 3 content which I was happy to find out.
Overall Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol 3: La Pucelle: Ragnarok is still as solid as it’s ever been. With plenty of replayability in getting different chapter endings, the combat and the exploration is only ever made better by the ridiculousness of the humor and the naming conventions of religious items and french foods!Score: 8.25 / 10
As a whole for Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3: La Pucelle: Ragnarok / Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure package, both of these old school Nippon Ichi Software and NIS America Inc. titles are worth it. Whether as a revisit for those that got to experience them at the time, or as a first time adventure for those that didn’t, the package is solid and it’s an easy recommendation alongside the other two volumes.Package score: 8 / 10