There is nothing like the classics. NIS America have made a name for themselves, creating a following who are always hungry for the next best import from the company. While there is certainly a history of acclaim, NIS have a few titles that most have yet to have the opportunity to experience, but are looking to change that with some fresh re-releases. Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 brings us two past titles that hardcore fans are sure to enjoy on modern platforms. Does this new package age well, or is this duo ready for an early retirement? Let’s find out.
Phantom Brave is the first title to speak of, as this version features a little girl by the name of Marona as the main protagonist. Having lost her parents years prior, she has the ability to see phantoms. Needing to gather funds, she sets out on a journey alongside Ash, a phantom who was with her parents during their time of demise. To tackle her low funds, she begins accepting quests – with the main narrative taking place as she sets out to also save the world and learn more about her mysterious past. It’s a fascinating tale that is told well, with progression setting up an engrossing tale that has made the game the cult classic it is today.
Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is a bit similar, but still very different from the other title in this two-piece collection. Players take control of a silent hero who is given a sword containing a God by the name of Gig, who fuses with your body, providing you with a ton of power. The twist is that Gig can eventually consume you if over-utilized, so it is up to you to find balance by building a mass army to do most of the fighting, while trying to save your soul and defeat the World Eaters at the same time. The story here is a bit cheeky, but one that is easy enough to follow and enjoy due to the great dynamic between you, Gig, and Danette, a spunky young lass who basically acts as the moral compass of the game – ensuring you do not overuse Gig’s abilities and become consumed. Both games are strong with their own narratives, so those looking for two great stories will be happy to know that will be the strongest elements to hold up the set provided here.
Both of these titles in a sense are strategy RPGs, but each have very different styles of gameplay that set them apart. Phantom Brave is far more traditional. This title has battle sequences play out on an isometric, top-down field full of fauna and hazards, where players can summon phantoms to bind to these objects to increase stats and provide other perks. It is all about alignment. The proper set-up can lead to a quick battle, but the thick strategy involved will have you assorting your tactics to get from point A to point B through a lot of preparation by understanding the mechanics involved. There is a bit of tedium tied into this as some battles took way too long to play out as moving phantoms around is an overly lengthy process. The game has a rich sense of satisfaction for victory despite its shortcomings, as the gameplay is far more accessible to newcomers than the other title within this compilation.
Soul Nomad is rough. Not rough in a bad way, but more-so that it can be confusing to understand how to play due to cumbersome menus and a heavy depth overlying just about everything. Instead of getting that gratification of understanding the learning curve of the game, I found myself more frustrated early on trying to assort squads properly. As mentioned, this title revolves around armies, and each character has their own squad to take to the battlefield. While most grid-structured strategy RPGs focus on movement and placement (as this one does), Soul Nomad adds in extra depth with never-ending customization of these squads – which are all within their own universe at sorts. Yeah, it is confusing, but after some hours most should be able to get down the basics as there is a lot of attention provided for all of the mechanics involved.
Phantom Brave may not have the strongest story of the lot, but it is hands down the more enjoyable and timeless of the two as it is just so accessible in comparison. I can see a lot of tenured vets of the genre still getting enjoyment with Soul Nomad, but I think it hasn’t aged well enough to really earn the spot on this re-release. Most remakes or re-releases are great because they are able to revamp and update battle systems to incorporate newer mechanics that streamline gameplay – basically ironing out past kinks. Soul Nomad is updated slightly from a visual standpoint, but as I was playing it, I kept thinking of ways this type of game could be updated to be more accessible. In my personal opinion if I, as the player, am more focused on poorly aged mechanics rather than enjoying the gameplay – it tells me that this title is mainly for those who enjoyed it prior, and that newcomers may not be able to stick round long enough before they see the massive amount of potential it ultimately has.
This isn’t really a remaster of either game, but the graphics have been formatted to look more attractive on modern systems. The dialogue boxes (particularly within Phantom Brave) seem stretched and off, while both games have a bit of a blur to the character models and other terrain that is quite noticeable throughout each experience. That said, everything is still tolerable overall – and I didn’t focus on the imperfections as either game rolled onward.
The voice acting for NIS America has come a long way since either title released years before this release. That is a good thing, but these two games could certainly have benefitted with newer voice tracks, as the acting is a bit hammy and rough – yet still good enough for someone to still easily understand either narrative. While I did prefer Soul Nomad’s soundtrack, both are quite fantastic, and appear to play in their original format, which will certainly click on some nostalgia for older fans.
Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 is a tale of two decent strategy RPGs that are definitely worth revisiting if you want to understand the rich history within NIS America’s vast library. Sure, there are more refined products out there, but there is something truly special about each one of these titles, and I think fans will be happy to pack these on a current platform as they will find a lot of playtime with in-depth mechanics that (love them or hate them) brought some out-of-the-box execution to a genre that doesn’t get the attention it once received decades ago. Even if it’s just to understand latter cameos within Disgaea’s universe, this twosome is sure to be an interesting second look for fans who simply want more from their favorite publisher.