Prier, the 16-year-old heroine of La Pucelle Tactics is sort of like Sailor Moon. Only she's in medieval Europe. And she's an exorcist. And her companions include a lobster whom is also a Captain of some sort. Okay, to be entirely fair, La Pucelle Tactics isn't anything at all like Sailor Moon. But it's not exactly like anything else, either. Which is exactly what we've come to expect from Nippon Ichi, the Japanese developer behind such quirky titles as Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure and last year's Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. Disgaea was so well received by gaming critics and RPG enthusiasts alike that it has prompted newly formed developer Mastiff to bring La Pucelle to North America, despite having been developed and released before Disgaea in Japan.
La Pucelle Tactics plays similar to Disgaea in a number of ways, including the strong combo attack systems, uber-leveling possibilities and speedy tactical gameplay that Disgaea became known for. La Pucelle Tactics is not without it's own variations on the tactical-RPG formula, however. Items, weapons, and equipment can all level-up in the field along with your character, making you choose your arms based not only what they are, but also on what they have the ability to grow into. This system is further layered by the inclusion of elemental attributes and "unclean points" similar to the Geo Panels in Disgaea, giving you a wide multitude of options for pounding your foes into submission. The "unclean points" must be cleansed by luring an unsuspecting monster onto them, then soundly defeating it. Doing so can trigger chain reactions of damage, activate combination attacks or even convince enemy units to join your cause. Suffice it to say fans of Disgaea's deep tactical system will not be disappointed.
Fans of Disgaea will remember how the game extended replay nearly infinitely by including item dungeons that could be accessed inside of the items carried by your party. Nippon Ichi has a solution for gamers looking for that same replay value: they can go to Hell. Literally. When certain conditions are fulfilled, the gates to Hell will appear, allowing your party to venture into the depths of fire and brimstone for great items, intense battles, and enemies as difficult as any self-respecting uber-leveling masochist could want. Players will be allowed to choose the difficulty of their trek through Hell at the outset, ranging from relatively simple encounters to dungeons filled with level 700 monsters ready to rip an under-leveled party into so much shredded beef. It perhaps goes without saying that finishing Hell at the highest difficult levels will result in great bonus items and experience for your party, and they may even re-christen Prier "Great Demon King" out of respect.
As for La Pucelle Tactics's storyline, not much has been revealed by Mastiff yet beyond the basics. It focuses on Prier (French for "prayer"), a 16-year-old girl who has just completed her training as an exorcist. Working together with teammates like Captain Homard and Eclair, they are the titular La Pucelle Tactics; a demon hunting squad. The name La Pucelle Tactics itself most directly references Jean La Pucelle, the French name for Joan of Arc. That may sound like an odd choice, until you realize that the game is set in an alternate version of Medieval Europe, allowing for all the persecution and Inquisitions of historical Europe blended with all the monsters, demons, and other hell-beasts the church was sure existed! Very little else is known, but Nippon Ichi promises La Pucelle Tactics will be a "heartrending story," deeper than that of Disgaea, that is "sometimes cute and light, sometimes dark but always intense."
The question on everyone's mind coming into La Pucelle Tactics will undoubtedly be, "Can it compare with Disgaea?" While we won't know for sure until La Pucelle Tactics ships on May 4th, it certainly has the power to be a contender against its younger sibling. If we're lucky, Mastiff won't be uttering any cries of Brando-esque regret.