La Pucelle Tactics - Staff Retroview  

The Maiden of Light
by Derek 'Roku' Cavin

25-60 Hours


Rating definitions 

   Evil creatures are beginning to appear across the land. La Pucelle, a church organization created to assist the Maiden of Light and fight against evil, is sent to combat the rising darkness. La Pucelle Tactics is, as the name suggests, a tactical RPG. Though it came to North American shores after Disgaea, it is actually Disgaea's predecessor, though the most noticeable difference is in the battle system.

   La Pucelle's battle system is pretty standard for a tactical RPG, but it does feature a few ups and downs as well. The largest downside is the incredibly simple AI which rarely challenges the player to use any tactics whatsoever. Luckily, the game does a lot to help make up for this large flaw: it offers a lot of character customization and also includes a dark portal system to liven up combat. Since characters can equip multiple items of a type at once, it's easy to adjust a character so they have a massive attack power, become a tank, turn into a mage with a full arsenal of spells, or fit somewhere in between. Additionally, each character gains permanent bonus statistics and skills depending on the equipment they use. By combining these two aspects, it's possible to create a party that can handle any situation easily. Dark portals are tiles where new enemies spawn if they aren't purified quickly enough. Each dark portal also has a specific element and flows in a certain direction. By altering the flow and purifying them strategically, it is possible to do excess damage to enemies or even heal allies. If a large enough circle of dark energy is created and purified, it is even possible to create extra bonus damage/healing called miracles. These help make up for poor AI.

   While bad AI generally means easy difficulty, this isn't exactly the case in La Pucelle. While it is true for the most part, there are still a few times where a ridiculously overleveled enemy is thrown at the party. While they aren't very smart, they can still defeat the party with ease if mistakes are made. Of course, there are also ways to get around these tyrants should the player not feel particularly adventurous and want to progress the story.

Miracle time? Miracle time?

   The storyline itself isn't bad at all. In fact, it's more developed than Disgaea's. There are plenty of characters that are reasonably developed and many minor storylines that mesh well with the central one. There are some chapters that seem to be focused more on adding extra battles rather than story, but they are few in number.

   The one good thing the localization has to offer is that the story's dialogue has few grammatical errors. It does, however, have many problems due to censoring. While censoring the dialogue is one thing, many of the other changes that have been made are so ridiculous that they are very easy to spot. For example, there is one character who appears to smoke, but the cigarettes have been removes from his sprite. While this alone wouldn't be bad, he still makes all of the hand gestures associated with someone who is smoking. Needless to say, this looks very odd and out of place. Luckily, the menus and controls are designed well enough to avoid problems, but aren't anything special.

   As far as originality goes, La Pucelle is somewhere in the middle. It has come a long way from its predecessors such as Rhapsody, but it's still fairly standard for a tactical RPG with a few exceptions. The dark portal system is the largest of these and is very original. Also notable is the way equipment can be leveled up and combined. Lesser additions include bizarre enemies, new status effects, the dark world, and the way equipment affects statistic and skill growth.

Can't resist the power of lightning Can't resist the power of lightning

   Those looking for a long tactical RPG may find themselves a bit disappointed. While there are plenty of crazy time consuming sidequests to do, the central game isn't particularly long. While it will vary depending on how the overleveled super enemies are dealt with, it's possible to finish the game within about twenty-five hours. Even with all of the extras taken into account, the clock probably won't exceed sixty hours.

   Despite the fact that the main game is short, some of the music can still get a little stale by the end due to lack of variety. This is a shame because several of the tracks are rather good, just not very diverse. The sound effects, on the other hand, are much better. The main characters and most of the bizarre monsters have several different sound clips that keep things fairly fresh. They are generally of good quality too.

   While the visuals may not be quite as good as the sound quality, they're not bad either. While it may not have incredibly impressive 3D effects like many of the latest graphical tyrants, the sprite artwork is still pretty solid and there are plenty of frames of animation. The visuals work well together and are pretty nice overall.

   La Pucelle Tactics is fairly average in most areas aside from localization, but it's still pretty fun to play and has an interesting sense of humor. Disgaea fans should note that the story is more developed, but the battle system is less refined. As it is Disgaea's predecessor, many of the other systems aren't nearly as evolved either. It's certainly not a bad game, but there are others in the genre that are better.

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