Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 Review: Two-in-One Fun
The PlayStation 2 era was an incredibly magical time for Nippon Ichi Software, if you ask me. While it was responsible for the birth of NIS’ flagship series—Disgaea—some people forget that Laharl wasn’t the only zany character embarking on a journey at that time. In reality, NIS was pushing out plenty of unique, weird, and wonderful RPGs with seemingly no end in sight. And, while that golden age may be behind us, it’s anything but forgotten—especially thanks to the release of Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered / Soul Nomad & the World Eaters (which I will absolutely be short-handing from here on out).
As the name suggests, Prinny Presents Vol. 1 is a two-in-one game featuring two previously released NIS PS2 titles; Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered (a PSP remake) and Soul Nomad & The World Eaters. If you’ve been sticking with NIS for a while, I’m sure that I don’t need to say anything else. However, if you’re new to the scene, don’t let the fact that these games are a bit on the older side put you off, as these two games are just as fun now as they were when they first appeared on the scene.
When it comes to JRPGs, the NIS of today tends to lean heavily on narratives and never skimps out on ensuring that players can enjoy a lengthy, dialogue-rich story—and you can bet that they were like that during the early-mid 2000s, too! Both titles within Prinny Presents Vol. 1 are incredibly entrenched in unique and deep narratives, with each having a unique flavor of its own. Phantom Brave tells the story of the young Marona who, after the untimely death of her parents, travels the world with her Phantom companion Ash to make a living and spread happiness—all while putting up with the constant stigmatization cast upon her by others due to her unique powers. Soul Nomad, on the other hand, tells the story of a youth named Revya who, upon hitting adulthood, is bestowed a magical sword which, upon touching it, immediately fuses their soul to that of a 200+-year-old terror named Gig, and must make use of Gig’s powers to save the world without becoming consumed his malice.
Both Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad have phenomenal stories and extremely well-developed characters, and I believe that they will be able to withstand the test of time for many more years to come. I would like to take a moment, however, to focus on Soul Nomad specifically. While I had played through Phantom Brave before, this review was actually my first experience with Revya and Gig; and, boy, was I not ready for its story to hit me as hard as it did.
While this might sound silly given the fact that the game is a decade and a half old at this point, Soul Nomad‘s story might just end up being my favorite video game story of 2021. While it wasn’t without its trademark NIS-brand humor, the twists and turns that this game took—combined with the lovingly crafted depth given to most of its character—had me reeling by the time that I reached the end. And that was just with the Normal Route—this game also features an alternate storyline where you succumb to Gig at the very beginning and… well, let’s just say that you had best be able to stomach one of the most tragic stories in NIS history. It’s genuinely incredible how well-written Soul Nomad was in particular, and it’s not a story that I’ll forget for some time.
Off the Grid, On the Grid
Despite both games being tactical RPGs, the two titles within Prinny Presents Vol. 1 still manage to stand out fairly well from one another. Phantom Brave essentially sets itself up as a slightly altered Disgaea game in terms of mechanics. For the most part, everything that you’d see in Disgaea is in this game—including things like combat, units, and so on. There is, however, one significant difference—the existence of co-protagonist Marona. Rather than just summoning units from a panel a la Disgaea, units are instead brought to the field via Marona’s special “Confine” ability which transforms objects (rocks, trees, swords, etc.) into ally Phantoms for a limited number of turns. Confined Allies also have modified stats, depending on what object was used during their summoning, giving a fun, extra layer of strategy for players to mess around with.
Phantom Brave‘s levels are also somewhat unique. For starters, tile-based movement doesn’t exist in this game. At first, this can get kind of annoying (especially if you don’t know how far your attacks can reach), but it does get easier to handle over time. Levels also have degrees of bounciness and slipperiness, which, on top of affecting movement, can even cause you to accidentally (or purposefully!) KO yourself or a teammate by walking and/or throwing someone out of bounds. But, hey, at least it applies to enemies!
While Phantom Brave has plenty of parallels to Disgaea, Soul Nomad is a beast all of its own. Its approach to tactics-based combat could best be described as a mixture between La Pucelle Tactics, Fire Emblem, and Advance Wars due to its more traditionally designed maps that you’ll be fighting on (and I mean that in a literal sense) and emphasis on units over individual characters.
While players are able to design characters much in the same way as they can in other NIS titles, players will also need to set them up into squads—known as “Rooms” in Soul Nomad. Rooms are made up of front, mid, and rear lines, with each unit performing differently depending on its positioning. Furthermore, each Room also has a leader. Acting as a chosen representative of their Room, leaders will have access to natural stat bonuses and unique on-field abilities. However, if a leader dies, the entire squad is instantly wiped out. Much like parts of Phantom Brave, Rooms are a little complicated at first. However, once you get the hang of them, they’re a lot of fun to experiment with.
Long Live the NIS Classics!
Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered / Soul Nomad & the World Eaters may only be the first in the Prinny Presents series, but it’s already off to a phenomenal start. Whether you played these titles when they first came out or are heading into them for the very first time, this two-in-one bundle is something that you won’t want to skip out on if you’re even remotely interested in SRPGs.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5
Available on: Switch (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Codeglue; Players: 1; Released: August 31, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP: $39.99
Full disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher.