Overview – developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America, Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 is a two-in-one pack of classic tactical RPG titles from the NIS library. This two-in-one package features Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters, with enhanced visuals and all content released included. This release is exclusive to the Nintendo Switch, a link to the title will be at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for providing the copy of Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 that was used for this piece. The provision of this software has not influenced the contents of this review, all thoughts and opinions contained within are my own.
Now with the introductions out of the way, let’s get into the review. I will be approaching this piece in a different way as it is a double pack, I will be taking about the main gameplay elements of each title in the pack before talking about the other aspects of the games as a whole.
Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered
Story – Marona, a 13 year old girl who lives on the Phantom Isle in the oceanic world of Ivoire, with her companion Ash, a phantom who previously died in a battle with a great evil alongside Marona’s parents. Marona is a Chroma, a bounty hunter who is hired by others to fight the evils of the world, going on adventures to buy her home. However, she is seen as a monster who has the name of The Possessed and is shunned by many, believing that her powers are evil.
Gameplay – Phantom Brave is a tactical RPG that utilizes the same isometric view as many other titles from Nippon Ichi Software, but it has many differences that allow it to stand out on its own merits. The story progresses through different islands, with each key story event featuring a cutscene that helps to push the narrative forward taking place over the various locations.
I will be covering the basic features of the game, as to not spoil any of the surprises that players will experience. Here are some unique mechanics of Phantom Brave;
- Marona – the protagonist of Phantom Brave and the leader of the party. She is a young girl who can see and speak to spirits called Phantoms with her powers as a Chroma. With her powers, Marona can summon Phantoms to assist her in battles with enemies, bringing them to life for a limited time using the power of Confine.
- Confine – the power that brings Phantoms to life during battle, Confine allows units to be summoned using items and objects on the battlefield, including trees, plants and even weapons. Phantoms summoned to the battlefield will disappear after a set number of turns, with a chance of taking the item they are confined to back to the home base. Different items offer positive and negative bonuses, so experimentation and investigation is important to success in battle.
- Free Movement – this release features a gridless system, where units can move freely around the map up to their movement limit. Terrain for maps has its own unique characteristics, including slipping, bouncing and dragging when moving across the battlefield.
- O.B! – O.B. means out of bounds, a mechanic unique to this title where there is no barrier around the edges of the map. Enemies, player units and objects can be knocked/thrown off the edge of a map, eliminating them immediately but enemies are strengthened by this.
Combat in this game functions in a very similar manner to other tactical RPG titles, with battles following a traditional turn based system where each unit/character takes their own individual turn. The turn order is determined by the speed of each unit, with the higher the speed granting priority. Attacks and skills used in battle have their own attributes, ranges and SP costs to use them, with different equipment providing access to different skills.
As Phantoms are leveled up by participating in battle, they gain more SP points that can be used to activate their skills, so it can be wise to replay earlier stages and focus on specific characters. This may be a little tedious to some, however it does provide the best possible solution if players are struggling to plan out how to use each phantom they have effectively.
Outside of battle, the player can access the home base called The Phantom Isle, where Marona can access merchants, a healer and create new phantoms that can be deployed in battle. While on the Phantom Isle, items can be equipped to units, characters/gear can be upgraded using Mana earned in battle, unlocking new skills and powers. There are many more secrets that the Phantom Isle holds that players can discover.
Soul Nomad & the World Eaters
Story – 200 years ago, a great evil known as the Shadow and their giant monsters called the World Eaters terrorized the continent of Prodesto. After a long battle, the shadow is defeated and the World Eaters fall silent. Now, A young hero has arisen to destroy the World Eaters for good, setting out with their friend, they must face impossible odds to save the world and their home.
Gameplay – much like Phantom Brave, Soul Nomad is a turn based tactical RPG that uses the same style of isometric view point as its companion in this pack. However, much like the previously discussed title, the similarities are at the most basic level, as this game functions in a manner akin to that of Advance Wars or Langrisser (a review of Langrisser I&II will be published in September) where squads of character units battle it out for supremacy.
Unlike Phantom Brave, this title features branching paths that can drastically alter the course of the narrative, giving players options that may lead to disaster if not careful. This approach to storytelling and progression adds flexibility to the way that the title can be experienced, giving players new options to explore with each playthrough.
The battles in this game follow the same traditional turn based battle RPG titles from NIS, but there is a difference to the way that encounters play out. Each battle has its own conditions that determine how the combat plays out, with simple objectives like defeating the enemies on the field to surviving a specific number of turns in some situations. These win conditions increase .
Here is an explanation of the some of the other features unique to Soul Nomad &the World Eaters;
- World Map – Soul Nomad features a flat world map that players can travel across by using routes that are laid out in front of them. However, previous battle locations cannot be returned to once they have been cleared, so be sure to get the most out each encounter to fully maximize potential rewards.
- Squad Based Battle – combat in this title uses a squad based system, where a unit leader is present on the field during movement and non-combat actions. The unit leader is the most important part of the squad, as they can use special skills to support others and themselves. But if the leader is defeated in battle the squad retreats. The position of each squad member also affects the attacks, skills and efficiency of that unit, so experimentation is encouraged.
- Gig Edict – the Gig Edict is a set of items that can be used in and out of combat situations. The items include traditional healing, power-ups and support effects. However, what makes the Gig Edict unique in Soul Nomad is the chaotic effects that can occur outside of combat, including stealing from and starting fights with NPC characters. These items can be obtained as rewards, by speaking to NPC characters and purchased from vendors using GP (Gig Points which are earned in various ways).
- Arrange – enter an alternate dimension where “Rooms” can be created at random for squads to be housed (more info below), new character units can be created and items can be bought from merchants. When starting out, there are limited resources available, but more can be accessed as the story progresses. Also note that while you do level up in combat like traditional RPG titles, you can use resources to level up while creating characters, boosting them from the start.
- Rooms – these are the squad spaces where character units are assigned to be used in battle, with the maximum number of assignable units increasing over time. The rooms are chosen at random from an increasing pool of variants, with each of them having unique effects applied to them and slots that can be used for item effects. A limited number of rooms can also be locked, allowing a player to save specific squads, as refreshing for new rooms will delete the unsecured squads.
- Summoning – during battles, the player has only their hero’s squad on the field. In order to increase the units on the field, additional squads can be summoned from the hero, but they have to fit the squad layout as determined by the room. What separates this mechanic from other titles in the Nippon Ichi catalogue is the use of GP to summon squads, with different costs for each that adds to the strategic complexity of battle.
When combat encounters are concluded, rewards are provided depending on the performace during battles, with bonuses for each enemy defeated and penalties for casualties on the battlefield. The results from combat is a risky incentive to try different approaches to each encounter, with experimentation leading to the potential to earn great riches or disaster so care should be taken.
Like Phantom Brave, there are many secrets to uncover in Soul Nomad and I have just scratched the surface in this coverage as I feel it would be a major spoiler for those who want to experience these games first hand. Now with the gameplay covered, I will be moving onto the other aspects of this package, starting with the difficulty.
Difficulty – both titles in this combo pack have balanced difficulty curves, gradually increasing in difficulty as the stories of each title progress. At the start of each game, there are in depth tutorials that teach the play the mechanics used, providing a fantastic starting point for those starting these titles for the first time. There are no difficulty options available, but the challenge can be eased by grinding battles, leveling up units and farming resources.
Controls – the controls for these games work very well for the most part, but I do have a slight issue with the movement in the Phantom Brave release. When moving the characters in the Phantom Isle, or trying to select specific units on the battlefield there seems to be a little issue with the controller deadzone, causing some inconsistencies with movement. That issue aside, the controller layouts and button prompts are laid out well for handheld/docked play, being comfortable when using any controller.
Presentation – visually these titles have the trademark style that makes Nippon Ichi games look unique, with anime styled art, vibrant sprite work and fantastical worlds to explore. Phantom Brave uses a rendered layout for maps and environments, using 3D models for the terrain/buildings and sprites for the characters. Whereas in Soul Nomad, the world map, battle terrain and towns all use a flat 2D design, giving an old school table top feel and only using 3D models for combat and cutscenes with sprite work for characters.
The animations and cutscenes have a nice fluidity to them for the majority of the experience in both titles. However, the frame rate can suffer while playing Soul Nomad when there are many visual effects occurring at once, which is likely due to this being a port of a PlayStation 2 title possibly running under emulation. The overall performance of the game from a visual standpoint is very good, running with no significant issues on the Nintendo Switch system.
The sound for this pack is fantastic, with both games having their own distinctive feel to them while still having that unique Nippon Ichi sound. Phantom Brave has an upbeat and tropical/Mediterranean motif to its key music tracks, which is a stark contrast to the darker tone that Soul Nomad employs with few bright melodies scattered through the soundtrack. This combo pack also offers an English voice track, featuring vocal talent from various anime releases and other video games, alongside the original Japanese voices.
Final Thoughts – playing these games was a first for me, since I had not been able to experience either Phantom Brave or Soul Nomad when they first released. Not knowing what to expect when it came to either title, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the diversity in gameplay, story and overall presentation. The visual style and soundtrack of each title perfectly compliment their respective game, providing an enjoyable experience from the start.
The amount of content on offer in this package more than justifies the asking price, with over 60 hours of gameplay between both games (listed on the official store page), additional bonus content in Phantom Brave and diverging paths/endings of Soul Nomad. I can more than happily recommend this combo pack to fans of strategy RPG titles, the Disgaea series and Nippon Ichi titles in general. There are no significant downsides to the games in this pack, with only occasional slowdown in Soul Nomad and minor deadzone flaws of Phantom Brave.
In the end, I give Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1: Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered and Soul Nomad & the World Eaters a final score of 4.5/5. The titles included in this package have the quality of gameplay, depth, fun and charm that Nippon Ichi Software is known for. This combo pack is a fantastic way for strategy RPG fans to discover two fantastic games that they may not have seen before. If you want to check this release out for yourself, a link will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)