Overview – developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America, Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 is another double pack release of classic titles from the NIS vault. This pack features the strategy JRPG Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound (with new content) and the roguelike dungeon crawler Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman. This double pack release is available exclusive for the Nintendo Switch (the games are available individually on Steam), 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 2 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 coverage in the same way I covered the previous entry in the NIS Classics series, discussing the core elements of the two titles (to prevent spoilers) before discussing the overall quality of the package as a whole. If you have not seen my coverage of Volume 1 of the NIS Classics series, you can find that (HERE). Story details have been taken from the official website for this release.
Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound
Story – What happens when the strongest Overlord in the cosmos turns into a book and loses his Netherworld? He raises an army to reclaim his Netherworld and body, of course! Step into the shoes…or rather, the pages of Overlord Zetta and fight to take back what’s yours! Use the INVITE system to build your army, harness a variety of weapons and magic, and experience a new story in Petta Mode for the first time in the West!
Gameplay – this title is a strategy JRPG that shares many similarities with other titles developed by Nippon Ichi Software, such as the isometric view point and turn based battles. Just like other NIS titles, the story is broken up into several chapters, each made up of multiple stages to battle through, with cutscenes playing at preset points to push the story forward.
While the core gameplay has many similarities to games like Disgaea, there are some unique mechanics that allow this game to stand on its own. Here is a breakdown of some of the features of this title;
- Zetta – the overlord Zetta is unable to fight while confined to the form of a sacred tome, instead summoning characters to fight for him from his netherworld through the use of INVITE. The units are created from items that are scattered throughout the Netherworld, including weapons, armor and scenery items, each with their own unique modifiers. Usually 8 units can be deployed, with each defeated unit depleting the deployment pool. The game is over if all units are defeated.
- Point System – the clear condition for each map is to earn enough points to reach a minimum target. Points are collected in a few ways, such as defeating enemies and picking up items. When the minimum score has been met, the player can clear the stage at any time or continue to score as many points as possible, clearing it when all enemies are defeated. Rewards will increase at different point totals.
- Map Extension – during the course of the game, there will be instances where sections of the map will be hidden from the player. The sections that are hidden are called Extensions and will appear by defeating an enemy or item that has an area KEY attached to them, as well as a few other methods that can be discovered during play. Uncovering new map parts may also lead to special random events that can change the outcome of battle drastically.
- Facilities – as the game progresses, the player can unlock facilities, special buildings that can be invited to the battlefield just like character units. However, these special units hold other characters and provide bonuses when used, with an example being that the hospital building will heal units tied to it between turns. Be aware though, that units are only attached to building as long as they are alive, if they are defeated they will be removed until they are reassigned.
- Vehicles – there are special items called vehicles that players can equip to other units, or be deployed to the battle on their own. However, they function differently to other types of equipment in game. When invited to the battlefield, a vehicle will be counted as a unit, adding to the invite limit for that map. The Vehicles also gain experience and take damage, but they can only be improved or repaired by specific units or facilities.
- Kingdom – this is the home base that the player will be in between battles. Here the player can summon characters, items and other features to change the appearance of the Kingdom. While in the base, the player is able to talk to lord Zetta to make wishes, buy equipment from the shop and also heal fallen party members. This is where character creation also occurs, since the player must have an item on the ground to create a unit, Zetta can summon items collected in maps to be used when asked.
The turn based battle system is a mix of Phantom Brave and Disgaea, with elements taken from both games to create a fun yet challenging combat system. The free movement and out of bounds mechanics from Phantom Brave are here, letting players move is a free flowing way with varied map designs. The movement combines well with the free flowing action system, where the player can choose the order they make moves without restriction.
The flashy and rather ridiculous attacks appear in this title also, with the ultimate attacks for characters having over the top animations that play out in battle. The leveling system requires a lot of combat and skills to be used, with different characters gaining experience and progressing differently. This means that there is a need to grind at times, as the difficulty and challenge of battles can escalate very quickly with level differences occurring quickly.
If the player is not prepared before entering battle, there is a chance for a sudden game over and potentially losing a lot of progress. Luckily, progress can be saved while in the home base, preventing significant penalties from defeat. The game is also generous with rewards when repeating previously cleared stages, with HL that is used in the shop and hospital being earned at a rapid pace, if a little time is taken to practice.
A secondary currency, called MANA will be earned at a slow pace, meaning that it will take a while to reach any significant levels. The MANA is used when making wishes with Lord Zetta and when creating characters, with the ability to reincarnate and level up units to make them stronger. Be aware that some wishes may result in the death of a character which makes reincarnation an important feature, as a character that has been sacrificed will be stronger when it is reborn.
The game starts off with little in terms of features or resources, however as the game progresses, more character types and facilities will be available, along with new dungeons and more. There is also a new game plus feature that will be accessible when one of the several endings is obtained. This mechanic will also introduce new special characters and events that can be accessed, increasing the play time and replay value of the package.
The last thing to cover is the special Petta Mode, an alternate mode that will let the player go through a special version of the game as Lord Zetta’s daughter. This game mode features new scenarios and story elements that are distinct from the main game, essentially providing two games within the package. The game will easily last for about 60 hours on a cycle, not taking into account the extra time from the Petta mode scenarios that are available from the start.
Difficulty – the difficulty curve for this title is gradual at the start, but has the potential to escalate due to the random elements that the extension system introduces. Luckily the ability to grind can lessen the sudden difficulty spikes, as certain characters can be leveled both in and out of battle, like the healer who can function in the maps and home base. The merchant will also be affected outside of battle, as they can be used as a shop, buying and selling items in the home base while also fighting with enemies in the stages.
Another way to alter the way that the challenge plays out, is by changing the gear that character units hold. The equipment is obtained by purchasing them from the shop/merchant, collecting rewards and even stealing them from enemies, but if a unit doesn’t have an empty slot they can’t pick them up. all gear provides different stat changes to the unit it is attached to, with specific items working better with some units than others, like items that boost magic for mages and armor that increases defense for fighters.
Z.H.P.: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman
Story – The monstrous Darkdeath Evilman is threatening the Earth, and it is up to you, the weakest superhero ever, to become strong enough to defeat him! Customize everything imaginable, from your stats and your appearance to your secret base and even your theme song. Can you overcome the odds and become a hero!?
Gameplay – this title is a dungeon crawling roguelite, that uses the grid based movement system of other NIS titles, with only a single playable character. The game is broken up into chapters with multi-level dungeon stages, each with randomized layouts, enemies and trap layouts. There are also boss battles that are tied to the story that play out during the course of the game. When a chapter is cleared, a turn based battle against the big boss will occur.
What makes this title distinct from the other release in this package is the roguelike mechanics that are used. With the player level resetting to one when entering and leaving the dungeon stages, while potentially increasing the total level with every victory or defeat. But great care must be taken, as defeat will lead to losing all items and money in the player’s possession, with rewards and items only being retained upon clearing a dungeon.
Here are some of the special mechanics that are unique to this title;
- Dungeon Gimmicks – in the dungeons that the player explores, there will be traps, mechanics and gimmicks that will affect the player during play. These include spike pits that will deal damage and cause the player to drop items they are holding, as well as cannons that will send them to different areas of a dungeon floor.
- Customization – items that the player can collect include consumable, throw able and equipment items. The equipment that the player picks up can be equipped to slots on the body, causing the look of the Unlosing Ranger to change, as well as provide special abilities that can be used in the dungeons. There are also costumes that change the entire look of the main character.
- Body Modification – a system called the Shadowgram lets players install mods directly into their body, using a grid based system that expands over time. When modifying the body, items and upgrades that are installed will give additional boosts to player stats, further strengthening the Unlosing Ranger.
- Facilities – both inside and out of the dungeon, the player can access facilities that provide special benefits. These include the blacksmith, who will allow items to be repaired, as all equipment has a limited durability and will become less effective over time. however, the facilities that the player can access while in the dungeon have limitations.
- Level UP – during the dungeon stages, the player will gain experience from battling enemies, which will increase their level while in the dungeon. This will increase their current stats, HP and make them stronger overall. All levels that are gained will be added to the total level when a stage ends, either through completion or defeat.
- EN Meter – the EN meter will track the energy that the Unlosing Ranger has, depleting over time, with the only way to refill it is consuming items or starving. Different actions will result in varied amounts of the meter being used up. As an example, moving around the dungeon will use a minimal amount of energy, whereas attacking with two weapons or a special move will deal more damage.
The action system for this title follows a global turn counter, where every character in the dungeon floor will activate and make their moves at the same time. However, there is a unique way that combat occurs. For the most part, enemies will stay in their position in the dungeon, only being alerted when the player enters an area around them, but some enemies roam areas. Attacks, special moves and item consumption take individual turns, with the player and enemies acting after each other.
Great care must be taken when engaging in battle, as there is the chance that the player may be pushed into the range for another enemy to be aware of them, alerting another foe of their presence. When an enemy is defeated, they will also make a death cry which will alert enemies within range, causing them to initiate battle against the player. Be warned, that equipment will also degrade during battle and using special attacks, as well as duel wielding weapons will use extra EN meter.
There are also items that can be thrown at enemies, which include poison that deals damage over time and pillows that put them to sleep. These items are very useful and will be most useful at the end of some dungeons, as there are some boss battles that occur at the end of some stages. The boss battles can be very challenging, as there will be the risk of multiple enemies and the bosses themselves can deal devastating blows to the player.
Outside of the dungeons, there is a home base that the player can freely roam, with shops to spend WP points at and NPC characters to interact with. This is where the facilities like the blacksmith and Dark Clinic (for body mods) can be accessed freely. There is also an actual home that the player can enter, with a Wife and Daughter for the Unlosing Ranger while they are at the base, depositing funds to enhance the storage for items and increase benefits.
The features of the home base will expand over time, with new shops, characters and facilities being introduced via progress in the game. Different elements of the world will change depending on the actions that are made, with the condition of the player home changing depending on the funds deposited. These changes make the game world feel a little more alive, there are also Items that can be unlocked to change elements of the base, giving some customization options.
The base is also where the player can save the game manually, as the game will autosave when the player is defeated or the dungeon is cleared. If a mistake is made in the dungeon and the player attempts to reset the game, this will be counted as a defeat, causing all items in their possession to be lost. All of these mechanics make this a challenging title.
Difficulty – the difficulty of this title can be very punishing, with the random map/enemy elements, loss of gear upon death and resetting level in every dungeon making the game a tough challenge. There is a tutorial that explains the game system well, allowing players to get used to the mechanics, but it will take some trial and error to get used to the different systems. Some grinding will be needed if players want to gain an advantage in later levels, so replaying early stages will help.
Controls – the controls for these games work very well, with the use of the thumbstick for roaming movement in Makai Kingdom and the D-Pad for precision in ZHP. The button layouts for both games are almost identical, making it easy to get used to when learning to play both games. The camera movements are tied to the shoulders, with functions on the face buttons, providing a comfortable experience when played with either the pro controller or Joy-Cons.
Presentation – both of the games in this pack use a mix of beautiful sprite work and hand drawn art, combined with rendered 3D environments. The character designs are distinct between both games, with some crossovers when it comes to guest characters, like Prinnies and the Overlord Laharl from the Disgaea series. The cutscenes that are featured in the game are fantastic, with a mix of character portraits and sprites for animations, alongside special attack scenes that are as wonderfully ridiculous as ever.
The sound for both games has that distinct NIS feel to it, with orchestral arrangements, electronic melodies and compositions that use a variety of sounds that meld together cohesively to create something magical. Both games have the choice of Japanese and English voice tracks, that can be freely switched between. Makai Kingdom features the vocal talents of Crispin Freeman (Hellsing Ultimate) and Wendee Lee, with Z.H.P featuring performances from Kate Higgins (Naruto) and Kyle Herbert (My Hero Academia).
Final Thoughts – this was my first experience with Makai Kingdom and Z.H.P., and I can happily say that I had a great time playing both games. The differences between both games made each experience stand out in this pack, with the tactical JRPG gameplay of Makai Kingdom and the punishing roguelike challenge of Z.H.P. contrasting well. This is an excellent double pack of two games that have been hidden on older platforms for years.
I have no problem recommending this release to fans of other games in the NIS library, as well as those who are looking for something new to play. The stories of both games are engaging and have the distinct humor, charming characters and fantastic sprite work that the developer is known for. There is a lot of depth to the games and replay value on offer, especially with the extra scenarios of Petta mode for Makai Kingdom, making this a release well worth the time and effort to play.
In the end, I give Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 a final score of 5/5. This is an excellent double pack of two games that have been inaccessible to players for many years. The gameplay of both titles are distinct from each other, the stories have a lot of charm and there is a lot of depth to each title, with the potential for dozens if not a couple hundred hours to be spent playing them. If you want to check out this release for yourself, a link to the title will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)