Overview – developed by Nippon Ichi Software and published by NIS America, NIS Classics Volume 3 is the latest double pack of classic JRPG titles from the NIS vault. This latest collection features the strategy title La Pucelle: Ragnarok (released for the first time in the west) and the more Rhapsody: a Musical Adventure. This double pack is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch (both titles are available individually via steam), with a link to purchase available at the bottom of this review.
Disclaimer: before I get into the review, I would like to thank NIS America for provising the copy of NIS Classics Volume 3 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 covering the story, core gameplay elements and difficulty of both titles in their own sections, with the controls and overall presentation as an individual segment.
Rhapsody: a Musical Adventure
Story – Rhapsody focuses on the adventures of Cornet, a young girl with the special gift to be able to talk to puppets and grant wishes with her magical horn. Accompanied by her best friend Kururu, a puppet that has the soul of a human, the two go on adventures around the land. During their adventures, they encounter the Prince Ferdinand, witch Marjoly and a diverse cast of characters as they travel together around the land of Marls.
Gameplay – Rhapsody is a more traditional JRPG experience compared to La Pucelle, with a world map containing various locations for the player to visit and explore. The player as Cornet travels the land of Marls with Kururu, interacting with the residents of the world. As the story progresses, new places will open up for the player to explore, with dungeons that have branching paths and connect to different locations. I will be breaking the core elements into various sub-sections below.
Exploration: the world of Rhapsody is explored in two ways, the first is through an overworld map that shows all discovered areas of Marls, with more areas opening as the story progresses. The second is via isometric free roaming, where the player as cornet can move through each of the pre-rendered areas, including both residential and dungeon zones. When in a residential area, there are stores, houses and special landmark locations that the player can interact with.
The residents of the towns can be spoken to, with some of them giving basic world building information, but others will provide important details to help with an objective. The stores offer different supplies for the player to buy with Intonium, the currency of Marls that is used for everything and there are also statues that heal the player. The dungeons are made up of “rooms” that have a maze-like feel to them, with the areas becoming more complex over time and getting lost is possible.
To help some navigation of the world when roaming, there will be signs that can help guide the player to key locations. However, some spaces will be dead ends or blocked by an NPC/obstacle, meaning an objective must be completed to progress, giving a linear approach to exploration of the wider world. Great care must be taken when roaming, as combat encounters will occur in the different locations that Cornet explores, pitting the player and their party against a variety of foes in battle.
Combat Encounters: during the game at preset points and randomly while exploring the different dungeons. When combat is initiated, the game moves into a tactical view point, with fast battles that require simple strategies to get through. Cornet is the main character and leader of the party, with the ability to both attack and support the other members of the team. During the course of the game, the player party will grow by meeting puppets and having other characters joining the party.
The maximum party size for battle is limited to 4 units, with an extended reserve roster that can be switched outside of battle. All of the characters in the party share the same basic mechanics, with the ability to attack, move around the battle field, use items and end their turn. Units can also be equipped with special gear that will increase their stats in battle. There are some specific skills tied to Cornet and the other members of the party. Here are those specific features;
- Horn – Cornet can use her magical horn to power up the puppets that she is near, using the horn will consume MP points and fill up a musical note bar on screen. The musical notes generated can fill up the note meter up to use for special attacks.
- Reward – these are the special abilities that Cornet can use, with each of the skills using up a different number of note bar levels, causing large scale damage to the enemies in battle. If there are no music meter levels, the skills can’t be used, so efficient use of the Reward skills and horn is important to combat.
- Escape – Cornet can attempt to flee from battle, with a chance of failure and wasting a turn entirely if escape is a failure.
- Magic – the Puppets and other units in the party can use magic skills in battle, with the ability to damage, support and heal other allied units. These units have their own special skills, which can be used to turn the tide in a tricky battle. There are also status ailments that can affect enemies and allies, along with special type weaknesses that will allow specific magic to deal extra damage to enemies.
When a battle is completed all party members will gain experience points, that level the units up when specific thresholds are reached. When the units reach different levels, they will gain additional skills, magic abilities and some units gain special abilities. There are also additional rewards like items and money that can be awarded at the end of a battle, making battling more worthwhile. Outside of battles, the player can save freely no matter where they are.
Now I have discussed the core aspects of the gameplay (I have left some things out as I don’t want to spoil the first experience for first time players), let’s get into the difficulty of Rhapsody.
Difficulty – the difficulty and challenge of Rhapsody can be modified with three difficulty settings, allowing the player to tailor the experience to how they want to play the game. When starting the game for the first time, the player can choose between the three options, easy, normal and hard. These settings will adjust the challenges of the game, including the damage that enemies deal, the difficulty of bosses and more.
La Pucelle: Ragnarok
Story – Taking place in the kingdom of Paprica, the narrative focuses on the Church of the Holy Maiden in the city of Pot a Feu, where the demon hunters La Pucelle are trained. Two of La Pucelle’s newer members are Prier and her younger brother Culotte. A prophecy states that the Dark Prince, a servant of the fallen angel Calamity will rise to lay waste to the world. To combat this threat, the Maiden of Light will challenge him and restore the balance of light and dark. Prier aspires to be the Maiden of Light.
Gameplay – This title is more in line with the other tactical JRPGs from NIS, using grid based maps for stages, turn based combat and isometric viewpoint of each stage. However, there are many things that this title does that are unique to La Pucelle, making this title stand out on its own merits. The game plays out over several chapters, telling the story of La Pucelle and the demon hunters of the Church of the Holy Maiden.
There are many unique features to this release, including special guest characters, storylines and features that I don’t want to spoil for new players. So I will be breaking down the core mechanics of the game just like in the above discussion of Rhapsody. La Pucelle: Ragnarok is a turn-based, isometric JRPG that focuses on more than just combat, with the player exploring different locations and investigating the secrets of the areas the player is in.
Much like other titles from the NIS Library, the majority of the gameplay takes place in the combat stages, with grid based battle maps, gimmicks and special event spaces. Before a stage can start, the player must decide where they want to go by selecting a location on the world map. After making a selection of the location, there are options that the player can select, which include playing the stage they are on, moving to another (if it has been discovered) and returning to the town.
This system adds a non-linear and flexible approach to the game progression, allowing the player to approach the different locations in any way they want to. This has its positives and negatives, as there is the potential to miss some things if players choose to skip locations, so it is advised to explore every area thoroughly. This leads to one of the defining features of this release, the different chapter endings that can be obtained during the game.
During the course of a chapter, special event sections can appear in the different stages, activating a special event when the player comes into contact with them. If the events are uncovered correctly and the secrets of a chapter are unlocked, the player will get the good ending for this chapter. However, if the secrets are not all uncovered, missed entirely or done incorrectly, then the player will suffer from a bad ending that gives an entirely different end result.
Now, I want to discuss the systems that the player will encounter during the stages of this release;
- Combat – during the stages, the player is able to deploy a set number of units onto the battlefield from the base panel to fight the enemy forces. All units have access to the same basic move-set, allowing them to move across the battle field, attack enemies, use special skills and items.
- Attack – battles take place in a separate screen, with all units that have targeted the same enemy unit attacking at once when selecting either “begin battle” or “end turn”. Adjacent allies can also assist the attacking unit in battle, dealing additional damage to the target (this can be on both sides). When an attack is completed, the target units can attack in response dealing damage to the random units.
- Special – units can use special skills in battle, consuming SP to deal damage to enemies, provide support with buffs/status ailments and heal injured units. When a skill is activated, the animations for these actions occur immediately, with the effect playing out before the turn can continue.
- Dark Portals – in each map, there are Dark Portals that appear in three distinct colors that have their own effects. These portals emit Dark Energy that trails out until they meet an entity or obstacle that stops the stream. If a character stands on the portal or stream, they can redirect the energy depending on the direction they are facing. The energy trails can merge with other colors to create new effects.
- Purification – this is a special skill that the members of La Pucelle have access to. Units with the Purify ability are able to remove Dark Portals, causing a chain reaction occurs that causes different effects based on the color of the energy. If specific conditions are met, miracles can occur. The Purify skill can also convert enemy units to the player party, with each purification increasing the odds of them joining when they have been defeated.
- Reinforcements – if the Dark Portals are left unpurified, there is the potential for enemy reinforcements to appear. The points where the enemies will spawn from go black, marking that new enemies will be appearing from these points and provide additional reinforcements.
- Leveling – experience points and leveling functions in a different way with this title. when an enemy unit is defeated by the player, all units that were involved in the combat sequence gain experience points divided between the units in the fight. These points will also level up different stats as well as increase the units overall level and strength, opening up special skills that can be used in battle.
Outside of the battle stages, there is the home base where players can interact with the different inhabitants of the town. There is a Rosenqueen store where the player is able to buy new gear for their units and sell unwanted items, with each purchase/sale increasing the level of the store and adding newer items. There is also an emissary of the Dark World that is located in this store and interacting with them opens up interesting features.
The emissary of the Dark World can take monsters that have been recruited from stages, along with the items that they are holding when handed over. These monsters will disappear from the party, going into the netherworld to participate in battles, with their strengths and training determining their efficiency in this alternate dimension. A strong monster has the potential to sending strong items to the player. The items that the monster holds before being sent away will also be combined, returning a new item.
The last thing to mention is the monster training system. The monsters that have joined the party can be trained, with different actions that can affect the strength of the unit and their overall happiness. If the monster is trained well and has a high Happiness level, they will perform better in the dark world, as well as gaining better stats from leveling and special abilities that can be used in the battle stages.
There is so much more to this release, however, I don’t want to spoil any of the surprises that the game has in store for those who have not experienced the previous release. So I will be moving onto discussing this titles difficulty.
Difficulty – the difficulty for La Pucelle is fairly moderate, with the challenge slowly escalating over time, with new threats appearing during the course of the game. This difficulty curve can be modified by repeating stages, increasing the stats of the player units through grinding or equipping better gear. There aren’t any additional gameplay settings to adjust the gameplay experience, but there is a new game plus feature that allows the player to replay with all stats retained.
Now with the main elements of both titles covered, it is time to discuss the presentation and my thoughts on the overall package.
Presentation – starting with Rhapsody, the visuals look very pleasing on modern screens given the fact that this is a remastered PlayStation title from 1998. The visuals are pleasing even given the age of the title, with sprite work that is still solid compared to the other title in this release, and the limitations work in this games favor. The music has the same upbeat charm that NIS is known for, as well as the inclusion of musical pieces add to the overall experience.
La Pucelle: Ragnarok is visually appealing, with the sprite style that became a hallmark of NIS at the time just like Disgaea and Makai Kingdom. The animations, character designs and overall presentation is excellent, with the designs for characters and enemies having their own distinct presence that increases the appeal of this title. The sound for this title has their signature sound to it, with orchestrated pieces and tense impactful tracks that breathe life into the world of La Pucelle.
There is also the inclusion of English and Japanese dialogue options in both games, letting players decide which version of the voice overs they want to listen to. The English voice cast for La Pucelle features the vocal talents of Colleen O’Shaughnessy (Naruto), Jill Talley (Spongebob Squarepants) and Cam Clarke (TMNT). The voice options for Rhapsody consist of English or Japanese voices during musical segments, which there is little in terms of info about the performers for these.
Final Thoughts – this was my first real experience with both of these games, having only played them briefly in the past and with no nostalgia for the included titles. That being said, I was excited to be able to get hands on with two classic NIS titles, being a long-time fan of the Disgaea series. Starting with La Pucelle, the familiarity of the signature SRPG game style allowed me to get into it quickly, with the unique systems of the game being easy to pick up.
The evolving storylines, multiple endings to chapters and investigation system are an excellent system that keeps the player engaged. This system allows the player to discover new twists to the different storylines, with additional secrets uncovered in new game plus and more. Then we come to Rhapsody, the more traditional JRPG experience in this double pack release. The single room dungeon style maps, the game world and characters work together well, with the musical aspect tying the experience together.
The streamlined combat system is easy to learn, with the musical note meter giving the battles a snappy and fast paced feel, while not impacting the overall quality of the game. There are also quality of life improvements for both titles in this release, making the overall package the definitive versions of these games. I have no issue with recommending this pack to fans of the NIS library old and new, it is another excellent release that brings two overlooked gems to modern systems.
In the end, I give Prinny Presents: NIS Classics Volume 3 a final score of 5/5. This is yet another excellent double pack of two games that have been overlooked by many for too long, which are key titles in the history of Nippon Ichi Software as their influence can be seen in the games that came after. If you want to check this release out for yourself, a link to the game will be below.
Link to Nintendo Switch version (HERE)