As the years go by, some game development studios have managed to survive the test of time and produce pretty impressive libraries. When we’re talking about Nippon Ichi Software, well, there’s at least six Disgaea games that you’d probably want to check out, but there’s plenty of Disgaea spinoffs, at least one gaiden game…suffice to say, there’s a lot, and you’re bound to have missed some gems. That’s what collections like Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 are for – they’re going to dig up those gems, maybe give them a cursory polish with a microfiber cloth, and sell them to you all over again.
As the name might suggest, this is the first in a presumed series of re-releases of older NIS titles. When we’re talking about NIS, it’s no surprise that most of the love goes to the Disgaea games, but they’ve got plenty of other titles that are just as worthy of hundreds of hours of your time. In this case, we’ve got two of those titles: Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered and Soul Nomad and the World Eaters.
Phantom Brave has been available on PC for some time now, but it’s the first time Soul Nomad has made its way to either platform, so we’ll talk about both games – especially because if you buy the Switch version of the collection you’re going to get both either way.
Phantom Brave follows Marona, a young girl with the power to communicate and cooperate with ghosts. Her powers allow her to summon these ghosts back into the physical world by channeling them into objects. While she’s completely harmless, Marona’s interactions with ghosts are unsurprisingly frightening for the people around her, and Marona is a pariah as a result. She’s forced to work as a mercenary, taking on odd jobs and battling evil with the help of her spooky pals – in particular, her phantom bodyguard Ash, who knew her parents and vowed to protect her.
Phantom Brave is similar to the better-known Disgaea series, as Marona and her phantoms battle enemies and grind for levels into infinity. Unlike those games, movement and attacks use a radius-based system rather than tiles, allowing somewhat more freeform movement and targeting. Phantom Brave’s most unique trait is the way units work – you typically only have Marona herself as a physical character, and (before the usual NIS-style bout of insane levelling up) she’s a frail little girl who’s mostly good at healing and can’t win fights on her own. The majority of your forces are phantoms, intangible spirits which can only assist when Confined into an object.
Confining a phantom into an object allows it to fight for you and also adjusts its stats based on the object you choose, so Confining a tank into a sturdy stone might be a good idea, while a mystical flower might be a better choice for a mage. On the other hand, phantoms can’t stick around forever and will automatically be dismissed after some time in battle, so careful planning is necessary to ensure you don’t end up without your best dudes at a crucial point in battle.
Conveniently, this version of Phantom Brave appears to include all the additional bonus content added to the game over its many iterations on various consoles, which is a nice touch.
Meanwhile, Soul Nomad focuses on the youth Reyva and their sorta-symbiotic companionship with Gig, the God of Destruction, who’s inhabiting their body thanks to a cursed sword. Together with Gig and a host of allies, Reyva battles the World Eaters, a set of kaiju-style foes that seek to destroy civilization. Gig’s immense power could make saving the day a snap, but that would grant him full control over Reyva’s body, and sometimes the solution’s worse than the problem it solves.
Soul Nomad’s something of a cross between a traditional NIS-style RPG and Ogre Battle. Characters are formed up and controlled as parties rather than single units and the largely-automated battles take place between these groups. Victory revolves around careful planning to form the most effective parties and utilizing the many power-up systems available, as well as utlizing shrewd tactics during combat to ensure the right parties battle the right foes. Characters also offer their parties access to impressive super moves that can be used after they’ve been out on the field for a while. Soul Nomad hasn’t seen much life since its initial release, so it’s great to have this one included in the collection.
These are solid games that offer dozens of hours of fun between them, but how’s the presentation? Well, we weren’t promised a remaster, exactly, and we’re not getting one here. Neither Phantom Brave nor Soul Nomad is ugly, per se, but they’re definitely older games from another era that probably could have used a little touching up. The ability to play Soul Nomad on a modern platform without futzing around with emulation is nice regardless, and hey, at least the font’s a little cleaner. Meanwhile, the PC version of Phantom Brave is probably the better way to approach that one if it’s the only game you’re interested in.
Still, having both of these games available on modern platforms is a pretty nice perk, especially the portability with the Switch version. The price is certainly right as well, running less than the usual $60 for a pair of games that strategy-RPG fans are bound to love. Don’t come in expecting any miracles or a complete modern remastering, but Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 is a great choice, particularly for Switch players interested in some long-running adventures that’ll last a few weeks. What’s next for this series? Will Volume 2 include Makai Kingdom? Maybe if we’re lucky.