Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 – Review
Follow Genre: RPG
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Mastiff, KOEI ltd.
Publisher: NIS America
Platform: Switch
Tested on: Switch

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: Excellent modern localisation for La Pucelle
Bad: Lack of graphics customization options
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It’s been a very busy year for NIS, with high profile releases like Disgaea 6 Complete and YuruKill, but it seems like the studio has no intent of slowing down. Only a year has passed since we looked at Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1, and now, we’re already looking at the third entry in this retrospective series -and that’s in addition to the aforementioned slew of other games. Of course, quantity doesn’t always equal quality, so the main question is whether or not Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 is worth adding to your collection.

Story

Comprising 2002’s La Pucelle: Ragnarok and 1998’s Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, Volume 3 presents us with two very different stories, although both feature female protagonists, which is notable given the age of the featured games. In the first of these two titles, we join sister Prier and her young brother Culotte, who fight demons in the name of the Church of the Holy Maiden. The game’s narrative delivers an interesting mix of the signature NIS humor that we’ve come to know and love from games like the Disgaea series and Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed from the previous NIS Classics collection. Despite the heavy emphasis on religious themes -this is a game about a nun fighting demons after all- La Pucelle is a far cry from what we typically associate with bible-inspired video games. It’s a fun journey through a rich world filled with likable characters, and the foul-mouthed and zealous sister Prier is a delight as she aims to become the next Maiden of Light. The story comprises multiple chapters, each with different endings depending on the choices you make during gameplay, and although it isn’t an excessively long RPG at roughly 30-35 hours, the branching storylines increase replayability.

Clocking in at a much shorter 10-12 hours, Rhapsody‘s narrative feels decidedly more light-hearted compared to the world-ending threat of the demons that Prier fights. Our protagonists here are Cornet, a girl that can talk to puppets, and her companion Kururu, who unsurprisingly happens to be a puppet. After a witch turns the obligatory prince/love interest into stone, Cornet and Kururu set off on a musical adventure to break the magic spell and save the kingdom. Just like La Pucelle, Rhapsody is infused with tongue-in-cheek jokes, often feeling like a parody of classic fairy tales. The game may have originally been released on the PS1 in 1998 -nearly a quarter of a century ago- but the jokes still land and Rhapsody’s story feels timeless as a result.

Graphics

We’ve taken a look at various retro collections over the years, and thanks to those from SNK and Square Enix in particular, we’ve come to expect certain things when it comes to the customizability of the visuals. For some strange reason, NIS doesn’t stick to the same principles as its competitors, and the result feels very inconsistent. When we looked at the previous two NIS Classics titles, we felt that the graphics were very underwhelming in the first collection, and we had to make a couple of adjustments with the second one, but the resulting change in visual fidelity definitely kicked things up a notch. For some reason, the option to make visual adjustments was pretty much entirely removed in Volume 3, however, and apart from a faux CRT filter in Rhapsody, we’re stuck with the graphics as is. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as things look heaps better here than with the previous two releases, although La Pucelle’s sprites still feel stretched and blurry. Rhapsody fares better here, provided you play the game in handheld mode and not in docked mode -stretching the visuals out onto a TV definitely highlights that these games haven’t aged well in terms of graphics. Still, we preferred the sharper pixelated graphics presented in 4:3 aspect ratio over the slightly blurry sprite work seen in La Pucelle.

Sound

One of the more impressive aspects of Volume 3 is the amount of care that went into La Pucelle’s soundscape. This is the first time the title gets an official release in the West, and it would’ve been easy to simply dump the ROM and a translation into an emulator and call it a day. Fortunately for us, this isn’t the case here and La Pucelle’s cast gets actual voices! While unfortunately, this doesn’t apply for the entirety of the game, a good chunk of the narrative for both titles features fantastic voice acting. Both OSTs are also excellent, although this is where Rhapsody definitely takes the lead -it is a musical adventure after all.

Gameplay

The majority of NIS’ catalog comprises tactical RPGs and the two titles included here are shining examples of the genre -although they are definitely showing their age in some areas. Neither title impresses by today’s standards but they offer an interesting glimpse into NIS’ history as a developer, as both titles feel like prototype versions of what the company would release in later years. La Pucelle definitely takes on the more standard approach of the two, with the grid-based gameplay almost feeling like the blueprints for Disgaea’s tactical approach. Positioning is very important and it is the key to unlocking team attacks and combos. The gimmick here is that Prier, Culotte, and their friends are able to ‘purify’ areas of the battlefield to deal damage to enemies standing in these areas. They can also purify enemies directly, which means that there is a chance that they will join your cause once they are defeated. The purification system makes La Pucelle feel rather unique and is definitely one of the more appealing aspects of combat here.

There are similarities between La Pucelle’s tactics gameplay and that of Rhapsody, but the latter game feels a lot more limited and simplistic in comparison. For the most part, this can be attributed to Rhapsody’s battles taking place on much smaller maps. You’ll be engaging enemies much faster here, and there is less room for maneuvering -and subsequently positioning- your units. Rhapsody’s combat feels much more straightforward and fast-paced as a result, though it didn’t quite scratch our itch when it came to strategic thinking. Recruiting enemies is still a thing here, although there didn’t seem to be a way to influence the likelihood of this happening, unlike in La Pucelle.

Both games are enjoyable in their own way, but they are also products of their time. The pacing feels incredibly slow by modern standards, both in combat and in the way the story progresses. The tutorials for both games become chores because they are so slow, yet they only cover the basics, and a lot of the more advanced techniques that rear their head later on in the game need to be mastered through trial and error. One such technique, Cornet’s ability to use a magical wish-granting horn, is definitely under-explained: it’s one of the most powerful tools available to players in Rhapsody, but the game never goes out of its way to showcase its potential. That’s not to say that we’re asking for the games to hold our hand every step of the way, but more in-depth explanations would have gone a long way here.

Despite the shortcomings, we were still impressed with the level of care that has gone into this collection, especially for La Pucelle. As we mentioned earlier, this is the first time that the game has been officially released in the West, and the version we’re getting here comes with all the bells and whistles first seen in the PSP port of the game. This includes additional characters, bonus missions, and QoL improvements absent from the original PS1 release. It’s clear that NIS puts more effort into its retro collections than most other competitors, although there is still room to grow. Still, we can’t help but feel like every release in the NIS Classics collection is an improvement on its predecessors so we’re eager to see what the future brings.

Conclusion

Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 may not be an essential release to the mainstream audience but fans of tactical RPGs will find plenty to sink their teeth into. Just like its predecessors, Volume 3 isn’t a perfect retro collection, but there is an undeniable charm to these games, even if they are showing their age. We can only laud the amount of effort that was put into giving these games a new lease on life -unlike the soulless and overpriced ROM dumps that we’ve seen from some other studios. La Pucelle is obviously the main draw here, because it’s a previously unreleased title but also because of the amount of care that has gone into the (imperfect) modernization of the game. That said, even if you only really care about Rhapsody, you’ll still feel like you’ll be getting your money’s worth if you’re a genre fan.

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