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La Pucelle Tactics
game: La Pucelle Tactics
four star
posted by: GF! Back Catalogue 10/2004 => 1995
publisher: Mastiff
date posted: 12:00 AM Mon Jul 19th, 2004
last revision: 12:00 AM Mon Jul 19th, 2004

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By Eric Qualls

La Pucelle Tactics is the latest US release from Japanese developer Nippon Ichi. After last year's Disgaea won critical acclaim and was immediately embraced by hardcore gamers nationwide, the demand for another game from Nippon Ichi skyrocketed. While La Pucelle isn't a sequel to Disgaea , it is actually a couple years older , the gameplay, humor, and just about everything else is very similar. If you liked Disgaea, you'll like La Pucelle. If you couldn't find a copy of Disgaea but wanted to play it, you'll like La Pucelle and should have a lot easier time finding it. If you have never heard of these games before but like strategy RPGs, you'll like La Pucelle.

What I'm trying to say is that this game is the bizzomb and is well worth checking out.
La Pucelle Tactics follows a girl named Prier, her brother Culotte, and their teacher Alouette. The basics of the story are that Prier and her friends are part of a group called La Pucelle, an elite demon hunting squad that travels the world rooting out evil. An old legend tells that one day the Dark Prince will rise to cover the world in darkness, but at the same time the Maiden of Light will also rise to fight him. As you could probably guess, Prier wishes to become the Maiden of Light and that is where the story starts off. Along the way, you'll meet several new characters that will join your party and the story is packed full of twists and turns that make for a really compelling experience. The only problem with the storytelling in La Pucelle Tactics is that the dialogue is seemingly written for eight year olds. It is just mind numbingly childish and simple. However, once the story turns to a murderer ripping the hearts out of his victims you know you are in for a dark and twisted ride that is a lot more mature than the first hour or so would lead you to believe.

Outside of battle, La Pucelle is primitive compared to other RPGs. There are some town segments, but they consist mostly of accepting a mission, buying supplies, and then heading out. You travel to different areas by selecting points on a world map. Each location has several different areas that you can travel freely between via menu once you clear each area and you can also choose to play areas many times in order to build up your characters. Once you get into a battle, though, La Pucelle is a deep, exciting, and extremely fun strategy RPG.

On the surface, La Pucelle plays a lot like other tactical RPGs. You move your characters around on a grid and tell them all what to do before hitting the End Turn? button and letting them do their thing. What makes LPT different is that there are a number of portals on each map that you have to purify? to prevent them from spawning and endless stream of enemies. The portals produce streams of dark energy that you can use to your advantage. You can use your characters to direct the flow of the energy, and if there are enemies in the energy stream they take damage when the portal is purified. Also, if you manipulate the energy stream so that it connects back to the portal it started from, a miracle attack is performed and any enemies inside the stream take an incredible amount of damage. For most maps it isn't necessary to try and create miracle attacks, but once in a while the enemies will be in just the right spot and the map will be constructed in just the right way that it is too easy to pass up. It is a fun little addition to the gameplay that adds a puzzle element in among the typical chess match / do as much damage as possible that this genre was based upon.

Purification isn't just for dark portals, however. You can also purify enemies to try and convert them to your side. The game tells you when you have purified an enemy enough that it will probably convert to your side, and at that point all you have to do is kill the enemy and cross your fingers that your many turns wasted trying to purify them haven't been in vain. Once an enemy joins your side, you can train it to build its skills up and also to keep it happy. If your creatures aren't happy they'll run off and leave you. By the end of the second of the over ten chapters, you'll have an army of zombies, bats, and bears fighting alongside the members of La Pucelle. And you'll need a big army because you are allowed to place up to eight characters on the map at once. You can swap characters for fresh fighters during your turn, but if a character dies on the battlefield you can't use them again until you clear that particular stage so it is wise to keep a stable of strong characters that you can swap in and out if you need to.

Something that is sort of disappointing in La Pucelle Tactics is that strategy and tactics don't really play a huge role in the outcome of battles. Since you can swap characters in and out, it doesn't really matter who you send out onto the battlefield. If they are weak or not the right type to do maximum damage, you just put someone else in. Most battles are just slugfests that pit a dozen or so enemies against your eight most powerful characters, and if your characters are at a high enough level you can afford to lose one or two or six because you have literally nothing to worry about since you'll win the war of attrition 99.9% of the time. The dark energy could have played a huge role, but like I said above, it really isn't necessary to play with it too much other than seal up the portals so you don't get an endless swarm of enemies coming at you. Since you can go back and play areas you have already cleared you can level up your characters to an insane degree if you so choose and that makes the game even easier.

Brains take a backseat to brawn in La Pucelle, but that isn't so bad because what you are doing is so fun. Turning monsters to fight for you and training them is fun. Playing with the huge number of items and weapons you can equip your characters with is also really enjoyable. Building up your A? team and then watching them wreak havoc in battle is extremely satisfying. Also, the story is interesting enough that you are compelled to keep playing just to see what happens next. Once you start this game and get past the first chapter or so, you'll be hooked and it'll be all you can think about until the quest is done.

Graphically, La Pucelle Tactics is fairly unimpressive. This isn't a genre that requires super great graphics, but La Pucelle would have been at home on the SNES or at least the PSone and it is hard not to expect a little more from games these days. The animations for attacks are pretty smooth and some of the special effects for spells look good, but nothing else really stands out. The story is told through the classic talking head in the corner of the screen? technique, but there are a ton of different avatars for each character, so the talking heads actually manage to convey a lot of emotion.

The sound is a high point in La Pucelle and doesn't give you the same feeling that this game could have been done ten years ago that the graphics do. A lot of the dialogue is spoken as well as appearing onscreen as text, and it is very clear and the voice actors did a great job. As an added bonus, you can choose to listen to Japanese audio track if you are on that side of the fence in the sub vs. dub debate. The music is also very well done and there are a lot of memorable tracks that will stick in your head for days.

La Pucelle Tactics is light on strategy, but that is really its only flaw. The graphics fail to impress, but they really don't have to. The gameplay and storyline are what are important in this type of game, and La Pucelle delivers big time in both areas even if you don't have to think too terribly hard when you play it. The anime inspired characters and quirky Japanese humor have a lot of appeal and make the game just that much better. Give it a rent if you aren't sure if you'll like it or not, but the quest is long enough and enjoyable enough that I would recommend it for a purchase for just about any RPG fan.