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Review – La Pucelle: Tactics

posted on June 20th, 2006 by jay

When hippos attack.

There was a period around two years ago when it was impossible to not read about Disgaea. Every forum, most sites, and many magazines were praising it as the strategy RPG you’d never heard of that you need to own. For reasons unknown, I never took the worlds advice. I have La Pucelle in my collection but not the reportedly amazing Disgaea. The company behind Disgaea, Nippon Ichi, made La Pucelle first but it was only brought to the West after Disgaea’s success.

And how. Mastiff has done a wonderful job translating the game and most of the voice acting is excellent. Although there is an awful lot of meowing in the game I could’ve done without. These guys should localize more RPGs, but tone down their animal impressions.

The battle system in La Pucelle is pretty vanilla. You control half a dozen or so units, move them around on a grid and thwart evil. In an obvious though interesting twist, your characters can support each other. So if I attack with hero A while hero B stands directly behind, hero B gets involved as well. This allows something like group battles, which can be amusing to set up and watch and in theory adds to the strategy element.

The big mechanic (gimmick) that makes La Pucelle’s battle system different from other SRPGs is “purification.” Enemies on battle maps are generated by “dark portals” that are visible to the player. Taking too long to finish a battle will cause more enemies to spawn from the portals unless one of your characters purifies them. In my family, we flagellate ourselves until God knows we’re pure, but I guess sealing dark portals works, too.

I don’t speak Latin, but I’m pretty sure that’s a dirty word.

Each portal, besides being the spawning spot for more enemies, emits a stream of dark energy onto the map. These streams can be aimed up, down, left, or right and can be bent by intersecting them with characters. By making a square stream that encompasses enemies and then purifying a portal, you are able to create a “miracle.” Like Jesus on judgment day, a La Pucelle miracle kicks the asses of all who art evil.

In addition to purifying portals, you characters can purify enemy monsters. Purify them enough, and they will be convinced to join your side. The legions of monsters you get to fight along side you can then be used to upgrade weapons, armor and other items. Weapons, armor and items can all also be leveled up by purifying dark portals and performing miracles, as well. It’s a little complicated, but once you get the hang of it you’ll be refining your gear for hours on end by sending monsters to hell.

Or at least that’s what I did (a couple of souls for an upgraded Macho Fist = good deal). La Pucelle is a dream come true for gamers who love to crunch stats. The down side to the titles emphasis on leveling characters and items is the strategy portion becomes less of an issue. Think of what you know about Fire Emblem. Brutal difficulty, every move is important, little to no leveling your characters, and usually a dearth of gear. These qualities all make the Fire Emblem series fun. Somehow La Pucelle is exactly the opposite yet still immensely entertaining.

OK, so maybe the game is a little too cute. I’ve been accused of the same.

The time you must spend leveling to get all the game offers belies how little strategy Nippon Ichi put into La Pucelle. At enormously high levels, which is where you must be to complete the non-mandatory end game stuff, every enemy kills you in one hit. In order to succeed you must kill them in one pass or run. This extreme also saps the strategy from the game. Even without leveling or completing the end game material, the nature of the dark portals makes the level design feel sloppy. New enemies appearing mid battle removes the feeling of finely tuned maps built around strategy.

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5 Comments

  1. Stefan said on June 20, 2006:

    La Pucelle means “The Virgin” in french. I suppose that fits in with the whole theme of purification, but it still seems like an odd title.

  2. jay said on June 20, 2006:

    La Pucelle is the name of the church that the good guys are a part of. There is a lot of French in the game besides that, too. From wikipedia:

    “The Goddess “Poitreene” (which is a mispelling : it should be “poitrine”) for example, would literally be “Goddess Breast”. Prier is the verb “to pray” (while the translation in Disgaea, “Priere”, would be prayer). A culotte is a kind of short pants or underwear. Croix means “cross”, Homard is “lobster”, Papillon is “butterfly” and Eclair means “lightning” or “flash” (also, éclairé means “enlightened”).”

  3. Christian said on June 20, 2006:

    And if the review doesn’t hook their interest in the game, there’s always the fact that the heroine has a chest bigger that would make most grown women jealous. That freaked me out first time I saw it.

  4. jay said on June 20, 2006:



    What, there are 16 year old girls who don’t look like this? At least the staff isn’t obscenely phallic.

  5. Christian said on June 20, 2006:

    “What, there are 16 year old girls who don’t look like this?”

    Jay, there comes a time in a man’s life when…

    “At least the staff isn’t obscenely phallic.”

    Absolutely not. The developers had no intention of pleasing japanese and american otaku in the slightest :p

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