Galactic Buffet

We serve up and all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of hands-on Soul Nomad impressions.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: August 26, 2007
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Nippon Ichi Software has something of a reputation for making games with a ridiculous amount of replay value. When they first decided to tackle the strategy RPG genre, they took a fairly familiar grid-based system and made it their own, then heaped on tons of side quests (Item World, anyone) and Disgaea was born. It wasn't until they went full bore with the sequel that the formula delivered on the same level (games like La Pucelle, Makai Kingdom and Phantom Brave were by no means bad games, but they didn't have the same oomph as Laharl and his trip through the Underworld), but it's probably fair to say that the formula has become more or less standard.

That's why we were so damn impressed with what they're doing with Soul Nomad and the World Eaters. It's not so much that the game is an outright departure for the Disgaea development team, but the approach really is different enough that it feels like a new experience. New, but there's certainly a bit of familiarity.

If you haven't read our original preview, we'll give you the basic run-down of the story. 200 years before the start of the game an epic conflict between Layna, the daughter of Lord Median, a warlord that helped unite the battle-worn world of Prodesta before kicking the bucket, and Gig, a demon commanding a trio of monsters known as the World Eaters. In a last-ditch attempt to contain Gig, Layna sacrificed herself to imprison the demigod in a sword, waiting for the day when a human's will would be strong enough to control Gig.

As it turns out, that day is today, as the hero or heroine of the story (that'd be you, you can pick either sex and a name, though it doesn't look like it actually changes the player model). Finally turning 17, the main character and their apparently rather abusive best friend meet with Layna to become town guardians. Guardians not only protect the hidden village where he/she/we grew up from the recently re-animated World Eaters, but get a weapon. Well, the cowgirl best friend gets to pick, we only got one choice and guess who was in the sword?

Faster than you can say "possessed by a foul-mouthed devil-deity" we were suddenly sharing a body with Gig. It's here that the game starts to become interesting. Though Gig does technically share our body, he doesn't have complete control... yet. By tapping into his power, it's possible that we could destroy the World Eaters, thus freeing the world from their destructive rampage -- provided of course we don't give up too much control and Gig is reborn to terrorize the world himself.

Still, there's something to be said for having the powers of a god. In fact, Gig's constant cussing, taunting and insults are something of comic relief -- or at least he says nearly everything you wish the usual meek, near-mute heroes in Japanese RPGs would just come out and say. Even in the few hours of the game we've played so far, Gig's dialogue is some of the most fun we've ever seen in a SRPG, and on more than one occasion the game actually gave us the choice to pick a bad ending in favor of unleashing all of Gig's powers. So long as you save before hand, it's actually something we recommend because it means more of Gig's pompous rants.

Though the game does share at least a passing aesthetic with Nippon Ichi's previous games (you still move around on a grid, though attacking enemies from the back or sides doesn't really seem to do anything). The difference, though is that instead of fighting solo, all of the characters on the screen actually represent small groups of fighters. Every little mini-party is made up of up to nine characters in Front, Mid and Rear rows, and the truly interesting part is that depending on where a particular character is, their attacks will change.
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