Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 1 contains two NIS strategy RPGs that first appeared on the PlayStation 2. The first is Soul Nomad and the World Eaters, a game that I consider to be the best among the PlayStation 2 titles from the developer. The second is Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle Remastered. While I haven’t played any of the upgraded versions of it, I struggled to find enjoyment in the original Phantom Brave. In fact, I still consider it to be one of the worst PlayStation 2 titles. As you can imagine, this capricious collection has something fun and something not so fun. I’ll try to break down both games as succinctly as possible.
Soul Nomad and the World Eaters tells the story of a god of destruction named Gig. Gig has possessed the body of Reyva, a youth living in an underground village. Gig wants to use Reyva’s body to unleash ultimate destruction, but Reyva refuses to relinquish. How long can Reyva hold out before the god’s awesome power consumes him? Phantom Brave is a bit more whimsical; oftentimes melancholy. Players take control of Marona, a young lady that works as a Chroma. Chromas have the ability to control powerful phantoms. Unfortunately, Chromas are despised by others for their powers. Marona puts on a brave face and takes the verbal abuse as she takes on odd jobs alongside her phantoms. Her most trusted phantom is Ash. Ash used to be a Chroma for Marona’s parents before they died. Both games feature a cast of cooky characters, moments of silly NIS humor, and the potential for multiple endings. I enjoy both of them, but I prefer the setting of Soul Nomad more than Phantom Brave’s.
Both games look splendid. They feature adorable and peppy anime sprites. Phantom Brave’s sprites aren’t as detailed, but they still have lots of color and crispness. On the flipside, the bright and tropical locales of Phantom Brave tend to outshine the muddiness of the places you’ll find in Soul Nomad. The real fun lies in the special attacks and spells. No matter which game you play, they’re crazy, flashy, and nuts. It’s kind of like watching a bite sized anime. Kudos has to be given to Phantom Brave because your teammates can wield fish as weapons. Indeed, you can watch your teammates lay on the hurt with snappers and halibuts. The two games feature somewhat forgettable music, and allow the option for either English or Japanese voices.
Phantom Brave is a very “love it or leave it” game. To this day, I still fall into the latter category. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve started a new file in an earnest attempt to see the game through, only to end up super frustrated by the game’s design choices. This applies to the PlayStation 2 version and, now, this remaster in the collection. At it’s core, Phantom Brave is a grid-less strategy game. Battles feel more like puzzles because there are so many moving parts and aspects to consider. A battle begins with Marona by herself. Marona is terribly weak. She needs to confine her phantom friends to objects lying about the battlefield. These include rocks, weeds, flowers, fish, sticks, weapons, and tons more. Once confined, they can join her in battle. But, there’s a catch: they’re not there permanently. After a certain number of turns, the phantom will vanish leaving behind (or stealing) the item they were confined to. This stressor, plus the wonky targeting, battlefields that can have your characters literally sliding or bouncing all over the place, and other random aspects makes the game unbalanced and wonky. There’s a lot of customization and level-grind potential; expected stuff if you’re familiar with NIS.
Soul Nomad, also a strategy RPG, utilizes the familiar grid-based battlefield. You move your units across a map and can perform an attack when within range. Your combat units are called Rooms. Rooms house up to nine troops. These troops can be the story-related characters that join Reyva, or they can be generic units that you purchase. Troops will level up and grow in stats, but they won’t be learning any new spells or abilities. Each Room has a front, middle, and back row. Your troops will perform different attacks depending on the row they’re placed. When encountering an enemy, the AI takes over. In other words, your units will attack whomever they please. The lack of controls sounds frustrating, but nine times out of ten the AI does a solid job of getting rid of the right enemies in the opposing rooms. Once again, there’s vast amounts of customization and level-grinding available, but (again) I won’t go into that for the sake of word space.
Despite my distaste for Phantom Brave, Soul Nomad’s inclusion makes the collection worth a purchase. Both games are hard to find by themselves. The novelty of having them together on one Switch cart is great. Soul Nomad can be finished in 30 hours, whereas Phantom Brave will take about 35. Folks that eat up these sorts of games will be able to triple those hours with ultimate equipment, various endings, levels in the thousands, and more. And it should be noted that folks should at least try Phantom Brave to see if it clicks. My opinion of it aside, I’m aware that there’s a deep strategy RPG beneath it’s frustrating surface. But the real jewel of this collection is Soul Nomad. If you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, then this is the perfect opportunity to do so.
Overall, 7/10: The two strategy games offered in the first NIS collection aren’t for everyone. They’re unconventional, quirky, and tend to require grinding to advance. However, going through the motions of one game is a lot more fun than the other.