The Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volumes 1 and Volume 2 each brought a different pair of games to Switch. The third volume brings a PlayStation classic to modern consoles as well as the Western debut of an obscure but well-loved game in the NIS stable. Die-hard tactical RPG fans might have heard of La Pucelle: Ragnarok and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure, but they will likely be new to many fans. Fortunately, these pair of adventures manage to mostly hit the right notes even if many of their conventions and mechanics are dated.
The La Pucelle: Ragnarok half of Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 sends players to a world filled with French puns and culinary references. It follows the story of Prier and Culotte as they take on the job of hunting demons for the Church of the Holy Maiden. Prier is almost overly aggressive in her desire to become the next Maiden of Light, a heroic figure said to return to the world to restore balance when she is needed most. Culotte is her long-suffering younger brother who begrudgingly puts up with his sister’s antics.
The two are accompanied on their journey to battle the Dark Prince by a variety of characters and even some monsters that can be recruited during the combat sections. By positioning characters beside monsters, they can “purify” the demons, increasing the odds that they will join your party once defeated. This is the best way to bolster your ranks of fighters after each level, which is useful when you’re trying to take advantage of the energy fields in the dungeons.
Each level has a different flow of energy to it, denoted by the different streams of colour that line the ground. Purifying the sources of this energy can damage enemies standing in them and allow party members to act again, as well as boost some of their stats or heal them. Focusing on directing this energy and purifying it is the most interesting feature of combat in La Pucelle: Ragnarok.
The plot feels very straightforward but there are wrinkles in there for players who enjoy exploring. Each chapter offers multiple endings depending on what actions players take. For example, the opening chapter can end with players having to fight the spirit of a dead count or, if they managed to find his deceased wife and son on their way through the dungeon, free his spirit and allow it to pass on peacefully. You can experiment and explore to uncover all the ways the different chapters can play out along the way.
The version of La Pucelle: Ragnarok included here includes all the additional content that was eventually released for the PSP port, including extra missions, characters, and some quality-of-life improvements like quick travel. This version has long been considered the definitive way to play Prier’s story and it is the first time it has been officially released outside of Japan.
The other half of the NIS Classics Volume 3 is Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure. This game is more tongue-in-cheek and whimsical of the two. It follows the adventures of Cornet, a young woman who can talk to puppets and has a magical horn that can grant wishes, and Kururu, a puppet that has always been by Cornet’s side. The pair set off to rescue the Kingdom’s heartthrob of a prince after he gets turned to stone by an evil witch.
It all sounds very much like a Disney musical and it plays very similarly to one. Rhapsody is one of the easiest tactical RPGs developed by NIS in 1998, but it never strays into the realm of childishness — there is a sense that the Disgaea developers are still finding their footing, though. Many of the company’s in-jokes are there but less refined and subtle, such as finding a treasure chest whose sole purpose is to sing the name of the company at you.
Combat in Rhapsody is similar to what you’ll find in many other NIS games. You move Cornet and the puppets she controls around the battlefield to attack the opposing monsters. Occasionally, one of the monsters will ask to join your team, giving your party another member to send into battle, but for the most part, the game plays like most other tactical RPGs. The biggest difference here is that most of the combat takes place on a surprisingly small map. This makes the game easier but also removes much of the tactics from the combat. Enemies and allies mix usually within the first or second turn, with little room to manoeuvre to the point where it almost feels like the game would be better suited with a turn-based combat system instead — something that would happen in the sequels and the DS port of this game.
Though we enjoyed our time playing both titles in Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3, as expected, the games feel dated in many ways. In both La Pucelle: Ragnarok and Rhapsody, players must travel around towns, speaking to everyone they meet in order to advance the plot, which can be frustrating when you're struggling to find the single NPC you haven’t spoken to yet. It is easy to see how these games influenced later generations of NIS titles, especially the Disgaea series, but they are still very much a product of their time.
Both games in the collection also tend to under-explain key aspects of combat, such as elemental affinity and how to use Cornet’s horn skill to unleash impressive attacks. There is an expectation that you’ll engage in some trial and error along the way but that doesn’t always translate to a fun player experience.
While both games’ visuals hold up on Switch in handheld mode, Rhapsody’s sprites felt stretched and warped when blown up. La Pucelle: Ragnarok fares better in docked mode, but both games feel best when in handheld mode. Ageing graphics aside, both games feature music and voice casts that feel ahead of their time. There is a charm to their presentation that is timeless and endeared these classic titles to us for the very first time.
Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 3 offers two early and accessible works from one of the most prolific and unique video game developers in the business. La Pucelle: Ragnarok and Rhapsody: A Musical Adventure are both ambitious titles that pushed the boundaries of the tactical RPG genre at the time, so it is a delight to see them get a chance to shine on a modern console. Both games come with some graphical upgrades, but the core gameplay and experience remain the same. If you can get past some of the dated mechanics and visuals, we'd say it's worth taking a punt and diving into another slice of gaming history.