Whilst the Arc the Lad series has always done well for itself in Japan, it was relatively unknown to the outside world. Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits (released in Europe as simply ‘Arc: Twilight of the Spirits’) managed to secure a release however and served as the forerunner to bringing the other games over years later.
Phantom Brave is very much a turn for the unexpected from Nippon Ichi, a game that (for the most part) puts away the upbeat comedy styling’s of their other titles and instead tells a story that’s bitter-sweet.
For those who enjoyed Disgaea, Makai Kingdom represents Nippon Ichi pretty much throwing the kitchen sink at the Tactical RPG genre. It’s bigger, more wacky and pushes the idea of what can be included in a battle further than any other title.
Nippon Ichi had thrown the kitchen sink at the original Disgaea game and when it came time to produce a sequel it was going to be hard to find ways in which to further innovate the game. Instead a new-found focus on storytelling and a few lighter modifications to an already great system make Disgaea 2 something of a love or hate it sequel.
It’s hard to believe that Tactical RPGs were in a bit of a slump in the west prior to the release of Disgaea. The likes of ‘Final Fantasy Tactics’ had ‘Tactics Ogre’ had set a standard for the genre that was overly-serious and could at times produce lengthy, dry campaigns that required a significant investment in time to beat, even if those games produced great gameplay and narratives. Tactical RPGs were becoming dull and grey in tone. Then Nippon Ichi released Disgaea onto the world and everything changed.
It’s hard to believe that the humble Tactics RPG wasn’t always as popular as it is today; with releases in its genre cooling after the Shining Force series abruptly stopped and Final Fantasy Tactics put a full stop on how they should be made. However the release of the Gameboy Advance brought a lot of such titles into the fold as a viable mobile genre and sparked interest again. On the PS2, a company called Nippon Ichi Software managed to create an art form out of such titles, carving out such brilliant examples of the genre as Disgaea, Phantom Brave, and of course La Pucelle: Tactics.
Many experienced gamers will tell you that the Suikoden series peaked with Suikoden II and not to bother playing past the first two instalments. I feel genuinely sorry for those who did so, because Suikoden III is a hidden gem that the UK has only just managed to get its hands on over a whole console generation later than its original release.