La Pucelle: Tactics  (Sony PlayStation 2, 2004) Reviews
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La Pucelle: Tactics (Sony PlayStation 2, 2004)

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The Anti-PlayStation-RPG RPG: La Pucelle Tactics

Aug 12, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:It's not other PS2 RPGs. Also, it's simply excellent.

Cons:If any, the overtly cute character designs and the sometimes clunky menus.

The Bottom Line: La Pucelle Tactics is a great PlayStation 2 tactical/strategy RPG. Buy it if that description intrigues you.

I bought a PlayStation 2 for the first time on Sunday, August 8th, and with it purchased La Pucelle Tactics and a second copy of Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec, because my original copy of the latter (originally bought to play on someone else's console) is scratched to the point of no return. In retrospect, having mostly bought the console itself to play Gran Turismo 4 when it comes out, I could have settled for LPT by itself, because it's now devouring great swaths of my free time after work. For those not familiar with La Pucelle, it's an RPG with a "tactical" combat system, which basically means the battles are more like chess than whatever Final Fantasy battles are like.

(NB: Upon reviewing my review, it looks like my knowledgeable tone might seem odd given that I just purchased a PS2 for the fist time. I should therefore make it clear that I have extensive experience with PS2s belonging to my friends, and have actually played all the way through Final Fantasy 10 and Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. I've also completed all the RPGs that I mention below.)

With LPT, it's not so much that I particularly care for the characters (too cute without enough juxtaposition with something more evil or at least less cute) or the plot (which I feel is overly fascinated with analogues of Western religions and stereotypical moral questions raised by them). But it's the first console game in a long time--indeed, the first RPG since Dragon Warrior III on the original Nintendo--that I've felt is genuinely challenging. And it's not just that; it's challenging in a reasonable way, where I don't have to back off and level up for a long period of time if I can't win a battle. Sometimes I can prevail simply by playing a battle over again and executing a different strategy or executing my original strategy more smoothly, even if the odds seemed terrible the first go-round. Furthermore, no battle seems to play out in exactly the same way as one prior to it, and the enemies actually employ something resembling strategy (they always go after the lowest level character they can reach, it seems).

So: not Final Fantasy, where I always seem to either win handily or be utterly defeated, and which of those applies is pretty much entirely dependent on my characters' levels (notable exception for about the first half of Final Fantasy 8, where the combat was pretty well balanced if I used only attacks and spells--that is, no Guardian Force summons. The whole game was more fun that way. And easier, by the end). Plus, LPT is actually lengthy. I've never spent the advertised amount of time on a Final Fantasy game--usually they claim it's going to be 40, 60, or even 80 hours and I end up spending maybe 30 on my first, inexperienced run and 15 once I know what I'm doing. LPT shows signs of taking 60-100 hours without any unnecessarily time-consuming side quests, a favored pastime of the FF series.

Also, not Star Ocean 2, where if I had to cast that negative energy arrow spell one more time I was going to break my PlayStation 1, and yet there was no reason to cast anything else for a lengthy part of the game because I wasn't getting anything more powerful or more useful. In LPT my characters have continually gotten more and more useful skills, and one can control what they get (to a certain extent) by equipping them with different items--i.e. a Fire Rod to earn them fire spells or a Healing Rod for healing spells. Some other abilities are innate, and some come from increases in a character's stats.

La Pucelle is definitely not Xenogears, which (in retrospect) was painfully linear and involved way too much leveling up in my experience with it. In LPT I appear to be able to get a different ending to every chapter in the game. It's not truly nonlinear in the sense that one can't really make a choice and have the entire game thereafter be altered, without said thereafter consisting entirely of an immediate bad ending. But that's really a barrier set up by limited disc space (i.e. in order to have more than one possible distinct plot, one would probably have to have what amounts to at least two entirely separate versions of the game in the space generally accepted to be used for one copy) and budget for video games, in my opinion. La Pucelle Tactics at least goes as far as Crono Trigger/Cross by offering different endings to the whole game based on a buildup of choices throughout.

On a side note, XG and SO2 also suffered from a weird "problem" where the mechanics of progressing through the game changed dramatically on the second disc or in the second major "part" of the game (I can't remember if XG had two discs), which is potentially nice but which I felt was a letdown in each case--SO2 had me traveling around a painfully ugly world map by (shock of shocks) airship, and XG went into what I'm remembering as a sort of book format. At any rate it's even more linear than the first part of the game, which to me is not good. The likelihood of LPT doing this to one is extremely slim, as the entire game is divided into chapters which can have different endings based on your actions during a given chapter.

The point, then, is that if you have a PS2, you like RPGs, and you haven't tried La Pucelle Tactics (or Disgaea, another game by the same developer), you should probably get right on it. If you'd prefer something fresh to cut your teeth on, the newest game in the group is called Phantom Brave, and it will be released August 31st.

Some more facts about La Pucelle Tactics that may interest you:

-It has both English and Japanese audio tracks, and a good amount of the dialogue in the game will be played in whichever language one selects in the options. This choice also affects the language the characters use during combat, for "battle cries" and the like. The English dub is actually extremely good for a video game, in my opinion.

-The combat system is very deep. Be prepared for a bit of a learning curve.

-There is no traditional world map travel; you simply select one of a number of given points on the map and are thrust into whatever mission is present there. This also means that there are no random encounters to speak of.

-It is entirely possible to not only spend 60-100 hours on the main game, but even 10 times either of those amounts on the game's main "side quest:" Any given battleground can be induced, via "evil" acts such as killing your allies, to provide a portal to a "Dark World," where enemies are of incredible strength and therefore will take quite some time to conquer. This is also one way to get some of the best items in the game.

-While pretty, LPT is not Final Fantasy 12, nor Star Ocean 3. This is probably because there is simply so much depth to the game; not much space on the disc is spent on the graphics.

Recommend this product? Yes

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La Pucelle: Tactics is a tale of betrayal and double cross, monsters in human form and humans in monster form, set in an alternate medieval Europe.
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La Pucelle: Tactics is a tale of betrayal and double cross, monsters in human form and humans in monster form, set in an alternate medieval Europe.
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