As most of the world is dragged kicking and screaming into the high-def PS3 era, a handful of developers continue to service the ginormous PS2 market with smaller, easier-to-market titles. RPG fans know well the name of NIS America, the publisher responsible for titles like Atelier Iris, Ar tonelico and Disgaea, and today it's announcing four more games to fill that aching hole in your adventurous heart.
Disgaea Portable for PSP has been confirmed, but it's much more than the Japanese version. The US market will see an exclusive versus mode that lets you pit your demonic army against a friend's in an ad-hoc multiplayer setting. In order to balance the gameplay, special attention is being paid to make sure it's not always the person with the highest level who wins. The US version will also have an Etna mode, where you get to see how the first game would have unfolded if she had killed protagonist Laharl at the beginning.
Tying together nicely with Disgaea is Soul Nomad, a grid-based strategy RPG from the producer of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. The twist here is that you can choose the main character's gender and name from the start, so there doesn't appear to be a central protagonist. Nameless or no, your plight is certainly serious - you've inherited a possessed sword that'll grant you the power to defeat your enemies, but using the weapon takes pieces of your soul. Whoops.
With such a weapon, you're essentially a villain, and the stat-heavy gameplay has been tweaked to match your alignment. In fact, Soul Nomad is all about breaking the norms set by Disgaea - you'll be able to steal from shops, steal from people, attack the towns and exploit aspects of the game world to gain the upper hand (like gain 1000 levels instantly, just to pound some baddie into the ground.) Look for this one in the summer.
Above: GrimGrimoire's a joy to see in motion. Check the trailer for more.
Up next is Dragoneer's Aria, another RPG from Hitmaker. Even though last year's Blade Dancer totally sucked hard, we're willing to give this PSP outing a shot, if for no other reason than the name sounds cool. This one's about a guy named Valen graduating from dragoneer's school just in time for a massive adventure. Combining items called Dragon Orbs (not balls, mind you, orbs) will change you weapons and affect the player's attributes. Much like Dancer, there'll be wireless modes for up to four players where you tackle a devious set of monsters that couldn't be toppled alone. Treasures gained in this mode will transfer over into the solo game. This collaboration between NIS, Hitmaker and Nippon Ichi hopes to become an "international phenomenon," so let's hope it can meet this lofty goal. (The Final Fantasy VIII visual style helps.)
Finally, there's GrimGrimoire, a real-time strategy RPG involving light resource management and a whole lot of magic. As Lillet, you summon elves and fairies to fight for you, while three other types of magic stand against you: sorcery, alchemy and necromancy. Grim's a side-viewed RTS, of all things, so imagine what Warcraft might look like if it were 2D instead of a bird's eye view.
The most stunning aspect of Grim, however, is the visual style. The art looks like a perfect cross between a Disney movie and Harry Potter, with richly animated figures flowing around the screen. Detailed cutscenes feature large, exhaustively prepared drawings that are brought to life through subtle movements and (genre typical) voice acting. If it plays as good as it looks, we might wonder why the "next generation" bothered to arrive at all.
March 30, 2007