|Thirty pages or so is too many. Time for a new thread.|
Phantom Brave, then. Traded some more games in yesterday with the intention of picking up either Timesplitters 3, RE4 or DMC3, but Game in Birmingham had this up on the shelves with the wrong price sticker on the box, so there was no contest.
Helluva weird, but weird interesting - Nippon Ichi have created an entirely new way of playing TBS which has very little in common with anything that's come before. Disgaea was a bit of a revolution itself, but it was a revolution built on certain genre standards. Here, the very first thing that you notice is that there's no grid any more - instead you get circles around your characters, defining where they can move to and what they can attack. You've only got one proper character, and she's fairly weak, but she's capable of summoning Phantoms to fight on her side. You need to summon Phantoms inside of items on the battlefield - rocks, patches of grass, trees, treestumps, flowers, starfish, etc - and each item alters the Phantom's base stats. Summoning a Phantom inside a flower gives a bonus to that Phantom's Intelligence and Will, but knocks down their HP, Attack, Speed, and so on. So really you want to be summoning magic users inside the flowers and patches of grass, and summoning fighters into things like rocks (which give an increase to Attack, but a decrease to magic-related stats).
What makes it more difficult is that each Phantom can only be summoned for a certain number of turns in any one battle. I've not got the hang of keeping an eye on this yet - it can get annoying to move one character across the field to get them into position, only to have them disappear one move before you got the chance to have them do what you wanted. The entire game needs a lot more forward planning than Disgaea did.
It's all about the environment. Disgaea let you lift characters to throw them out of the line of fire, or across the map to an exit point, or lift enemies to stop them from attacking anyone. PB keeps the ability to lift, but totally changes its usefulness. Every item on the battlefield allows characters to use new attacks when it's lifted. Lifting and holding a tree lets you use a move called something like Oak Smash, for example. The more you have a character use a move in this way, the better that character gets at using it (pretty much in the same way as you build up weapon skills in Disgaea). You can also pick up and abuse enemy characters - downed or still alive - in the same way.
Then there's other stuff. There's a sort of Virtua Fighter-style ring out system, where you can throw or knock enemies out of the battlefield to get rid of them, but they can do the same to you. Every surface has a rating of how slippy and how bouncy it is.
And that's more or less all I understand at the moment. I've only played it for an hour and a half so far, which isn't even 1% of the time I put into Disgaea. I already think that this is going to rival that game for the amount of time I put into it, but I'd still definitely recommend that anyone thinking of getting this puts some serious time into Disgaea first. There's so much here that's both completely new and horrifically complex that you need an easy way in, which is presumably why they've left things like joypad button assignments and the menus exactly as they were in the previous game. That's good, because if I also had all the basic joypad controls to learn I think I might start bleeding from the nostrils. Hints of huge canyons of gameplay hiding under the stuff I've played around with so far - I created a random dungeon earlier, and when I finished one of its floors its stats appeared to level up. I've no idea what that's all about. I've also not even thought about equipable items so far - there's a lot going on there that I cxan't get a grip on yet.
I see that what should have been the first of this loose series, La Pucelle Tactics, has finally got a UK release, too. I suspect that might be my next purchase, when I finish this. In three months time, or whatever.