Another year gone by and a new Nippon Ichi S-RPG ready to unravel. Since 2003's niche, yet somehow groundbreaking S-RPG Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, fans of the genre have been consistently delighted with more chibi-strategic hilarity with each new iteration. Soul Nomad embarks as the first game in the series where tactical warfare plays out more like something akin to Ogre Battle, as you move around as well as attack in parties, which automatically attack on queue. It's a rather brash change of direction, considering how the past four games have been rather similar in core gameplay, though still highly pleasing fans.
Ages ago, the sorcerer Gig attempted to destroy the world. With the aid of three of his creations, commonly known as World Breakers, Gig's plans were foiled by heroes of ancient time. Since, his soul has been sealed within a dark black sword, eventually given to you the main hero. Almost immediately, Gig assumes control over your body, and you set out to destroy the very creations Gig has let loose. The common RPG musts are present, such as Danette, your double-daggered female sidekick for the course of the tale.
Soul Nomad is a pretty strange game... but what emerges is a game with an old aesthetic, but new twists, making gameplay fresh and exciting...
Though still grid-based, Soul Nomad is unlike past NIS S-RPGs, as characters attack in groups and not independently one-by-one as they did in previous games. Once a player's avatar comes into contact with a foe, a split-screen view of the battlefield opens, displaying each micro-army on each side of the field. Units immediately exchange attacks, as well as the attacked unit often countering back with its own barrage of hits. Units are stored within "rooms", which can be visited via the Main Menu to alter formations and assigned characters. More formations unlock as you purchase more "rooms", eventually creating a ridiculous amount of addictive micro-customization for each and every one of your parties.
The plot, though rooted in the same foundation every RPG derives itself from, still manages to be fresh, thanks to hilarious voice acting and a proper localization. Danette and Gig's exchange of witty remarks never seems to get old, as Danette is as dumb as a rock, with Gig growing progressively irritated by her spacey demeanor. Gig also constantly tempts you to use his powers, which is where the twist behind the gameplay really starts to shine. You can literally do whatever you want, at the cost of slowly feeding away your soul to Gig, and eventually putting yourself completely in Gig's control. Though the satisfaction of gaining 1000 levels on the fly or pillaging villages is great, it quickly leads up to the game's worst ending, as well as a much shorter and worthwile experience.
Soul Nomad is a pretty strange game. It takes the design from past games, making it look like more of the same, general S-RPG fare. But what emerges is a game with an old aesthetic, but new twists, making gameplay fresh and exciting, if not ridiculously addictive. As battles are much faster and game progression much more linear, this is a great entry point to those wishing to dive into the Nippon Ichi world without getting too confused. If not for its hilarity and ingenuity, Soul Nomad proves its worth with its originality and easy access to strategy veterans and newcomers alike.