Nippon Ichi, the company behind the magnificent Disgaea series, released this gem back in June last year in the UK. Without any publicity and what seems to have been a small production run on PlayStation 2, getting your hands on a copy now might be a challenge, but it's definitely worth tracking down.
With Soul Nomad, Nippon Ichi took elements from Disgaea and added a dash of Nintendo’s Advance Wars to create something a little bit different.
The story focuses on events from the past, when three colossal World Eaters, led by a dark and mysterious figure, almost destroyed your world. Fortunately, these behemoths were stopped in their tracks when their leader was imprisoned by the forces of good in a black onyx sword.
Now that your character has come of age, it has been decided your soul is to be fused with the soul of this dark being, in the hope that a mixture of good and evil will finally destroy the remaining World Eaters.
The game is strictly turn-based, but rather than the pleasing isometric view from their previous titles, Nippon Ichi resorted to a flattened view. Although the battle screens fizz with colour and charm, the world map is devoid of any such sparkle, making certain elements of the game less than appealing.
Thankfully, though, the gameplay shines, and give it a few hours and you'll discover that Soul Nomad is an absorbing and deeply tactical experience.
There are 26 classes at your disposal, from Soldiers and Knights, to Bards and Bandits and this flexible mix allows the player to tailor their squads to their liking.
Each character on screen represents a whole battle squad made up of multiple characters. Each squad can be tinkered with, and you can arrange party members into slots, such as front, middle or back.
Unusually when in battle, you don’t directly issue orders to these team members, the game decides on what attacks to use instead. While this is initially jarring, it actually works quite well in the heat of battle.
The real challenge is figuring out where to place each team member for maximum advantage. Add in the ability to create new teams, characters and implement special moves, and Soul Nomad reveals itself to be far more complex than you initially imagine.
Fans of Disgaea will definitely get their money’s worth from Soul Nomad, although those new to the SRPG genre might struggle due to the lack of explanations and slightly bland visuals. However, it is still well worth tracking down as it offers a rich and rewarding experience.
Images courtesy of Nippon Ichi