La Pucelle: Tactics owns my soul. I have spent nearly a month with the game and I still want more. Games do this to me all the time, as I'm sure they do it to you. Contra: Shattered Soldier, the first Maximo, Ikaruga, Typing of the Dead, and that's just recently. But I haven't been this enamored with a Role Playing Game since Dragon Warrior VII, and even then, the shear size of that game is just too intimidating to get really sucked in. But La Pucelle is my current drug of choice, and it is also my gateway drug as today I'm going to scour the used game shops for a copy of it's pseudo-sequel, Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. I have also drawn hearts in my calendar and scribbled "John and La Pucelle Forever" all over my notebook as I await the third game in the series, Phantom Brave.
As with any good obsession, playing La Pucelle so much has given a rather skewed perspective on all of the different things I see. Like for example, in my review of the game, I commented that I thought Culotte was a girl throughout the whole first chapter because of the way he looked and sounded. Later I read through the credits and lo and behold, Culotte is a girl! Or played by a girl rather. Jill Talley to be exact. Now I know it's standard practice to have woman voice younger boys, just look at Bart Simpson for a very famous example, but don't put your young boy in a dress. It just leads to confusion. Although I must admit, once Prier specifically said that Culotte was her brother, I could see it too. And if any other character narrated the story, I probably would have went nuts.
Culotte's gender issues aside, the characters of La Pucelle are probably what's caused me to think the most. Take the strange case of Eclair and Homard. Homard is an air pirate presumed to be in his early twenties with a patch over his left eye. Eclair is a thirteen year old princess that has a Dark alter-ego inside of her with a penchant for leather bustiers and big cleavage. And at the end Eclair and Homard get engaged! Prier and Croix also fall in love, and she's sixteen and he's in his early twenties. Just what is the age of consent in the Kingdom of Paprica? And I did not need to know that Father Salade encouraged the young women of La Pucelle to wear thongs "for mobility."
Oh Father Salade, I had that guy pegged as the true evil power just laying in wait the whole game. It was just that crazy grin and those reflective shades. What kind of Father wears mirrored sunglasses while sitting in his office all day? He had to be evil. I thought this right up until the very end. "Here we go," I thought when he told Prier not to rescue Croix from the Dark Energy Machine, "It's time for Father Salade to turn evil." But he never did, he was a good guy until the end and I was fooled. And besides, who doesn't love a fifty year old preacher that kicks more ass than all the rest of your party combined? If he had said "I kick ass for the Lord" at any time during the game I probably would have awarded La Pucelle a 10 right then and there.
Of course the story is not the reason I plan to play through La Pucelle again from the beginning sometime soon. I plan to do that because the battles are just so much fun. And I have plenty of regrets that I didn't get the "good" ending in every chapter and plenty of things that I wish I had done. Like just what was in those treasure chests in Mayonnaise Harbor in Chapter 4? And what's at the end of the Cave of Trials? And what's beyond the first room in the Dark Shrine?
Some things I may never find out no matter how many times I replay the game. Like why does Noir sound just like Tim Curry (It, the crazy butler from Clue, Dr. Frank-N-Furter, the crazy guy from Congo, are you sensing a pattern?)? Or why was the final battle against Noir so ridiculously easy? I was kind of surprised that the real final fight was being strong enough to get to Noir's chamber. Fighting past wave after wave of the cloaked wizards was difficult. Noir just needed a few Holy Punches and that was that. Now if Noir had a whole gang of minions, that would have been a battle.
And on that note, who does Nippon Ichi (or Mastiff) think they're fooling when they print on the box that La Pucelle has "more than 120 hours of gameplay"? At the final save point my total game time clocked in at 43 hours and 30 minutes. We'll say there's around an hour of game time after that and then to be generous I'll add in another five hours for all the times my party met their untimely demise. That's barely scraping fifty hours, not even half what Nippon Ichi (or Mastiff, I'm not really sure) claims. Kyle Orland had a great post about the vast difference between publisher stated game time and real game time in his Video Game Ombudsman blog and seeing that clock every time you save or load brought the issue front and center for La Pucelle. Of course, another point Kyle makes is when do you stop counting? I'll surely play La Pucelle to completion again and that will surely bring the total well over 120 hours. So should I really be complaining? (Don't answer that).
Is This The End?
But for the foreseeable future, La Pucelle has come to an end for me. With an ending that's wide open to (more direct) sequel possibilities at that, even though that doesn't seem to be Nippon Ichi's style. Another pseudo-sequel in the Nippon Ichi-verse, Phantom Brave, is coming at the end of August and early word is that it's even more complex and demanding than La Pucelle and Disgaea. Sporting an entirely new battle system, I may just be sucked in all over again. But for any RPG fans that still haven't experienced the brave new world of Nippon Ichi, La Pucelle is well worth your time. All of it. For days... weeks... and months.