La Pucelle

   While Rhapsody, the first game in Nippon Ichi's "Marl Story" series, was a flop in the US, the series has gone on apace in Japan. With two sequels, a spin-off jigsaw puzzle game, and a raft of tie-in goods, it was only a matter of time before the series got its own side story, and La Pucelle for PlayStation 2 is the result.

 Thank you for sending me an angel
Everybody in angel wings

   It's not known how directly La Pucelle ties into the main Marl Story series, but there's no mistaking it for anything else. The candy-sweet, angelic-themed artwork is back in full force, as is the naming scheme that's a strange blend of French and foodstuffs.

   The game's heroine, for example, is named Prier, and her friends are Culotte and Alouette. Prier lost her parents at a young age and grew up in an orphanage, where she is trained to invoke the power of the saintly La Pucelle to ward off the forces of darkness. During her quest to do so, she'll meet Croix, a roguish firearm user; Eclair Princess, the oddly-named ruler of the Paprika Kingdom; and Captain Homard and his crew, a group of thieving feline pirates.

   The gameplay seems similar to Rhapsody in that it's an isometric turn-based strategy game, but there are a few additions to the basic structure that might make it a little more challenging than Rhapsody's simplistic battles. The first change is pretty standard stuff for strategy games; if multiple allies are crowded around an enemy, the other party members will lend support to your attacks on that enemy. The second addition also has to do with party support, but is a little more innovative: characters who are related or connected in some way can also lend power to each other's attacks in some unspecified way.

At the Teddy Bears' Massacre
Purify goofy soul!

   Also interesting is the introduction of "Unclean Points" strewn around the map. If players can lure an enemy over one of these points and strike them while there, the spot will become purified. Purify all the Unclean Points on the map, and powerful attacks will become available for use.

   La Pucelle is due out January 31 in Japan, in both regular and special editions. The special edition, which will retail for 7800 yen as opposed to the regular version's 6800, comes with a full-color 42-page hardcover manual and accompanying soundtrack CD with 29 songs. Unfortunately, Rhapsody's poor performance in the US makes a localization of this latest entry in the series extremely unlikely, but importers looking for another dose of the original's sweetly strange aesthetics and off-kilter music shouldn't let this opportunity pass them by.

Preview by Nich Maragos, GIA.
La Pucelle
Developer Nippon Ichi
Publisher Nippon Ichi
Genre Strategy RPG
Medium DVD-ROM (?)
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  01.31.02
La Pucelle impressions
63 screenshots
15 character designs / 1 scene
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