A Great Nostalgic Time
The era of the PlayStation 2 shaped much of the modern gaming industry. Innovative and brilliant titles stretched across the life of the console, creating some of the most memorable experiences in gaming history. Final Fantasy X provided RPG enthusiasts one of the greatest Final Fantasy entries in the franchise – and included, for better or worse, the first cast of fully voiced characters. Silent Hill 2 and 3 set the standard for classic survival horror experiences, and Resident Evil 4 redefined Capcom’s legacy. Dynasty Warriors as we currently know it was born and evolved throughout the life of the PS2 (the original title was a fighter on the PSOne), and franchises like .hack produced seven entries over the PS2’s dominant run. And who could forget the Grand Theft Auto that changed the face of open world games and Rockstar for years to come? The PlayStation 2 served to offer a platform for some of the greatest games in the history of gaming, so it’s no wonder that so many classics from the PS2 have continued to find remasters, remakes, and re-releases on current and previous gen consoles.
NIS America is one such publisher looking to cash in on nostalgic goodness with Prinny Presents NIS Classics Vol. 1 – a collection of two solid strategy RPGs from the JRPG megalith. Phantom Brave and Soul Nomad grace this collection, which pulls one of NIS America’s most visible PS2 titles (Phantom Brave) together with a lesser known counterpart (Soul Nomad). Both feature turn based strategy gameplay but with unique twists that make each – particularly Phantom Brave – completely different experiences from each other. If this sounds good to you, you can be doubly excited to know that NIS America already set a release date for vol. 2, which features the likes of Makai Kingdom and Z.H.P.
Since both games are well over a decade old, I’ll very briefly touch upon plot points. Phantom Brave tells the story of a young, possessed girl who works as a mercenary of sorts. Gameplay sees her commandeering various map elements to infuse the souls of her allies into set pieces (for example, she may send a soul into a tree in order to shape it into a humanoid body for a few turns). The entire experience of Phantom Brave feels fresh – there just really isn’t another SRPG like it, and they were a dime a dozen on the PS2. Soul Nomad sees you bound to a supremely powerful sword possessed by an almighty conqueror who previously sought to destroy the world. This is a more traditional SRPG but features plenty of mechanics and content to keep you busy for quite some time.
Now for what you really came here for: How do the games function and look on the Nintendo Switch? Typically, I am highly critical of Nintendo Switch games – mostly due to the limited functionality of the console. So many games are hideous when played on a large screen, and while NIS Classics Vol. 1 doesn’t fully escape this (it does mitigate damage, however, by centering games in a familiar bordered setup). On the big screen, everything certainly is more pixelated but not like “the good old days”. If you choose to take the game handheld, however, you’ll notice a massive improvement in visual fidelity. I like to play a majority of my games on my Switch Lite. In the case of this collection, the games look and run beautifully on handheld. The border is gone, and the edges of the characters are smooth, which really benefits the sprites involved. The difference is notable and appreciated and certainly worth a handheld look at the games.
As far as sound goes, the direction from the original games was solid (music is typical NIS America fanfare). NIS America games, particularly on the PS2, often populated their titles with legit voice actors. Yuri Lowenthal, Wendee Lee, Troy Baker, David Lodge, Patrick Seitz, Amanda Lee, Jessica Straus, Vic Mignogna, Liam O’Brien, and Sandy Fox are just a few of the huge names on the docket. I was discussing recently with a friend about how dream teams like these would be so difficult to pull together nowadays that we were really spoiled to grow up with such star studded casts.
Perhaps the nicest aspect of this release is that you essentially get two full, lengthy games for the price of one ($59.99). Speed running may finish the bare bones of both games at a combined 60 hours, but attempting to fully complete both could yield well over 200 hours of gameplay. As far as value goes, you can’t really argue too much there, particularly when you consider that both games cost around $50 upon initial launch, anyway.
If you’re looking for a wave of terrific nostalgia, or if you’re a fan of the SRPG genre, NIS Classics Vol. 1 is an important collection to own. This is how retro classics (I guess PS2 is retro now, right?) should be handled (as far as quality is concerned), and there weren’t many more beloved SRPG entries on the PS2. With potential extended periods of time at home this holiday season in order, having a collection like this could be the perfect remedy for the stir crazy.