Nippon Ichi Software, the makers of Disgaea: Hour of Darkness and Phantom Brave, are at their zany best again. This time the sultans of strategy RPGs take us back to the Netherworld to visit an all new Overlord, Lord Zetta. The self-centered demon lord has ruled over the Netherworld for eons; but a wrench is thrown into his impervious empire when Pram the Oracle prophesizes its destruction. Not about to be done in by a silly prophecy, Zetta sets out to find the Sacred Tome where all of history, past, present, and future is written.
But rather than a means to save the Netherworld, the last passage in the Tome reads, "Lord Zetta is stupid. His foolishness has doomed the Netherworld to extinction." Annoyed at the bruising of his enormous ego, Zetta burns the Sacred Tome which causes the entire Netherworld to burn with it; ironically causing Zetta to fulfill its prophecy. At the brink of extinction, Zetta confines himself into the Sacred Tome. With nothing left Zetta, now a floating book, sets out on a quest to rebuild the new Makai Kingdom.
|"Pick up and throw your facilities into enemy territory so your troops can spring out for a blitz attack."
Other Overlords arrive to confront Zetta, but rather than be helpful, they instead amuse themselves by setting traps for him and giving him a doghouse to live in as his first facility. Facilities are the new big gameplay aspect in a series of new features found in Nippon Ichi's lineup of SRPGs. They are mobile fortresses used in battle that can take on forms of hospitals, arms factories, etc. In the beginning, you can create item shops and hospitals to visit between battles but soon up to three buildings can be "invited" onto a map and eight characters can stay inside facilities.
Facilities are created by sacrificing characters, and the power and abilities of that facility are determined by the deceased. Characters can be switched in and out of facilities but the strategy involves which characters you choose to inhabit which facilities as their own statistics influence the effectiveness of the facility. Facilities can be created, moved, even literally thrown into enemy territory so your troops can spring out for a surprise blitz attack on some very confused monsters.
From his lone doghouse in the middle of an empty field, Zetta begins his ambitious quest by creating a small fighting force by binding souls to the scattered rocks, trees, and shrubs nearby. Up to eight characters can fight with Zetta while 24 more can be stored in the three facilities on the battlefield. Your arsenal consists of both ancient and modern weapons like katanas, spears, flame throwers, gatling guns, and UFOs, so players can choose to slice, shoot, or just blow up their foes. But, you are able to harm your own soldiers by friendly fire; so you might want to take it easy with the rocket launchers. Characters can also pilot mechs and tanks or inhabit other items on the map, in a system also used in Phantom Brave. They can even toss enemies into facilities where they battle it out with the inhabitants of the facility in a manner similar to how monsters were captured in Disgaea, only this time either the monster or your facility will be destroyed. Adding new characters to your army is easy; whenever an enemy unit is defeated, that type can be made into a unit of your own. Characters move not through a grid-based system, but through a "circle" system much like in Phantom Brave. Turns are taken by setting up all your characters' moves and attacks in a queue, then unleashing them in the style of Disgaea.
The maps in Makai Kingdom, except boss fights, are randomly generated and not all of the playing field is visible. Players must fight past key objectives to reveal new portions of the map which makes the maps in Makai Kingdom bigger than any previous NIS game and increases the replay value. Most of the maps take place in the grim heart of the Netherworld environments, but expect to also battle it out on beaches and soccer fields.
If you've ever played a Nippon Ichi game, you will know what to expect in the graphics department: adorable hand drawn sprites on 3D battle maps. The isometric view that is pretty much the standard in SRPGs makes its return. Players will immediately recognize the graphic style by Takehito Harada who is responsible for the popular character art in Nippon Ichi's previous games. Reportedly, this is the best looking SRPG to come out of Nippon Ichi.
Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome looks to be the most light-hearted, humorous, and bizarre game yet from the makers of Disgaea and La Pucelle Tactics. With new features, like facilities and vehicles, in addition to the aspects developed in previous games, this could be Nippon Ichi's most immersive gameplay experience yet. Makai Kingdom continues Nippon Ichi's trend of strategy RPGs full of cute yet sinister characters and madcap style that fans have come to expect. So grab your shiniest Overlord crown, suit up in your mech, and set your Prinnies to explode this July 27.