La Pucelle: Tactics, released in Japan as La Pucelle: The Legend of the Saintess of Light, is a tactical role-playing game for the PlayStation 2, developed by Nippon Ichi Software. It was released in Japan in January 2002, and in North America by in May 2004. The game received a port to the PlayStation Portable in Japan on November 26, 2009 under the title La Pucelle Ragnarok; NIS America has since announced that they do not intend to publish this title overseas.
La Pucelle takes place in a kingdom named Paprica. The story centers on a small church called the Church of the Holy Maiden, in the city of Pot a Feu. In addition to the normal roles and duties of a Church, they also have a group of trained Demon Hunters called La Pucelle. Two of La Pucelle's newest members are Prier , a sixteen-year-old girl, and her twelve-year-old brother Culotte.
It is said that the Dark Prince, favored servant of the fallen angel Calamity, will rise to scourge the land. But legend tells that when the Prince arises, a warrior known as the Maiden of Light will challenge him and restore the balance of Light and Dark. Prier hopes to be the Maiden of Light.
The game's story is broken up into chapters. Each chapter has a number of endings, depending on the information La Pucelle discovers before reaching the chapter's end.
- Eclair/Dark Eclair
- Chocolat gang
- Father Salade
Most of the names of characters and places in the game are in French. La Pucelle (or La Pucelle d'Orléans) was a nickname given to Joan of Arc which means The Virgin. Some names are religion related like Prier (verb: to pray) and Croix (Cross) while others are either related to food like Salade (lettuce), Chocolat (Chocolate), Homard (lobster), Eclair (a kind of pastry) and Mount Champignon (mushroom) or are completely unrelated to one another like Papillon (butterfly), Noir (black), Allouette (lark) and Culotte (panty).
Combat takes place on an isometric map of varying size and shape. Each battle starts with a set number and arrangement of enemies, a Base Panel, and a number of random Dark Portals scattered around the map.
The player starts combat by clicking on the Base Panel, and drawing out their party members one at a time. Whenever a spell or special attack is used, it resolves immediately; normal attacks are set, but do not take place until selecting "Begin Battle" manually. The "End Turn" command also enacts this.
Each instance of combat takes place on a separate screen. Basic attacks (not specials) not only involve the attacker and their target, but also any friendly units adjacent to either of them All attackers and targets get one chance to attack.
While the attacker always strikes the unit they attacked to initiate the combat, all other participants in the combat will attack random targets. All party members get experience from the combat if the team inflicts any casualties, even if they didn't strike any fatal blows.
Dark Portals and Dark Energy
Dark Portals are gates to the Dark World. They commonly release a stream of dark energy which spills over the ground in one direction until they meet a character or enemy or an obstacle. Obstacles stop the energy, while the stream will be redirected in the direction a character on the stream is facing. A character facing in the opposite direction of a stream of dark energy will stop it just like an obstacle. If left uncovered for a number of rounds, a dark portal will release a new enemy onto the map.
Dark portals usually come in three colors: red (fire), blue (ice) and green (wind). Due to their initial positioning or redirecting, their streams can be made to intersect, which merges them into new colors and effects:
- Red+Blue = Purple (Aid)
- Red+Green = Yellow (Lightning)
- Blue+Green = Aqua (Healing/Purification)
- Red+Blue+Green = White (Holy)
When two streams intersect, the one whose intersection point is closest to its portal will redirect the other stream in its direction. Items called Change-ups can also be used to force a stream of energy to go in a certain direction.
Purification is the ability of members of La Pucelle to use the holy power of the Goddess Poitreene. In battle, purification is used both for closing Dark Portals and converting monsters.
When a Dark Portal is purified, the character's Purification Power is subtracted from the portal's hit points. If the Purification Power is greater, the portal is closed, which sets off a chain reaction along the stream of dark energy in that element which damages enemies standing on it (ie: red inflicts fire damage). Aqua energy heals the characters or purifies monsters if they're standing on the line. At the end of the reaction, the energy released becomes experience points for the items carried by the character who purified the portal.
If a stream of dark energy more than fifteen panels long can be made to intersect itself, it activates a Miracle, a massive summon-like attack that affects not only the entire line, but also anything within the loop made by the energy. This also immediately purifies any Dark Portals within the loop, which, with clever use and positioning of characters, enemies, and Change-ups, can cause a cascade effect with multiple Miracles.
Monsters, when converted, join the party after they have been defeated. Each purification increases the chance of a monster converting. Certain boss class monsters, like Mushroom dragons, cannot be purified until the player accomplishes a certain secret task in the game.
A monster that has joined the party can be trained. Training consists of a number of actions that the player chooses from a list that is randomly generated after completing a map. Each action either increases the monster's Happiness or increases their statistical growth rate while decreasing their Happiness. A monster whose Happiness is decreased to 1 or below will run away, while a monster at Happiness 10 (the maximum) can use purification.
A trained monster can be used in battle, or can be sent to the Dark World, where they are used in the many wars between the Demons that live there. The monster's Happiness and Training help determine its fate in the Dark World, which can lead to it sending strong items back to the party.
In exchange for introducing a monster, the Dark World representatives will combine the weapons carried by the monster, which merges their stats, effects, and bonuses into one item.
The Dark World
The Dark World in this 2002 game preceded the similar Item World introduced in 2003's first Disgaea game. It may have inspired the concept of randomly generated level options for grinding and item hunting outside the main storyline fixed levels.
Each level has a Dark Energy Index, a measure of how much dark energy is in the area. Acts during battle such as leaving Dark Portals unpurified, attacking the player's allies, and opening presents will increase the Dark Energy of an area, while completely purifying the map will decrease it. When the Index reaches 120 or greater, the picture of the stage on the Stage Select screen will be covered with static, red flashing text notifying you of a Dark Gate. Once the Map is entered, a full-sized portal will open randomly on the map. (If the portal isn't immediately visible, you will know there is one when the background of the stage is red instead of the normal blue.) Unlike the portals that can be purified, this portal goes both ways, and can be used to enter the Dark World itself.
The Dark World is a series of randomly-generated levels full of enemies and Dark Portals. Gameplay is as normal, except that Purification cannot be used to recruit monsters. Instead, a fully-purified monster, when defeated, will give up an item it was carrying rather than join the party. The exception to this rule are the Haniwas, strange-looking demons that will join the party if they are fully purified. These monsters are odd, considering that no 2 Haniwa look alike. A level in the Dark World can be completed by defeating all enemies, or by moving a character onto the level's exit gate.
Battles in the Dark World occur immediately one after the other, until every 10 levels, where the player has the option to return to the Real World. Depending on the player's performance in the Dark World, one may be given a bonus item upon completing the area.
The strength of the enemies in the Dark World varies. The higher the Dark Energy Index of the area the portal appears in, the stronger the enemies in the Dark World will be. Enemy levels increase as the player goes further into the Dark World as well.
A PSP Port of the game called La Pucelle: Ragnarok was released in Japan. It contained various new features including voices for the cutscenes. There was also an added Scenario involving Prier encountering her Demon Self, Overlord Priere. The player is also able to recruit 4 characters from Disgaea namely Laharl, Etna, Flonne and a Prinny. DLC characters such as Rozalin and Cornet were later included. Due to the many games that came out in 2011, La Pucelle: Ragnarok was not released outside of Japan.
When La Pucelle was released in North America, almost every instance of a cross was removed from the game. This included the many crosses adorning the clothing of Prier and Alouette, altering the shape of Croix's gun, and altering spell animations with the exception of holy panels. The "Dark World" was originally "Hell" (or what Disgaea's translation refers to as "The Netherworld"). Croix's prominent cigarette was also removed from both his character portraits and his sprites. This includes a pose of Croix taking a drag from a cigarette with a cigarette missing.
Mastiff offered an explanation for these changes in an interview with 1UP.com just before the game's release. According to Bill Schwarz of Mastiff:
- "There are well organized forces that work hard to punish software makers and sellers for what they consider religious transgressions. As a very small and brand new publisher without deep pockets we need to pick and choose our battles. Had we thought the crosses were meaningful we would have fought. But they weren't. And we'd much rather have the game widely available then [sic] face disappointed gamers who cannot find the title. It was the right decision, though as we grow as company we may make different calls in the future."