La Pucelle: Tactics, released in Japan as La Pucelle: The Legend of the Maiden of Light (ラ・ピュセル 光の聖女伝説 La Pyuseru Hikari no Seijo Densetsu ), 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 Mastiff in May 2004. The game received a port to the PlayStation Portable in Japan on November 26, 2009 under the title La Pucelle Ragnarok.
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 the end of the turn.
Each instance of combat takes place on a separate screen, and not only involves the attacker and their target, but also any friendly units adjacent. 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 immeditately 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
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 100 or greater, a full-sized portal will open randomly on the map. 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.
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.
- Prier—Template:Anime voices
An apprentice Demon Hunter and the Byronic main character of the game. Prier's heart is in the right place, but she is also impatient, selfish, and has a short temper. Prier usually carries a baton, but more often uses her legs in combat. She later gains an infatuation with Croix as the story progresses.
- Culotte—Template:Anime voices
Prier's younger brother who tries to act more mature than his sister. Culotte is often stuck carrying the team's supplies, which he throws at enemies. Because he is younger, Prier feels the need to protect him. Therefore, he often feels the need to rely on his sister. Culotte has a crush on his teacher Alouette and, as a result, pays more attention to her than Prier does.
- Alouette—Template:Anime voices
Prier and Culotte's teacher. Despite her young age, and having shown up at the Church of the Holy Maiden two years before with amnesia, her great spiritual power allowed to quickly rise in rank. As Prier's teacher, she is quite used to disciplining her.
- Croix—Template:Anime voices
Once a freelance Demon Hunter hired by the Church of the Divine Mother, he joins La Pucelle after suspecting that the Church of the Divine Mother may have evil intentions and because Prier reminds him of someone whom he cannot identify, since Croix has no memories outside of a few years ago.
- Eclair—Template:Anime voices
The Princess of Paprica, and a close friend of Prier and Culotte. She was destined to be the next queen of Paprica, but the pressure has gotten to her. She has a dark side referred to as "Dark Eclair".
- Homard—Template:Anime voices
The leader of the Chocolat gang, a group of air pirates whom, aside for Homard himself, are mostly small black cat-people. He is out to find the demon who injured his father.
- Yattanya—Template:Anime voices
Once leader of the Chocolat gang, before he challenged Homard to a duel and lost. Fights mostly with a hook on a chain and his hind paws. He is constantly in conflict with Papillon.
- Chocolat gang—Template:Anime voices
The crew of the air pirates, that are a group of small black cat-people, currently commanded by Homard.
- Monya-Monya—Template:Anime voices
The pilot of the Chocolat pirate air-ship, he is absent minded and can be employed to fight for a small price.
- Papillon—Template:Anime voices
A fairy with a crush on Homard. Because Homard is usually caught flirting with other girls, Papillon tends to harbor hatred towards those girls.
- Father Salade—Template:Anime voices
Founder of the Church of the Holy Maiden and La Pucelle. He trained Prier in just about everything he knows about combat.
Head of the Church Of The Divine Mother, which leads roughly 70% of Paprica's faithful.
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 (Salad), Chocolat (Chocolate), Homard (lobster) and Mount Champignon (mushroom) or are completely unrelated to one another like Papillon (butterfly), Noir (black), Allouette (lark), Eclair (lightning) and Culotte (pant) but more likely a reference to calotte (Toque) because he is always wearing one.
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". 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."
- Prier appears as a hidden boss in Disgaea: Hour of Darkness. In Disgaea, Prier (translated as Priere) is the Overlord of an Alternate Netherworld, an allusion to the hidden "ending" in La Pucelle where Prier ends up accidentally becoming a Demon Overlord if she gets too strong fighting in the Dark World. Fighting through the Alternate Netherworld and defeating Prier in battle makes her join the player's army. She appears again in Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories as a hidden boss, and in the PSP port Dark Hero Days can be recruited as a playable character, much like in Hour of Darkness. She is available as a downloadable character for Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice.
- La Pucelle is loosely related to Nippon Ichi's Marl Kingdom series wherein several names and characters recur.
- Dark Eclair was made downloadable in the PSP port of Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories. She has been released only in Japan at this point.
- Nippon Ichi has announced a PSP port under the title of "La Pucelle+Ragnarok". It was released on November 26, 2009 in Japan.