In the long history of video games, it’s impossible to capture everything at the time of release. This is why re-releases and remasters can be so useful; Introducing a whole new generation of games that may not have the same cultural penetration as the bigger releases in a genre, but still deserve to be celebrated and enjoyed. With Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 we have a chance to enjoy two classic RPG titles while celebrating the lighter side of Nippon Ichi Software’s catalogue.
We didn’t enjoy the previous entry in the NIS Classics series as much as we would have liked, but these two titles don’t take themselves nearly as seriously, and they’re a lot better. First we have Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound. This is an updated version of Kingdom of Makai: Chronicles of the Holy Book for the PlayStation 2. Originally released in 2005, this game features the isometric tactical combat that fans of other Nippon Ichi Software games are familiar with.
Both the graphics and the gameplay here are similar to the games in the NIS Classics Volume 1 collection, but the story is decidedly different. Here, players take control of Zetta, the “Bad-Ass Freakin’ Overlord” who is turned into a book due to his own hubris. He must try to rebuild his personal demonic kingdom while reclaiming his own body by assembling a group of fighters, healers and mages to fight his battles for him.
Characters are summoned and equipped in a hub world that serves as Zetta’s home as he attempts to reclaim his power. These characters level up as they fight, making grinding for money and experience points a central part of the game. This is generally the biggest downside of games like this; Hours are spent completing missions and maps repeatedly to enable the latest story mission. While the fight is having its fun, it repeats itself very quickly with no action to interrupt it.
Makai Kingdom is packed with fun and colorful characters that breathe life into an otherwise straightforward game. The game uses the otherworldly nature of the environment to give us some really outlandish character designs. Since the release of this game, there have been many tactical RPGs that have improved or improved upon the formula for placing and moving troops around the battlefield, but few can match the charm and fun we’ve encountered here. The addition of Petta Mode, which follows the story of Zetta’s future daughter for the first time in the West, means even existing fans will find something new here to enjoy.
The other half of this collection is ZHP Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilmanoriginally released for the PSP in 2010. This game plays like a tokusatsu story Power Rangers; It’s a dark future where a magical super baby was born who is tasked with saving the world from destruction. This catches the attention of the subtly named Darkdeath Evilman, who plots to kill the Superbaby to establish his own dominance.
Opposite him is Unlosing Ranger, a hero who has never lost a fight. However, he is killed by a passing car before getting to the final fight and is forced to pass his powers on to a random kid. This new hero is promptly killed in the fight against Darkdeath and sent to Bizarro Earth to train himself so he can save Superbaby and the rest of the world from certain death. It’s a silly act, but it works for the show style they’re trying to emulate. After all, tokusatsu plots are not known for their subtlety.
The gameplay here is presented in the same isometric visuals as other titles from NIS, but it’s actually more roguelike than tactical RPG. Players can control this new Unlosing Ranger as they enter dungeons, level up, and help the citizens of this alternate world. Instead of summoning other characters to fight for him, he gets stuck within himself and weaves his way through randomly generated dungeons. His level resets to one every time he enters a dungeon, but he keeps his base stats as a core progression mechanic whether he succeeds or not.
Similar to Makai Kingdom, the gameplay is pretty basic by today’s standards. It’s certainly easier than most isometric RPGs of the era, but it’ll still require plenty of patience and attrition to get through the story. However, the writing and humor in this game are top notch. It’s littered with references to anime and characters with horrific puns on names, from US President Brick Oldlama to elderly Spanish citizen Jose Gazpacho. There is a feeling that everything here is meant to be exaggerated and not taken seriously, which makes it much more enjoyable.
Like other isometric RPG titles, these games sometimes have a steep learning curve. ZHP has less frustrating moments than Makai Kingdom, but even it has points where enemies are nearly insurmountable without grinding for new gear and higher stats. It will take several dozen hours to reach the end of either story. Both together will probably take over a hundred hours, especially with the bonus content included in Makai Kingdom, making it a great time investment for players. It’s at least a lot of content for the price and worth it for the quality of writing in these games.
Both games that make up Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 benefit from a light-hearted approach to their story. With gameplay that doesn’t offer too many surprises, the humorous writing style and charming characters go beyond the rough edges of these older RPGs. While we preferred ZHP’s over-the-top antics and writing to Makai Kingdom, both games have plenty to offer both new and existing fans and showcase the humor that has made this and other NIS titles so enduring over the years.
https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/nintendo-switch/prinny-presents-nis-classics-volume-2 Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2 Review (Switch)