Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2: Makai Kingdom / ZHP
Volume 2 Of The Prinny Classic Collection Is Finally Here
Last year we looked at the NIS Classics Volume 1, which gave Switch owners the updated port of Phantom Brave and the PS2 title, Soul Nomad & the World Eaters. In a similar move, the NIS Classics Volume 2 features an upgraded port bundled with another fellow classic. The "updated port" this time is Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound, based on the Japan-only PSP port Phantom Kingdom Portable. This version included an all-new mode as well as some QoL adjustments.
The second game featured in Volume 2 is ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman, released on the PSP in 2010 originally. As with the previous volume, there's one specific game I enjoyed more than the other. Before I reveal what that game is, I'll look at both games equally in how they run on the Nintendo Switch. I've mentioned how the graphics of the games looked a bit off in NIS Classics Volume 1. Did NIS improve the presentation? Or is it more of the same?
Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound
Originally released in 2005 on the PS2, Makai Kingdom: Chronicles of the Sacred Tome was released during the peak of Disgaea's success. Much like Phantom Brave: The Hermuda Triangle, the game has ties to the franchise and would later receive a Japanese-only upgrade on the PSP. This new port contains the PSP exclusive content translated into English and I was able to take a quick look at the new "Petta Mode."
Before that, Makai Kingdom focuses on an Overlord, Zetta, who rules the Netherworld with an iron fist. Cocky and callous, he ignores an oracle who tells him that he will be responsible for the destruction of his Kingdom. Tempting fate, he ends up burning the one tome that held his world in balance. In a final effort to salvage his legacy, he infuses his soul into the tome, saving himself yet losing everything in the process. Losing everything, he seeks various Overlords from other Netherworlds to write in his book and "rewrite" his world.
As Zetta is bound to a book, he has to use his powers to create familiars from objects and have his own army to protect him. The "creating souls from objects" is similar to Phantom Brave's mechanic of turning objects into weapons. While you sadly cannot beat an enemy with a tree, you can turn a tree into a soldier instead! The basic mechanics are also similar to Disgaea, featuring the iconic grid system and gameplay elements.
The Most Feared Overlord, Bound To A Book.
The "Petta Mode" takes a different, more challenging spin on Makai Kingdom's story that flips everything on its head. Instead of successfully binding himself to the tome, what if he failed? What if someone had to save his life, something he couldn't do by himself? The facilities and abilities available to the player rival what one would expect to have in the end-game. There are several characters to choose from, all level 70 and above. The player starts with maximum money and everything available.
The enemies are considerably challenging and there's no tutorial. This one is for the fans and those who have already finished the original Makai Kingdom and want a bigger challenge. While I appreciated the classic NIS humor, I felt as if I was playing a bonus chapter of Disgaea than a standalone game. Everything from the characters, story, and aesthetic screamed Disgaea. It wasn't a bad experience, but I'd much rather have something unique. Something that includes a "Super Baby" that will save the world from a generic evil Supervillain.
Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman
One of the final PSP games from NIS to be released in the west, ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs Darkdeath Evilman is as weird of a title as the name itself. From the very beginning, it pulls no punches by alerting the player that "there's only one battle in the entire game." The narrator doesn't lie. Throughout the entire game, there's only one battle and that's with "Darkdeath Evilman." It's no Shadow of the Colossus but there's a method to the madness (that's equally as mad)
In Tokyo, the fated "end of the world" arrives as the toughest villain, Darkdeath Evilman, makes his way to destroy Tokyo. The only person who can save the world is the Unlosing Ranger, who has never lost a fight. This rings true, surprisingly! The Unlosing Ranger never lost a fight, yet an unfortunate traffic accident caused him to die on his way to the fight. Thankfully, an innocent bystander simply known as the Main Character is fated to take on the mantle as the "Unlosing Ranger," totally against their will.
Scared out of their mind, they show up in the full gear and prepare to fight the Darkdeath Evilman. Unfortunately, he gets sent flying and also "dies." It's funnier if you choose the option to flee as, while running, they will slip on a banana peel, fall on their head, and bleed out. Having woken up in a different dimension, they end up in a training facility for new, up-and-coming heroes. This dimension is known as "Bizzaro Earth" and with the help of the ghost of the original Unlosing Ranger and a navigator, the training arc begins.
Train Like A Certain Spiky-Haired Saiyan To Save The World
This is ZHP, 90% training arc and 10% rematching Darkdeath Evilman, losing in a comical fashion each time. The "battles" you have with other enemies in Bizzaro Earth aren't "battles," it's all a part of hero training. ZHP is true to its word that the only fight you engage in is with Darkdeath Evilman. Already setting itself above Makai Kingdom with its premise, its gameplay is just as unique.
Offering a combination of dungeon crawling and roguelike, the protagonist moves in a grid, much like every NIS title thus far. However, there's no turn-based combat. There's a field of vision every enemy has that, once approached, will chase the player and attack. The player can attack back and with proper timing, can turn the tides of each fight to their advantage.
Not Every Fight Is Required To Win In ZHP
It's encouraged early that it's best for the player to not engage in every fight as the resources within a dungeon are limited. Aside from a health bar, the player has an "Energy" meter that depletes the more the player roams in the dungeon. Dual-wielding weapons increase the rate of Energy used. This means that "fight or flight" is a constant cloud that will hang over players. Is the risk of fighting to gain levels worth losing everything and starting over?
Coupled with the iconic humor and references expected in a game like this and this easily trumps Makai Kingdom, at least for me. It proves that references to Disgaea, demons, and the underworld aren't needed to make a brilliant title. I remember playing this game a lot on the PSP and now that it's available on the Switch, a lot more people can play it now.
Two Volumes Down, At Least One More To Go
Much like the first Volume, many titles that were once lost in the void are released for the first time in over a decade. While the presentation is similar to the first, as graphic emulation isn't the best on the Switch, it's important for companies like NIS to acknowledge their own titles. If the content in the third volume is anything to go by, I can't wait for the release of Volume 3. It will include the updated release of La Pucelle, considered by many to be the "origin" of Disgaea. It will also include Rhapsody, one of NIS first titles to release in America.
Considering the price of the latter, it's amazing that players will have a chance to play a game that has long since laid dormant. My sentiments for Vol 2 are the same as Vol 1. If you are an NIS fan, chances are this is a no-brainer purchase. For everyone else, I'd recommend this for ZHP alone. Regardless, it's once again a valuable history lesson for fans of NIS games.
Prinny Presents NIS Classics Volume 2: Makai Kingdom / ZHP is now available on the Nintendo Switch. The standalone games are available on Steam.