NIS America is, by now, a fairly well known company behind several Japanese and/or Japanese flavored games. They’re most well known for their Disgaea series (see my previous Disgaea 6 review!), but they’ve produced a handful of JRPGs and the like.
Back in the PS2 era, they launched strong with Disgaea: Hour of Darkness, the first real English release that hit our shores. As I’ve mentioned, I was one of those who picked it up before it got big (this is one of the few things I can say that of), and I was hooked. NIS almost scrambled afterward to put out various other titles that were of the same general feel.
Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is one of those titles. It was originally released in 2007 for the Playstation 2. The game wasn’t nearly as massive of a hit as the Disgaea series, but obviously garnered something of a cult following. It was one of the few PS2 games that this particular reviewer held onto long past having a PS2 hooked up to a main computer.
And that’s what this release is: a really good PS2 game.
The game follows the adventures of your initially nameless protagonist (default name is Reyla), whose gender you select for yourself. They live in a secluded village, working alongside their childhood friend Danette. The village protects a nebulous something from the world at large. Reyla and Danette have been training to protect the village. They’re adults now, so they’re given the final test. Turns out this involves Reyla getting sort of possessed by an admittedly cool looking sword.
Said sword is embodied by Gig, the leader of the World Eaters, who threatened to, well, eat the world almost a thousand years ago. Reyla must use Gig’s powers to defeat the World Eaters so they cannot rise again.
The actual story and dialogue are very well done, holding up marvelously well. Our heroes are joined by several other characters, most of which are fairly well rounded individuals. Their goal is primarily to defeat the other World Eaters. This involves going against a titanic fight once, dealing with a gibbering cult next, and having to deal with all kinds of major ideas along the way.
The plot gets heavy. It’s hinted that at least one character has been or could have been sexually abused. Another may or not not have a soul. Your main character is constantly battling their literal internal demon, who may or may not have evil intentions toward them. The group busts up a slave ring, and it’s hinted that allies and enemies alike may have been involved.
This is an in depth, highly engaging story. The writing keeps the characters consistently interesting throughout, even if the dialogue gets a bit childish. The voice acting is pretty well done, particularly given the time period.
But that’s ignoring a major part of a game: the actual gameplay. If you’ll notice, I stated that this is an excellent PS2 game. It’s a strategy RPG in a general line of Disgaea. The quickest, easiest way to explain the game is to call it the love child of the old Ogre Battle games and Disgaea. You form teams comprised of specific characters (like Reyla, Danette, etc.), and various generic recruits. They’re positioned in various rooms that add benefits. Reyla summons them onto the map, and they move around.
Battles are fairly simple. You hit attack, and the squad in your room engages with an enemy squad. Unfortunately this is done automatically: You do not guide your squad and you can’t really change the outcome. There’s some tweaking to the orders, but too often your squads act almost as dumb as they possibly could.
Mix this with the fact that your characters never really get new abilities, and battles become something of a slog. You’re positioning your characters, hitting attack, and watching as a relatively slow battle plays out before your eyes. The end result is almost randomly determined, save for some guidance on your part.
Which means that this almost becomes a matter of just overwhelming the opposition. They do provide some special moves, as I just indicated in the image, but these show up nearly at random.
The natural flow of gameplay takes the characters to about level 50 or so. As this is a NIS game, the level cap is actually 9,999, which you can get through super exciting random dungeons. Unfortunately this is the only way to grind, and there are a few areas where this feels necessary for progress.
So the story is great, but the gameplay feels very much like the fifteen year old game it is. Whoever ported this should have done something to the port. It literally feels like they just dropped the game onto a card and left it at that. No special features. No fast forward. No cheats. No new content. No rewind. Nothing that is quite standard for a release like this. It’s as low effort as can be.
And that’s the issue. The game itself was pretty good in 2007, but this is hardly 2007 (game came out in 2021). There’s no excuse for a lazy port like this. However, this is still a cult classic for a reason: the story is incredibly engaging with some genuine depth to it. It’s not going to quite be for everyone, and the resulting product here simply could just be better (I finished this game a month ago, and I’m just getting around to writing the review because better and/or more interesting reviews came up).
6 The story is well done, but a below average port and repetitive gameplay bring the rest down on the whole, leading to a relatively lackluster experience across the board