Soul Nomad & the World Eaters
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Genre: Strategy RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 09/25/07
Japan 02/15/07

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You want a water tribe? You got one.
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Play the best song in the world! Or I'll eat your soul...
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I got an ouchy!
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Are you ready to grid-based rumble?!
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Dennis Rubishteyn
Hands-On Preview
Dennis Rubinshteyn

Soul Nomad & the World Eaters is an NIS strategy RPG that's slated to hit US shores this fall. It not only promises the hallmarks that NIS fans love, but also promises some unique twists as well. We at RPGfan had a chance to sit down with an advance copy and shall shed some light on what makes Soul Nomad a title worth looking at.

This time around, instead being a preset character with his or her own lines and personality, your main character is a silent protagonist whose name and gender you get to choose. This is one of the few twists to the NIS formula found in this game.

The game begins with some exposition about the past. In 600 TA, an evil being named Gig, along with three massive creatures, emerged to bring chaos to the world, but Queen Layna was ready to fight. She was able to take down the main foe, but at the expense of her own life. The three other creatures suddenly went silent.

Fast forward 200 years later to a hidden village where your hero/heroine and a girl named Danette are having their 1,083rd training session to become town guardians. Shortly after, a miraculously alive Queen Layna summons the two to her chambers and appoints them both town guardians. Danette is given a weapon of her choosing, but the hero is given a strange sword that houses the foe Layna fought all those years ago. Layna wants the hero to be in charge of Gig's power in order to take on the giant creatures known as World Eaters. So now the destruction of the World Eaters rests on the shoulders of two town guardians and a reluctant evil overlord.

Unlike other NIS games, the story structure is not chapter based and there is no headquarters to roam around in. You travel along a world map and stop by towns. In towns, you can talk to, steal from, or beat up townsfolk and even some shopkeepers via a menu based interface. Special sections in towns and on the world map are marked to show where to go next in the story.

The sprites maintain the classic style NIS is known for. Although not as slick as Vanillaware's sprites, they sport a fair amount of animation and have numerous flashy attacks. The game also sports some 3D backgrounds that blend well with the sprites. Sometimes, story sequences are portrayed via large, well-drawn character portraits. Visually, the battlefields contain varied types of terrain and the terrain can affect battle performance.

Your battle party consists of various small squads. When a stage starts, your hero always makes the first move and s/he can summon other squads for a price. When your squad engages an enemy, the whole squad attacks at once, then the enemy counters using similar moves. If the leader of a squad dies, the entire squad is defeated. Your squads also have a stamina meter which depletes when a squad takes action. Lower stamina results in weaker attacks and lowered accuracy.

As with other NIS games, there is quite a bit to consider in terms of party management. The "Arrange" option whilst on the world map allows you to manage your party. Squads are placed in segments called rooms and each room contains different patterns with which to arrange your squads. Various positions to place squad units into are color coded and the position can alter a unit's abilities. Units can be bought through a shop and start out with levels on par with your hero's, for a price. Progression through the game unlocks more rooms. Décor items can eventually be purchased that power up the rooms.

Tenpei Sato's music is the orchestral fare he's known for in other NIS titles, but he utilizes a fusion of Celtic and Asian style music in his compositions. As usual, NIS America provides both English and Japanese voice acting in the game. So far, the dub is quite solid and the voice actors portray their characters well; Gig's voice actor is particularly noteworthy.

If you like strategy RPGs, especially NIS ones, this one is definitely worth a look. Soul Nomad is shaping up into a solid title. Stay tuned for a forthcoming review here at RPGFan.

Neal Chandran
First Look Preview
Neal Chandran

Nippon Ichi Software has firmly established itself as a leading name in 2D strategy RPGs ever since the success of Disgaea years ago. Disgaea was released by Atlus, but since then, NIS has established an American division and has localized titles from Gust (Atelier Iris series, Ar tonelico), Idea Factory (Generation of Chaos), and Vanillaware (Grim Grimoire) as well as its own. The latest Strategy RPG to come down the pike is Soul Nomad & the World Eaters (aka Soul Cradle: Sekai wo Kurau Mono in Japan) for the PlayStation 2 console.

The game certainly looks like an NIS title with its 2D sprites featuring clever character designs and grid based environments for battles. The trailer shows plenty of fast action with lots of cool spell effects, slick sprite animations, and party-based battling. The screen shots show vibrant colors and the promise of many scenes showing off the cool character art. The enemy sprites are very impressive, often towering above the cute little heroes... or is that anti-heroes? Many NIS SRPGs have dabbled with the idea of playing as a villain or anti-hero, and Soul Nomad takes that idea to the next level. Not only are you an anti-hero, but you get to do anti-hero things like raid towns, attack townspeople, steal from shops, and do all manner of villainy. Be careful, though, because not all townspeople are weaklings and you may be able to recruit them into your army. For all you console RPG fans who have wished they could play an RPG as a villain and do things like raid towns, steal from shops, and terrorize villagers, this is your game.

The premise of the game's story is that three powerful golems have been resurrected and are hellbent on destroying the world once again. Said golems are far more powerful than even the most hardened of heroes to battle. So what's a hero to do? Bargain with an evil overlord for a share of his power of course! The evil overlord Gig was sealed in a dark sword by a wizard many moons ago and your avatar is a young man who possesses that sword. The hero has agreed to give his soul over to Gig a little bit at a time. The more the hero calls upon Gig's dark powers, the less human and more uncontrollable and demonic he becomes. However, Gig's powers are awesome; according the NIS press release, within the first 20 minutes of the game Gig's power can allow the hero to decimate the final boss. So how far will you go? You do not stand a chance against the golems without the use of Gig's power, but using it will cause you to lose your soul to him. The press release does not say how the villainous gameplay (i.e. raiding towns, stealing from shops/people, terrorizing villagers) ties into the story, but given that this is a Nippon Ichi title, the tale should be an interesting one.

The trailer shows off some very interesting gameplay. One's army can be subdivided into various small groups based on combat specialties. Battles can take place on the grid-based environments in classic SRPG style, but some group-based battles take place using a wholly different real-time battle engine where the battles appear fast paced and exciting. As with other NIS titles, you can create units to form your army. There are 25 different units ranging from human type units such as archer or knight to monster type units like the Nerneid, which looks like a dark elf with claws. A great addition to the gameplay is that new units do not start at level 1; you can pick what level your new unit starts out at so long as it's equal to or less than your main character's level. One special battle ability that's highlighted in the trailer is being able to give yourself an instantaneous 1000 level boost. Imagine being able to harness a skill that allows you to instantaneously yet temporarily gain 1000 levels; your opponents won't stand a chance. There is also the promise of the extensive party and character customization that NIS is known for and there is also the promise of being able to do some reconnaissance before jumping into a battle.

The one piece of music that plays in the trailer is a heavy rock based piece and the voice heard is that of a narrator. Here's hoping that the music and voice acting in the game holds up to the music and voices heard in the trailer.

The game was released in Japan on February 15, 2007. NIS America is projecting an August 2007 US release date, but other media outlets are projecting a September release (perhaps September 11). Either way, you too can soon sell your soul not to the devil, but to an evil RPG overlord.


© 2007 Nippon Ichi Software. All Rights Reserved.