3am: Brave's new world

3am: Brave’s new world

I like Phantom Brave. A lot. I like how the freeform movement makes it play faster than counting out ranges on a grid. I like the way each character can only have one item at a time, so I don’t feel like I’m dressing RPG dolls. I like all the detail, I like the leveling, I like the unit/skill fusion, I like the random dungeons, I like the pacing, I like the way titles work, I like Doublejump’s superlative strategy guide. But in the end, I might prefer Disgaea over Phantom Brave.

Phantom Brave has titled my quirky-meter off the scale so that it almost feels like it was made for someone else, someone weird and Japanese who would get jokes I don’t understand and likes games I might not normally play.






Hey, if the shoe fits, Kitsune…

And again, thank you.

If any of you developer-types would like us to make a guide for you, please drop me a PM. </obligatory plug, sorry, won’t happen again>

Where can I get one of these guides? I can’t find one anywhere. Do only particular stores carry it or is online my best bet?

While that was a great articulation of preference, I gotta personally disagree – I like PB over Disgaea BECAUSE it caters to my weird-ass preference for mechanics over the suspension of disbelief. I think the Confine/Remove system is great because I have to make more tactical decisions on the field. My only complaint is that they didn’t create enough the skills that trigger on Confine/Remove or let you alter the Remove value, allowing you to create non-traditional types. Big Bang and Healing Birth are awesome, but I would love to see crazier skills along those lines.

My other big complaint is that the protection effects are sorely underused on the story maps. Disgaea has some great Geopanel puzzles, but I’ve only run into two maps in PB that couldn’t be brute forced.

Also, PB is a formal acknowledgment from NIS that their core fanbase plays their games to muck about. In Disgaea, levelling weak characters was a real chore, requiring length random dungeon trips or frequent Senate petitions to rank enemies up. In PB, while ranking high-level characters up can take a little work, getting your newbies up to par is as easy as a Failure title on a high-level dungeon with few enemies. That alone makes playing around with the many classes/skills so much easier, while still forcing the player to work to attain better performance for his top team members.

The game is full of quirky design conceits, no doubt, but they’re all very tightly woven into the game and for those of us who like our games a little more meta and a little less “immersive”, Phantom Brave is almost perfect.

EB carries the PB guide, and I’ll agree with Tom: it is really darn good, and quite thorough. Wish it had a little more of the bizarre character art, but it’s packed so full of numbers and tables that you probably won’t care that much. Thomas and the DJ writing staff deserve their props, here – I can’t imagine PB being an easy game to document.

You can also order the guide directly off the DoubleJump website – http://www.doublejumpbooks.com

Edit: URL corrected.


I seriously can’t recommend it enough. Thomas, Kale Harbick, and Iaian Ross have done a stellar stellar job of gathering, organzing, and presenting information in a way that lets me use as much or as little of the guide as I want. It’s attractive and informative. What’s more, it doesn’t feel like a substitute for a manual. Phantom Brave offers plenty of information ingame, but the strategy guide is 250 pages of geek’s delight.

Thomas, I hope you and the other guys are careful about what project you pick next. With Phantom Brave (and, I presume, Disgeae and Nocturne) you probably had the luxury of really close work with Nippon Ichi and a completed build of the game, which is a big part of what made your guide as good as it is. I cringe at the thought of you guys having to work with an uncommunicative developer who’s thrown you a few beta builds and left you to your own devices. Because, as people on the forum who’ve written strategy guides in the past can tell you, this is normally how it’s done.


Not that the game couldn’t use that, mind you. I like the game, but man, does the manual ever suck. It’s a good thing the in-game tutorials are decent.

Wrong Doublejump. The address should be http://www.doublejumpbooks.com

My initial opinion was similar to Tom’s: Disgaea is better written, and much easier to grasp the rules and concepts of the game. On the other hand, I think Phantom Brave has grabbed me even more than Disgaea because of the unusual game mechanics. I think they both hold up well as games, and once I’m finished with PB, I’m likely to play Disgaea again.

The other side would be La Pucelle, where I couldn’t stop thinking of it as a proto-Disgaea. I would like to play it some more, but I have a hard time because of all the similarities to the previous (yet technically later) game that did most of it better. It’s unfortunate that while La Pucelle wouldn’t have been released without Disgaea’s success, it isn’t really worth playing once Disgaea is available.

I keep thinking of a really nerdy analogy where Disgaea is like Warhammer and PB is like, I dunno, Mage Knight. Both are deep games, but they have different approaches to the same subject. I’m sure that falls apart under scrutiny.

We actually sold out the first print run about a week ago. We’re currently printing a second batch, but for the moment, the guide may be a bit hard to find.

You can still order them from our online store, though. We’ve got plenty at the office.

Also, there were some errata I should mention, just to be honest; they’re listed at our official forum.

Wait, Mage Knight is a deep game? I’m not trying to be sarcastic here, I’m genuinely curious.

My EB in Toronto never received any copies of the PB strategy guide, and from the sound of it, they don’t expect to receive any. Ever. :(

I haven’t actually played the current version of Mage Knight, I just used that one because it’s Wizkid’s fantasy game. It’s a lot like their other clicky-games HeroClix and MechWarrior, and they’re both pretty deep.

The turn system takes some getting used to, because it isn’t “I move all my figures and attack, and you move yours and attack”. Each player gets a number of actions per turn, generally 3 in a standard-sized game. With each action, you can have a single figure or unit either move, shoot, or do close combat. Each figure can only do one action per turn, and a figure taking an action on two consecutive turns takes damage for being “pushed”. It’s purely a gameplay mechanic, like the Remove in Phantom Brave. A large portion of the gameplay is figuring out which of yours and your opponent’s figures can move at a given time and setting up attacks within this framework.

Besides the usual attack/defend/move stats, most figures have a number of special abilites. Some are straightforward: In Heroclix, Blades/Claws/Fangs lets a figure roll a die for damage instead of using the default value. Some require specific tactics to use fully: Again in Heroclix, Mastermind lets a figure transfer any damage it takes to a nearby, cheaper unit. That’s why you want to surround The Joker with cheap henchmen.

Additionally, all of these stats and abilites are printed on the damage dial, so they change over the game. When The Hulk in HeroClix or a Werewolf in Mage Knight takes damage, they get stronger. As Wolverine approaches being KO’d, his Regeneration ability appears. And when Greg Vederman’s Mad Cat in MechWarrior takes damage, his Targeting Computer flips on and off. Some people go so far as to memorize the dials, but I think that’s kind of wacky in a casual game. I just try to remember generally how a figure works.

I don’t play any of them seriously, so I enjoy them quite a bit. Some of the hardcore players seem kind of insane and angry about things that seem minor to me, but any game is like that. The collectible aspect is a mixed bag, but the game itself has a lot going on.

So what I meant was that Disgaea, like Warhammer is kind of the standard tactical wargame. Phantom Brave, like Mage Knight/HeroClix/Mechwarrior, has some different design decisions that take some getting used to. Both games are solid and personal preference is the only thing that makes one superior. La Pucelle is like Metagaming’s old Melee/Wizard microgames: Fun, but shallow next to what else is available.

I’m torn about Phantom Brave. I love the gridless battlefield and the lack of those damn annoying battlefield panel things. Nothing quite like moving sidewalks of red, blue, green, yellow and purple all over my battlefield. But I really really dislike the confinement system, and the timed nature of all my troops. There’s also tons of things to fiddle with: fusion, titles, blacksmith…etc, and I think I would enjoy the game far more if my phantom troops didn’t disappear on me so often. Yes, it’s another layer of strategy, but I’m not very fond of this one in particular.

And to echo: grats to the doublejump guys! One of the best strat guide I’ve ever used!

Why do I suddenly have the urge to play Sacrifice again?

We’ve been finding and receiving complaints online that EBs in Canada aren’t getting copies of the book. We’re not sure why, but the fault appears to lie with EB.

Hey, a whole genre of games I never tried. That should keep me busy for a while.

Really, you’ve never played an SRPG before? Heeeey. You should probably start with a different game perhaps then, Phantom Brave and Disgaea assume you know the very basics of SRPG gameplay pretty much. Fire Emblem, Tactics Ogre or Shining Force on the GBA make good starters, if you have one.

Nathan, what’s Mage Knight? All I could find was an upcoming cellphone game? Is the company you work for making it?

As for Phantom Brave, I think it shows an important trend the industry should be taking. Just as much as it aims for higher suspension of disbelief and more believable worlds (cringe, cringe) at the same time, there should be an opposite trend advancing just as much. Everything needs a yin and yang to be truly healthy and I think we need games that try to be games as at all costs and ignore suspension of disbelief, aiming for more and more abstract possibilities you could only realize in gaming alongside those that go, more or less, for increasingly believable implementations of fairly self-explanatory ideas.

Brave New World is actually one of my favorite books too, I like it better than 1984, though I think 1984 is a better book.


Mage Knight is a tabletop miniature wargame by WizKids. It features pre-painted miniatures with a little rotatable disk at the base that makes it easier to keep track of game information (like wounds, etc.).