I guess this NIS Classics thing is going to be some ongoing series – which is definitely fine by me. Having the option to play these older NIS titles on PC without emulating them is some good stuff. So let’s take a quick look at the latest couple Steam releases: Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound and ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman.
Starting with Makai Kingdom. This was originally a PlayStation 2 game released back in 2005 and honestly, it’s nothing too impressive. It is quite literally Disgaea with some small tweaks and none of the quality of life improvements that we have become accustomed to with some of the recent Disgaea games. Granted, at the time this one came out the studio had only released the first Disgaea game, so I guess you could point to its age as an excuse, but that brings the next question: Why wasn’t the game updated for this new release?
Because if it was not already obvious by the last NIS Classics PC release: Soul Nomad & the World Eaters – it appears NIS America is going the “straight port” route without any major quality of life additions or changes (although they did at least port over the PSP exclusive scenarios previously only released in Japan). So on one hand – yeah, it’s nice to have a mostly authentic experience, but then on the other, emulators allow me to do stuff like speed up and save states so not being able to do simple things like skip or put text on auto mode in a 2022 JRPG release is a bit of a bummer.
And it is ultimately this slow speed and general clunkiness that prevented me from getting too into Makai Kingdom. It’s got the general wackiness of an NIS game, the nice strategy mechanics, and the usual aesthetic, but nothing to really elevate it above being just another PS2 Tactics JRPG and I have so many other, more engaging options that I gave up on this one early on.
Then you get ZHP and that game is an entirely different story. It came out for the PSP back in 2010 and is MILES better than Makai Kingdom in almost every department. The gameplay is more engaging, less repetitive, the UI is not as cumbersome to navigate, the pacing is faster, and the story is actually kinda different from the NIS usual. It’s still a turn-based strategy game, but it plays more like a Mystery Dungeon title than a Disgaea game.
You move tile by tile, attacking enemies without having to navigate menus all the time, and all the loot you need is basically found on the map and you are constantly swapping around what you have equipped – I didn’t find myself having to stop to compare equipment stats as often as I did in Makai Kingdom, which is a definite plus.
It is such a break from the norm I am used to with these older NIS games that I was caught a bit off guard with how much fun I was having. And the whole super hero / tokusatsu theme on top of that is just an added bonus. I have not finished the game yet, but this is definitely one I’ll be taking up on my Steam Deck to completion.
So yeah, basically one good and one bad with this release. Good news for PC players is that you can actually buy them separately so you don’t even need to bother with the other if you don’t want to. Also good news for PC is that, from what I have played, I didn’t have any crashes, freezing, fps drops, or really anything like that. Both games ran just fine and really, my complaints are more so with how barebones the ports are rather than how they actually run.
I mean, the most you get for graphics are some upscaled assets, a filter slapped over the 2D sprites, and UI elements that fit modern resolutions, but nothing really beyond that. The upscaling they did isn’t exactly the greatest either, so really I guess it just comes down to whether or not you want to emulate the titles or not.
Whatever the case, I’m at least having fun with ZHP as is and would recommend that one. Makai Kingdom, maybe I’m just missing something, but I honestly couldn’t be bothered and would much rather tackle one of the early Disgaea games I have yet to play. Anyways, I am glad that the two are at least on Steam now and am looking forward to the next couple NIS Classics – it actually looks like they’re upping their game with those two, so we’ll have to wait and see.
Makai Kingdom: Reclaimed and Rebound is available on Steam and Switch.
ZHP: Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman is available on Steam and Switch.
I was provided a review copy of both games in order to write this article. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.