Soul Nomad starts off with one of those long, drawn-out introductions that seem to afflict every uninspired, shamelessly derivative RPG. It's full of scrolling text, barely moving images, and a verbose mixture of cliché and piffle - what's a "clarion vesper", for example, and what's it doing in a videogame? But then, just as you're expecting to be unceremoniously dumped into the usual blend of boring stereotypes and po-faced solemnity, it changes tack. As the game introduces its sardonic and offensive anti-hero, it dawns on you that the whole thing has just been another one of Nippon Ichi's excellent jokes.
For anybody unfamiliar with Nippon Ichi's idiosyncratically offbeat sense of humour, the whole thing will probably be desperately bewildering. But there's a lot here that fans of, say, Disgaea, will already be familiar with: the basic but beautiful graphics; the brilliantly bratty characters; and umpteen different game endings (including one bad one after just half an hour of play). Above all, though, the thing that distinguishes Soul Nomad as a resolutely Nippon Ichi game is the way it takes traditional turn-based mechanics as merely the springboard to start a journey into the farthest reaches of originality and occasional brilliance.
Initially, though, the turn-based strategy on offer is so unlike the vast majority of other turn-based strategy games - or tactical RPGs, or whatever you want to call them - that it is just baffling. It's all so far removed from the norms established elsewhere that navigating the menus and exploring your tactical options occasions the sort of perplexity that an old person might experience while trying to transfer their contacts to a new mobile phone. It starts to diverge from the norm right from the very outset, because instead of representing a single character, each unit in the game represents a 'room' that exists in a different dimension and contains a squad of characters (a bit like Games Workshop's Epic rules, with a bit of inter-dimensionality thrown in just for the heck of it).