I think ZHP is a bit more "deep." But unlike most NIS games, it's not an SRPG, it's more of a roguelike (though there's still plenty of crazy NIS stuff and customization in it.)
Phantom Brave is a gridless SRPG, and unlike most NIS games, it's relatively "serious," not so much funny like the others. Beyond that, I would say it's one of the simpler NIS SRPGs. Characters can only equip one item, for example. And aside from your main character, all of your units can only be on the field for a certain number of turns before vanishing. Just thought I'd mention that, since a lot of people seem to have a problem with it.
Also, Class of Heroes is not made by Atlus, and IMO, it's nowhere near as good as it.
EDIT: Wait, I just saw that you're willing to spend $40. Go for Disgaea 3.
For ZHP, you forgot to mention prinny wife.
Dinner's ready, dood.
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mana khemia- if you liked atelier then you may like this one. its similar with the whole you will spend a lot of time getting ingredients for alchemy. has a fun battle system and bosses too.
Fate/extra- also good especially if you're a fan of the fate series. battle system is a little lame since its kind of like rock paper scissors but its not bad once you get used to it.
Lunar- its a solid old school rpg. battle system is kind of like legend of heroes if you've played that. story is pretty solid too.
corpse party- its an awesome horror game. if you like horror get it. game play is a little lacking since all you pretty much do is wander around 16 bit style and solve little puzzles and occasionally running away from ghosts.
disgaea 3- another awesome disgaea game. if you liked the first 2 then you will like this one. its the same ol same ol though so expect to spend 100+ hrs grinding post game.
If you are still not sure then youtube is your friend. just watch a few walkthroughs of the beginning of some of the games and see which one catches your attention the most.
Thanks, there are a lot of good suggestions here. I've narrowed my list down, with the information you've given me. ZHP looks awesome, as does Disgaea 3. And Half-Minute Hero and Corpse Party look quite fun too. I've finally beaten 999 (loved the ending), so I'll be prepared for VLR if I get that.
My narrowed down list:
Most interested: -What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? $6. -Half-Minute Hero. $10. -Mana Khemia: Student Alliance. $10 -Yggdra Union. $10. -Knights in the Nightmare. $15. -Lunar: Silver Star Harmony. $15. -ZHP. $20. -Corpse Party original. $20. -Touch My Katamari. $25 -Rayman Origins. $26. -Disgaea 3. $40. -Virtue's Last Reward. $40.
Second most: -Crimson Room: Reverse. $8. -Mimana Lyar Chronical. $15. -Escape Plan. $15. -Growlanser Wayfarer of Time. $30. -Gungnir. $30.
Once I've narrowed down to 10, I'll make a poll!
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