Having been around for just over a decade, Disgaea has grown from it’s humble roots on the PlayStation 2 into an expansive worldwide franchise incorporating multiple games releases as well as both a manga and anime series.
Now claiming dominance over the strategy role-playing genre, the games have become renowned for their superior gaming mechanics, dynamic battlegrounds and comedic, sometimes over-the-top characters.
The series last saw a console release back in 2011 with Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten on the PS3. Proving that the series was still very popular amongst fans of the genre Nippon Inchi made the unsurprising decision to port the game over to the PlayStation Vita, much as they did with Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention. Despite essentially being the same game but with a few handheld tweaks, the vita version has released under a different subtitle, Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited.
The game follows the story of Valvatorez, a vampire whose 400 year old promise not to drink blood has left him with an odd fascination for sardines. Now working as something of a civil servant in Hades his job is to train Prinnies, basically human souls transformed into penguin looking servants. When the government orders the mass extermination of all Prinnies, Valvatorez and his loyal servant (who’s trying desperately to get his master to drink blood) attempt to put a stop to it and plot a rebellion against the corrupt government.
Battling their way through the Netherworld they join up with a number of allies, each with their own unique weapons and skill sets. Fuka, a young human girl who died, Desco, a monster created on Earth to be the ‘Final Weapon’, who was deemed a failure and cast to Hades, Death Emizel, the Netherworld President’s only son and Vulcanus, a thieving angel.
Despite being quite an interesting story it may not appeal to everyone, in many cases the characters are a little difficult for even the most experienced Disgaea players to handle, but don’t fret. Whilst the hardcore player can indulge in the political in’s and out’s of the underworld, the average gamers wanting to focus more purely on the RPG game-play can skip a lot of the less interesting stuff and still play an interesting play-through which sticks with the story.
That said the story is paced well and thanks to a non-linear playable environment, it never gets boring.
For those not familiar with the series, the gameplay is very different many SRPGs. The game moves away from the typical SRPG massive open-worlds and focuses on throwing you directly into the action with constantly changing battlegrounds. The game begins in a hub area, populated by a number of NPC vendors offering upgrades and new weapons and spells. From this location you will be able access the missions, as well as replay those you’ve already completed. Playing through the missions from the hub loads you straight into the battle so it’s important to makes sure all of your characters are equipped and ready to fight before hand.
The battlegrounds are grid-based and vary considerably is shape and size with the difficulty increasing as the game progresses. Like most games of the same genre the gameplay is turn based though you have the option to setup all characters with moves, attacks, defends and combos before actually executing the turn, meaning the strategy and tactics are at the forefront of how you play each turn. The complexity of attacks is purely down to the players tactics for the most part, in many cases it is just as easy to take down a bad guy using one or two players attacking as it is to engage in complex combo moves which ultimately defeat multiple enemies at once.
Where Disgaea keeps from being a tedious run of similar battles using the same characters is in the extra elements added to the environments. For one, the battlegrounds aren’t always flat with the presence of both Geoblock and Geo-panels, both of which lend an important mechanic to the otherwise standard game play. When entering a battle, the large of majority of the playable grid will be covered in a number of coloured panels, each of the colours corresponds to a unique bonus and effects both you and the enemies within that coloured area. These bonus range from stat boosts to changing the battle rules by disabling certain abilities or increasing the powers of others.
For a newbie to the franchise this can all seem overwhelming and overly complex at first but the game can certainly be praised for its detailed tutorials which go through every step of the gameplay during the early missions. Like any game it will take some time to learn the full spectrum of abilities but once you do the game is amazingly fun to play.
Graphically this game has a very particular style, it may not push the boundaries of what the Vita is capable of but it’s still a great looking game. The hand-drawn cartoon style animation mixed with a 2.5D environment offer the game something suited perfectly for the handheld experience.
The soundtrack fits the tone of the game perfectly, it goes from calm and ambient to loud and surreal in no time at all, much like the story. The voice-over work is well presented, including something of a voice-over veteran Troy Baker, most recently Joel in The Last Of Us.
Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited isn’t a game for the masses and definitely not the easiest game for any newbie to the genre as whole. Despite that however it is a very enjoyable game for fans of the franchise and even those willing to give it the time and patience it needs to get the story going.
With literally hundreds and hundreds of hours of game-play this game will definitely appeal to the RPG hardcore and the added benefit of being mobile via the handheld device and not confined to the home means this game will likely do very well on it’s new platform.