It seems like an easy task to review a Disgaea game. For the most part the series has remained largely unchanged over the past three incarnations. We have our hit-or-miss comedy routines, our good voice work with an oddball script, a story that is somewhere between interesting and ridiculous, and a whole, WHOLE lot of grinding. To be honest, the Disgaea formula is pretty predictable. But despite this, Nippon Ichi Software’s poster child series still remains the only Tactics RPGs that continually attempt to innovate within its own formula.
What truly amazes me and defies all reason is that Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten still manages to unearth a tried and true formula and breath new life into it. Disgaea 4 is quite possibly one of the best entries in the series as well as one of the best tactics games available. With that being said, I feel as though I must appeal to the two factions of people reading this review, because on no other game will the readers be so divided.
TO THE DISGAEA VETERAN
Most of you already know what to expect and many of the Disgaea staples are still present: insane leveling, character customization with special skills, Geo Blocks, character stacking, item world, evilities, and Magichange all return. Even better, we’ve been given a few extra intensives. In D4 you can now combine monsters to create a super monster (super cat girl… dream come true) that has greater strength and can aid in moving a teammate across a potentially hazardous field.
And the missions are hard. If you neglect your grinding or skim over the play field’s rules you will die. The senate has been replaced with the Cam-pain HQ which does many of the same things but also encompasses the Evil Area Map where you can apply special effects, like increased experience and more money, to your team and even alter placement to decide how often team attacks occur.
The story is a silly hit-or-miss affair that you’ve seen many times before. This time we follow Valvatorez, a depowered vampire and former Netherworld tyrant who now works in Hades as a Prinny Instructor. With a rag-tag comedy menagerie, Val moves to overthrow a corrupt government and fulfill the promises he’s made to others.
The graphics are a step up from Disgaea 3 and the sprites look fantastic in HD, but they still suffer from the same stale movements, isometric camera, anime thought bubbles, and terrible pixel scaling a-la the SNES Super FX chip. The VO is well done, but the dialogue is a mediocre fare.
New to the fray is an updated multiplayer mode. With D4 you can get online and battle opponents on the Playstation Network in style. You can build your own levels with your own Geo-blocks and Terrain and fight on home turf or you can visit others for an added challenge. Besides that you can create a pirate ship from the ground up and arm it with a villainous crew to sail the internet and fight other ships. The whole process is automated but adds more to the already unfathomable amount of stuff you can do.
There’s so much more but I can’t get to it all! Almost too much if you can believe it. If you’ve played a Disgaea game in the past just know that there’s everything you love and more!
TO THE DISGAEA VIRGIN
So, you’ve never played a Disgaea game and you’re thinking about giving it a try? Well let me explain what Disgaea is. Imagine a grid-based tactics game where, as long as you put in the time, you can do ANYTHING.
That’s right, want to make a beginner knife the strongest weapon in the game? Go inside the knife to visit the Item World and brave 100 randomly generated dungeons that scale the weapon’s damage.
Want to hang back and grind your characters to max? Good luck with that, seeing as thought he level cap is 9,999. Not to mention you can bring that character back down to 0, retaining some of his stats, and make him even stronger.
In Disgaea you can literally do almost anything, but in order to do it you’ll have to endure the worst foils JRPGs have to offer. Get ready for iffeminent men in almost no clothes bantering back in forth with jokes that weren’t funny 10 years ago (one character advises you to “check yourself before you wreck yourself”). Get ready for a storyline that goes everywhere it’s allowed to go without making any sense, and most of all prepare to brave the grindiest game the world has ever seen. New classes are unlocked from leveling other classes and all new troops start at level zero. That means when you’re level 200 and want to add a new character to your team you’ll need to level him 2oo times before he’ll be any use.
But in the end Disgaea is a game of infinite possibilities, strategy, and just about everything else a tactics fan would ever want. If you’re thinking about taking your first vacation to the Netherworld, you really couldn’t get a better start than D4.
So now you know that Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is a stellar tactics game, nay a stellar game in general. But there’s one factor that might hamper everyone’s experience. It may seem unfair, but D4‘s worst flaw is its platform.
I simply cannot argue an isometric, sprite-based tactics game’s relevance on a console in the modern age. The graphics are not impressive enough to warrant its existence on a home system and the game’s grinding ideology is a heavy burden to bear when your forced to sit on a couch for 50+ hours (the plus actually equaling infinity). We all know that D4 will follow in its predecessors footsteps and make an appearance on the PSVita in a upgraded portable version, and that truly is where it belongs. D4 is not Valkyria Chronicles. It does not have the visual ambiance nor the atmosphere to hold the players attention in its current format. The 90’s throwback “cut scenes” where two stagnant character pictures stare at each other over text is old hat. It is an inatmissable flaw in our current age of gaming.
If you can’t wait to experience the sheer volume of content that Disgaea 4 has to offer, or if you never plan on getting a PSVita, then go out and buy this magnificent game right now. For everyone else, you might want to wait for it to make it’s required appearance in a superior handheld format.
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Name: Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
Available on: Playstation 3
Developed by: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Published by: NIS America
Release date: September 6, 2011
EG Score: 4 out of 5 / “Worth Buying/Worth Trying”