Written by Twisted Ideas
Disgaea is one of those JRPG series that draws you in or puts you off. Disgaea 4 is the latest tactical JRPG developed by NIS. NIS is known for their anime style bizarre tactics JRPG where levels caps at 9999 and where damage an reach trillions. Disgaea 4 finally upgraded their pixelated character sprites with HD sprites something that was oddly absent in Disgaea 3 which was also on the PS3. Those familiar with the series especially those who have played Disgaea 3 will know what to expect. Game mechanics from previous games mainly Disgaea 3 have been reworked to be more user friendly and balanced.
You play as Valvatorez a vampire who lost his power because of a promise that prevents him from drinking human blood and now has an obsession to sardines. He has fallen to Hades as a Prinny instructor training dead souls to become great servants in order to pay off their sins. The Corrupterment plans to kill all the Prinnys due to overpopulation and this drives Valvatorez to usurp the Corrupterment to save the Prinnys. With him is his servant Fenrich, a werewolf, a human girl who died but deludes herself thinking she’s in a dream. A man-made demon who wants to be the final boss. The cowardly son of death who was abandoned by his father and who everyone thinks is dead and a Thief Angel. Their end goals are different but they all benefit by following Valvatorz on his way to face the President of the Corrupterment.
For the uninformed Disgaea is a turn based tactics RPG (see Final Fantasy Tactics). Unlike most tacticsRPGs Disgaea has probably the most flexible system in the genre. Each level takes place on grids and ends when all enemies are dead. You can send up to 10 units per map at anytime who are free to reenter to swap characters, avoid danger or to cover more distance. Units have one action and movement option per turn but can be performed in any order. Characters can attack separately and movement isn’t permanent until they execute an action or their original space is occupied. You can throw both allies and enemies to give yourself better movement or positioning. Each character class specializes in certain weapons types that has their own skills. Characters only gain experience and mana from killing enemies. Mana is used to buy and upgrade skills and evilities that give passive benefits to characters. Geo blocks and panels are designed in levels adds strategy to a rather simplistic system. The can provide benefits or weaken to either allies or enemies or limit your options. Some levels require that the Geo Blocks are moved or destroyed to clear maps.
Item World is where you can level up any item in the game to increase its stats. Item World consists of randomly generated maps where you can either fight or run into an exit panel to reach the next floor. Innocents are residents in items that alter stats and effects. Subdued innocents can be moved to other items. Disgaea 4 introduces split paths every 5 floors influencing level growth or innocents growth.
Disgaea 4 retains the Tower attacks, Land of Carnage and Pirates from Disgaea 2 and Reverse Pirating, magichange, geo blocks, toss and pass, evility, and the new Weapon Mastery system from Disgaea 3 and an item list and character records from handheld ports of 1 and 2. You can magichange two monsters at once and fuse monster together increasing their size and changing their abilities. The game’s political theme changes the Homeroom and Class World. Cam-pain Mode is an improved version of the Homeroom where all characters you create reside. Evil Symbols are groups that you place on the map and give benefits to members. Characters can now be in multiple groups. Cabinet positions are similar to teachers. They are assigned positions that give benefits mainly to characters who level up. They can all be used simultaneously but only one character per position.
The newest feature added to the game is Map Edit mode. You have the ability to create and upload your own battle maps using your party as enemies for others to play. Playing and having your map played will enable you to buy more pieces for better design and strategies.
The way Disgaea 4 is designed requires a bit of a grind whether you like it or not. The story is not something that you can cruise through without obtaining strong weapons and a strong handful of characters. Weak weapons make it harder to kill enemies thus making it harder to gain mana for new skills and making it harder level up. Raising product rank gives the store stronger weapons to buy but restocking your team can be expensive. Item World and residents gives significant boosts and but can be very time consuming and enemies may suddenly start to out class you. The post-game missions have and the Land of Carnage requires a significant grind and very strong weapons and residents as enemy levels will be in the thousands. Despite the high level cap certain maps allow you to gain thousands of levels in under an hour with basic setups.
Disgaea 4 is feels like the most complete game in the series. The story and characters are probably the strongest since the original. It is surprising how much a mature (albeit silly) main character changes the way character interactions and events are handled. Previous Disgaea games have often met with silly characters and situations with equal silliness and it does not always work for all characters. Valvatorez deals with most situations with a seriousness that works on multiple levels making for good scenes. The game’s story can take 20+ hours to complete depending how sidetracked you get. It took me over 30 hours to beat the game because of how sidetracked I got grinding to beat the final boss. The post-game missions are motivating to gain levels and get the strongest weapons. The flexibility of the battle system allows for unique and interesting strategies allowing you to make the most of a turn. You won’t see another tactics RPG from any other developer. If you’re looking for a fun and crazy strategy game that you can sink your time into then Disgaea is for you.