[Review] Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten (PS3)
Available on: PS3; Publisher: NIS America; Developer: NIS; Players: 1; Released: September 6, 2011; ESRB: Teen; Official Site
Having never played a Disgaea game through, the latest game, Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten was somewhat of a venture for me. The series has long gained a reputation for sucking players’ lives dry with its demand for level grinding and notorious replay value. After so many years dabbling with the likes of the Super Robot Wars and SD Gundam G Generation series, it was about time I stepped up to the challenge of training prinnies in Disgaea 4. Though difficult, the game didn’t have me running, but constantly kept me going with its cute characters and multitude of ways to combat the netherworld’s challenges.
Animated sprites, especially those in strategy RPG games, are notorious for their low quality that takes advantage of the niche genre’s fans’ low standards for aesthetics. Disgaea 4 breaks free of this and updates its graphics immensely, no longer bearing any resemblances to its pixilated past, but gives us detailed characters that are capable of showing various emotions and look completely unique compared to one another. Though the characters were cute before, many of the expressions were more or less based on imagination than anything; Disgaea 4’s new graphics bring the characters and their quirks, like Valvatorez’s penchant for sardines and Fenrich’s almost creepy infatuation with his lord, to life. Not only that, but the team attacks, executed by chance when characters are adjacent to one another, are now as beautiful as they are deadly. As always, NIS has included both English and Japanese voiceovers for this release, which is sure to satisfy both purists and lazy gamers who may not want to read.
The actual gameplay for Disgaea varies little compared to other games. Characters can attack, do specials, lift and throw other characters; geo blocks round out the mix by giving different areas different effects, actively changing the strategy players will need to have for each stage. However, where Disgaea specializes is in the multitude of ways that players can grind and level up, most notable of which is the longstanding item worlds that allow both characters and individual items to level up. For beginner players, it may be a fun tactic to jump in and grind as necessary to pass some hard levels in the narrative. Hardcore players can grind almost endlessly in these worlds, bringing their character levels to the thousands and dishing out damage that would be unheard of in other RPGs.
Disgaea 4 also includes a new gameplay feature with some pseudo political themes in it. Rather than just being able to spend mana points on new skills and Evility, as in older Disgaea titles, the Cam Pain HQ allows characters to do a variety of things, even extort money from other senators or put in a request for stronger or weaker enemies. In addition to that, players can build Evil Symbols in certain parts of the Cam Pain HQ, effectively linking up different characters with its area of effect, many of which help nonparticipating characters still gain experience points or mana. It’s a fun alternative to throwing weakling characters into the fray in hopes of leveling them up, only to have them targeted by Disgaea 4’s unrelenting AI. The hardcore who care about more than just leveling can even design their own maps to share and pirate ships to invade other players’ worlds. It’s hard to fathom a proper multiplayer functionality that isn’t forced or lazy, and hats off to NIS for creating true interaction between players rather than just putting up the token leaderboards.
The Disgaea series has often been thought of as one of the most difficult and hardcore strategy RPGs anyone can get their hands on – and for good reason. While beautifully drawn sprites and well written, humorous characters give fans exactly what they would want from a sequel, virtually endless worlds within items, smart AI that will destroy careless players, and thousands of levels waiting to be ground promise months, if not a year’s worth of play time for the hardcore. For others, this may just be an exercise in frustration and perhaps incomplete experience for gamers without the time to invest.
Note: A retail copy was provided to Denkiphile for review purposes by the publisher.