Released in 2003, the original Disgaea was the first of its kind.
A comedy-strategy-RPG, it introduced us to Loharl and his accompanying cast of characters as they fumbled their way across the netherworld. With its unique battle system and engaging storyline, it stood head and shoulders above other strategy RPGs of the time and still remains the greatest Disgaea game despite numerous sequels. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is the newest entry in the series and, like its predecessors, is a very solid game but unfortunately never reaches the heady heights of the original.
Disgaea 5 has all the hallmarks of a Disgaea game: prinnies, a zany cast of characters, strong emphasis on character development and an episodic structure. The trouble is, whilst the gameplay has developed with each iteration – quite possibly to the point where it’s now impenetrable for a newcomer – the stories have struggled to recapture the essence of the original title. It’s almost as if Nippon Ichi Software know this; the cameos of the series’ favourite characters are removed to please fans at the risk of giving each title their own character. Luckily, the gameplay is so strong that even without a gripping story, the game stands out as a great entry into the strategy RPG genre.
Once again, Disgaea 5 has you battling across the netherworld, this time on a quest to defeat the nefarious Void Dark, an evil overlord that wants to take full control of the netherworld. Taking control of the commanding Seraphina and the strong yet secretive Killia, you’ll engage in countless turn-based battles across 16 chapters. Anyone who has played a Disgaea game before will know the score: you get to deploy and place your characters on a grid-based map, using each character’s individual strengths and weaknesses to your advantage in order to emerge victorious. However, unlike in a game of chess, where players take it in turns to move a piece, you move your entire team in succession before your opposition makes their move. This gives Disgaea a unique feel to its combat, and enables it to make use of systems such as Team Attacks and Combos to their fullest extent. In fact, that’s possibly where the most strategy of Disgaea games is found – you need to always consider the placement of your units to be able to benefit from such team attacks, yet also be mindful of each character’s unique skills and abilities.
Unique to Disgaea 5 is the new “revenge” system. Taking damage and having allies defeated in battle will charge a character’s revenge gauge, and once full, characters will enter “Revenge Mode”. When in Revenge Mode, a character will receive numerous bonuses such as 100% critical hit rate, a reduction in skill point cost and reduced damage. However, this only lasts for three turns so players must utilise these bonuses swiftly to capitalise on them. Additionally, some characters also have a powerful “overload” skill that can only be used once whilst in Revenge Mode, but can change the outcome of a battle drastically.
The hub world as featured in past Disgaea games makes a return, and acts as a place for you to manage your characters and equipment before heading out to battle. Aspects such as the Hospital and the Rosen Queen Co. shops make a welcome return, and these are joined by new features such as the Interrogation Room and the Quest Shop. Making the assembly from previous Disgaea games largely redundant, the Quest Shop offers you a plethora of quests to complete and rewards you with everything from small amounts of cash to new character classes.
While completing the game’s campaign will take you upwards of 30 hours, many will consider this to be just the beginning. Disgaea 5 features a vast amount of end game content that will keep any fan entertained well until the next iteration is released. Characters can be levelled all the way up to level 9,999, and the return of “Innocents” (stat-boosting creatures that live within items) can be managed to create powerful and individual weapons and equipment. Fans will be pleased to know that the “item worlds” have also returned, enabling you to delve into your items to increase their powers.
Available only on PlayStation 4, Disgaea 5 certainly looks better than its predecessors, but is still pretty basic in terms of its visuals. Whilst it features many unique-looking characters that benefit from a HD makeover, the backgrounds and locations are lacking any real finesse and make the game feel fairly dated. The music on the other hand, remains unchanged from previous Disgaea games, which is to say that you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it! The voice acting is a mixed bag, with characters such as Red Magnus and Seraphina delivering their humourous lines well, whilst Killia’s efforts are delivered without any real conviction. Perhaps it’s befitting of his laid back character, but his dialogue pales in comparison to his companions.
Overall, this is another solid entry in what is effectively the pinnacle of the strategy RPG genre. Like the games before it, Disgaea 5 provides plenty of laughs, a large dose of strategy action and a humongous amount of content. If you’re the type of person that just likes to play through the main campaign of a game then Disgaea 5 will entertain enough to warrant the asking price, but just don’t expect a riveting or altogether coherent story. However, if you’re the type of player that sees the campaign as a starting point, then Disgaea 5 will possibly be the best purchase you can make on PS4 due to the sheer amount to see and do long after the story has finished.