The popular cult series Disgaea finally finds its way to the PS3. Diverting your attention from the typical RPG run-arounds 'Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice' begs you pick up your controller and prepare to enroll in the Netherworld Academy.
Thanks to Nippon Ichi’s North American outpost of domination NIS America, 'Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice' or 'Makai Senki Disgaea 3' finally gets released for audiences outside of Japan. Given the response of the last two Disgaea titles (including a PSP release) we can guess that the the faithful followers will be in line to pick up the next demon loving adventure. However it is hard to say if 'Disgaea 3' will be able to incise a new fan base. For the fans, Nippon Ichi simply knows how to bring the joy with their excellent heart-warming strategy titles. From Disgaea to 'Makai Kingdom,' Nippon Ichi has another classic on their hands.
Destruction and Delinquency
'Absence of Justice' puts you back into the deep Netherworld in control of a fleet of demons who rummage though a storyline of destruction, acceptance and delinquency. Disgaea 3 is very much a Disgaea game with the retrospective 2D sprits (yes, 2D), hand drawn pop-up art, and humoursly insane plot line. Underneath all the artistic flair and ramblings of honor students and demon overlords is a deep strategic game mechanic that is interesting, fun and dangerously addictive. Fans of the previous entries should appreciate the changes within Disgaea 3 while feeling entertained with more of the ridiculous.
For those who haven’t played any previous entries, don’t fret about not understand the third game in the series. Besides a few cameos and the standard turn-based action, Disgaea 3 is completely unrelated from the first two games. Even though the original Disgaea was the most popular in the series, it’s nice to see the company move on to new ideas rather than taking the original trio (Etna, Laharl, and Flonne) on another adventure. In turn NIS is creating a huge roster of memorable characters that can hopefully be revisited at a later time.
Disgaea 3 has a lot of charm, like the second edition of the game, however there is something about the original stays with gamers keeping it in the limelight.
In Absence of Justice you will guide Mao, a young honour student at the 'Maritsu Evil Academy,' a school located in Netherworld. Mao who is air to becoming the next demon overlord has actually never attended class and has lived most of his demon life preparing to be the most evil overlord that has existed. This all changes when Mao's father who inadvertently destroyed his videogame collection that held the data for 4 million hours of gameplay. Hell-bent on revenge Mao cooks up a scheme that involves him becoming a hero so he can channel their unremarkable power to triumph over evil and become powerful enough to slap around his father. The plot thickens as he is introduced to a colourful cast of characters along with an internal conflict within his own heart that he must learn to understand and deal with. On the surface, Disgaea serves up with a lot of laughter, but underneath the smile is an underlining plot that reveals itself to a clever story with a few plot twists and oversold drama... boom
Strategy First, Role play Later
Now that we have coved the basics lets get into the gameplay in Disgaea 3. Disgaea is a turned based strategy role-playing game, in that order. Like previous Disgaea games you can load up your own customized group and trench through the separated mission structure. Disgaea plays on individual maps with the objective to kill everything that moves, or escapes the level depending on which area you are exploring. The missions can be replayed at any time which is a main staple in the franchise which is almost mandatory as the main plot line can randomly jump in difficulty. The story works into the mix with pop up characters who push the plot forward before an after certain battles. Disgaea 3 follows the standard demon/love character progression which are traits of a role-playing game that Disgaea inherited, although at its core Disgaea is a heavy strategy game. Strategy in Disgaea 3 plays out on the battlefield with character management. Attacking, counter attacking, geo-transforming are all aspects of the battlefield that usher in the use of a strategic mind. The challenge of the main storyline can really be adjusted by how much you want to fool around before you get into the next episode of the story. Pushing the main platter aside, you will find a hearty meal that will keep you filled for months.
Disgaea is really meant to be played over and over, leveling up your characters and continuing through the story using the new game+ feature. Special levels can be unlocked like the last games that will test your skills in level farming and the ability to stick with the game and persevere. Like Disgaea and Disgaea 2, the extras seem to be as exciting if not more as the original. Besides unlocking levels you can unlock new characters, specialty attributes, weapons and armour from the stores along with a new feature to form groups within your classroom for various bonuses.
The Central Hub
The majority of the game is spent running around the main central hub you which offers a number of areas that you can delve into, and the storyline dimensional gate is the least of your worries. If you really want to spend some time with Disgaea there is the item world which randomly generates dungeons that ramp up in difficulty the deeper you explore. The item world is used to go inside of an item and boost its stats by capturing generals and successfully passing levels. If it sounds confusing it’s really not once you get the hang of the main hub. New to Disgaea 3 is the ability to jump inside each student to boost their stats. This human take on the item world replaces going passing bills to gain a bonus, now you will have to work for your extra perks.
Can I Sit Next To You?
Another new area unique to Disgaea 3 is the homeroom. The Homeroom is where you can create and modify the characters in your party including both monster classes and humans. Bills need to be passed like the Dark Assembly that will give you special bonuses for upcoming maps, or to create new character classes. The main difference from the homeroom and the Dark Assembly is that you have to pass bills to get classes that unlocked naturally before. This makes mana management a little touchier since it’s the energy you use to do pass bills in the Homeroom. Mana is also used to upgrade your skills in the games with new abilities, the power of those abilities and a new idea called Evility which acts like special character boosts. Monster Mability is also added into the mix which allows a monster class to transform into a weapon to be used by a human host. This is a cool feature that puts a little more attention to the monster classes. Really what could be cooler then doing a few thousand points of damage with a super cool Prinny gun?
A New Way to Level
If you caught that, your character doesn’t level up like past Disgaea games. You now have to go into a new section of the game where you can focus on certain abilities by spending mana points. This is an odd turn for a game that is obsessed on power leveling and might seem like an odd choice to make; however once you get into an Absence of Justice for a good ten or more hours you will start to like the skill building substitute. There is no need to mess around with powers you will never use, plus you can now learn new skills unrelated to the weapon you are using. This works in your advantage for switching weapons more frequently without the wasted effort of beating up enemies to level up your skills.
Absence of Reality... The Power-Level
Power-leveling is a key feature in Disgaea that has many gamers playing the game for years after its release. In Disgaea 3 the bar has been raised even higher as you can now boost your character to the absurd level of 9,999. Exploring the worlds inside words is almost limitless with the ability to enter any weapon, person and take on enemies until you can’t mentally handle it anymore. More than any past game Disgaea 3 seems to love the level inside a level concept with towns inside your items with innocents who have levels inside of them. Plus, Disgaea 3 gives you the ability to reverse pirate inside of the item world which is an interesting piece of information that will make leveling junkies very happy. Now you can see how absurdly addictive and persistent Disgaea can be. Really, Absence of Justice might have well been called the Absence of Reality because the netherworld is grip on the fabric of reality is melding into one pot of level-crazy gaming. If you’re into this sort of thing then you might as well take some time off work and get ready to put down Mao sized hours.
Ouch! Not a Looker
One major observation that will be made by anyone who glances at Disgaea 3 is that the graphics are obviously below the standards of the Playstation 3 hardware. Disgaea 3 looks like it could have been reproduced on the PS2; however the developer swears that this game couldn’t have been made without the memory power of the Playstation 3. That’s a debatable quote from Jack Niida, but even if the PS2 could have handled Disgaea 3, we are happy to have the first SRPG for the system in North America. So far I have to mark out for the Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness on the PSP for the best looking Disgaea title and then Disgaea 3 would follow as a close second.
From a far Disgaea 3 looks good enough to pass the bar, even I didn’t understand what all the barking was about until I had the game on the big screen in HD. The spirits are the main area of concern and even though the art design and cool little animations help, it doesn’t blind us to what is happening on the screen. Aside from the sprits the environments, cut scene art, and in game interface look good. It’s a shame Nippon didn’t stay away from the same harsh design, however it’s hard to argue considering that is one aspect that made the game what it is today. For those who needed flash and HD graphics at all times Disgaea 3’s graphics might turn you off, however underneath its admitted “ugly” appearance is a strong fun game.
Item World Command Attack
On the defensive for NIS America’s platform choice is the admirable move to push Disgaea into new ground with more content in the way of voice-overs, memory allocation and the ability to download new content that is hopefully set to be headed our way. The Singapore download “Item World Command Attack” is very interesting addition that ranks you ability to cross random levels in the item world and rank them on a worldwide leaderboard. Downloads like this, and new characters will be enough to keep any Disgaea fan in bliss. The load times are also quicker than the PS2, but they still take a few seconds to pop up between selections.
Tenpei Sets the Score
In the audio department composer Tenpei Sato returns to create a memorable musical score that continues to create a unique Japanese styled vibe. If you are a fan of Tenpei’s creative work then you’ll likely want to pick up this soundtrack, it’s another notch in the musical belt. The voice work is wildly over the top and wacky with a lot more diversity in the characters then previous Nippon offerings. Nippon Ichi’s off centered approach Disgaea's audio components keeps Disgaea feeling lively and original in comparison with other games that usually falls short when trying to attempt the same feel.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice pours a tasty offering of gaming cool-aid to its cult of followers. Making the shift to the next generation, Nippon Ichi shows its heart. Not the casual gamer, Disgaea 3 is total hardcore nerd out material. If you’re a Disgaea fan then you will love the Mao and his delinquent misadventures. I would advise gamers new to Disgaea to approach this title with a little room to grow. Disgaea 3 takes everything from the last two games and adds more, this could be a little much for gamers who simply enjoy the exploration and dialog choices of an RPG. I think I mentioned this above, Disgaea is a strategy game first then a RPG.
The only real downside Disgaea’s jump to the PS3 is that the graphic quality is a little under-developed in comparison with the gaming standards of today. Like the argument says “graphics don’t make the game” and this is true for Disgaea 3. Disgaea 3 is everything you want from a Disgaea game, and then a little bit more. Even though I love Disgaea 3 (yes, I drink Nippon cool-aid) I can’t recommend the game for all types of gamers. Disgaea 3 is one of those good games that the unsure should rent and the SRPG fans should buy. If you are on the fence about Disgaea 3, but have enjoyed other titles like Nippon's other offerings or Finial Fantasy Tactics, Jean D'Arc, or even Advance Wars then you might want to consider a trip to the Netherworld.