The Disgaea series is one I am always excited to play. It features overwhelming complexity, but at the same time its story and presentation are light-hearted, somehow blending together perfectly. With Disgaea 4: A Promise Revisited it’s time to dust out those Vita’s once again as another exciting hundred hour adventure awaits.
The game opens with Valvatorez, a once feared tyrant, now training Prinnies. He promises each one of them his most cherished meal upon graduation, a sardine. But his dream is quickly crushed as the Prinnies are kidnapped and sent to be killed, because of the overpopulation problem. Not wanting to break any of his promises, Valvatorez goes on a journey to save the Prinnies so he can give them his beloved sardines. But soon he realizes that to fix everything he must get to the root of the problem and stop the evil Corrupterment.
Despite this ridiculous set up, the story still manages to get the player invested in its world, by opening up as the game progresses. Disgaea 4 has probably the best story in the series. It’s coherently laid out and balances well its humor and plot. There are a lot of twists in the game, keeping the story enjoyable until the very end.
The character’s themselves are an extremely varied bunch. There is Valvatorez – the sardine loving vampire who always keeps his promises, Fenrich – his devious werewolf assistant, Fuka – a girl wearing a Prinny cap because the Nether world ran out of Prinny hides. She can’t come to terms that she is dead, saying that everything is supposedly her dream.
The other characters include, Vulcanus – a thief angel, Desco – the adorable ultimate weapon who calls Fuka her sister and finally there is Emizel – the son of the President of the Netherworld who gets around by using his daddy’s name. It may have taken some time, but the characters genuinely start to grow on you. Their inability to fight for the same cause, because everyone has their own goal in mind, makes them very dynamic.
From a gameplay standpoint, Disgaea 4 is as good as it gets. The classic SRPG formula is here. You move your characters on a grind, and execute attacks, skills, or even throw characters by picking them up. The depth comes from the sheer amount of things you can do. You want to create your own character and make him the party leader, you can. Want to focus on rushing through the level by throwing your characters as far as possible, you can do that too. Want to stack all the most powerful enemies in one spot and then try to beat them using all your weakest allies? Good luck with that.
It still has the classic Disgaea feel of where the game literally wants you to abuse it, grinding both your characters and gear to death and then reincarnating them again just to get an edge in their base stats. Still not enough? Now you can even dive into a character to boost their attributes from inside by completing a set of levels. What’s most important here is that grinding is a lot of fun. You never feel like you are wasting your time doing a repetitive task, nor do you ever become too strong to enjoy the game, as there is always something more menacing in the horizon.
Since the game lets you do whatever you want, experimentation is always encouraged. You will most likely find what suits you and keep using that. Some levels are laid out likes puzzles, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t brute force your way through or find another way past.
What makes Disgaea deep is the wealth of things you can do. Like always you can visit the evil Senate to get them to vote for a new feature, such as more expensive items, new characters and even dressing your local dimensional gatekeeper in a swimsuit. If they are reluctant to vote for you you can always bribe them or get their vote out by force. You can even make your own cabinet and upload your ministers online so that they may visit other players senate’s and help or hinder their voting process.
Disgaea 4 also features a long awaited level editor mode which gives players the opportunity to make both levels and home bases, however it ends up being too constricting to be of any use. Where the Japanese version featured a full-blown level editor, the western edition places some extreme limitations. You can only place predefined blocks, you cannot name enemies or even the map itself. The maps you make can be uploaded to the network and then played by others, but there is far less creativity here than one would expect, since almost all the maps are basically just places to quickly farm experience and money from.
Another feature in Disgaea 4 is the Cam-Pain HQ. Here you have a world map divided into grids, each representing a single level in the game. You can put characters and buildings in the grid. Depending on how you place them they will give various boosts throughout your whole team such as a higher chance for a team attack, sharing experience, or even ability to buy shoes, glasses and belts in the shop.
In order for monsters to be a more flexible class, a new fusion system has been introduced. Players can now merge to monsters together and make them bigger, more powerful and giving them additional range. The drawback to this system is that fused monsters slowly lose their SP and take up 5 spaces on the map making them much easier targets.
Disgaea 4 also introduces a punishment system, where you can capture enemies by throwing them into your base panel. After this you can go into your main base and torture them to extract vital information from them such as locations of treasure maps. Once done you can let them join your party.
This in turn is also my only gripe in Disgaea 4 – it has a bit too many systems. With each new instalment of the series more and more systems kept being piled on. The average user won’t probably see half of the things this game has to offer. Newcomers should instead try out Disgaea D2: A Brighter Darkness which is a lot more accessible title. On the flip side, players with more patients and players that want to see every bit of content this game has to offer will be able to play for hundreds of hours and still have things to do.
The Vita version brings various improvements and additions. The game has new playable classes, new skill power levels and more warehouse storage. Elements from Disgaea D2 such as the cheat shop and being able to bribe the senate have been reintroduced. You can finally reposition a character within his movement range and not have to cancel the previous action. Players can even retry and even exit any stage except item and chara world saving a lot of frustration. The Vita version also includes all the PlayStation 3 Disgaea 4 DLCs bundled so fans will have even more post game content.
The huge jump in visual fidelity from Disgaea 3 to Disgaea 4 is also apparent in the Vita version. Where people complained how Disgaea 3 looked like a PS2 game, the same could be said for Disgaea 3 on the Vita looking like a PSP game. Disgaea 4 fixes all that, featuring extremely sharp visuals which lock fantastic on the vita screen. The special attack animations are over the top, looking the best they ever had.
Disgaea 4 is one of the best Disgaea titles out there and it’s even better on the go. Its addictive nature will keep you playing just so you can grind that Prinny one more level. Disgaea 4’s online additions may not be too useful and the game may be a bit too complex as an entry point for the newcomers. But with that said Disgaea 4 ended up becoming my favorite entry in the series.
Until next time, dood!