Game Review – Disgaea 4

Vampires, werewolves – and most importantly – sardines!

Welcome to the fourth iteration of the popular Disgaea series, brought to us by the always lovely Atlus. I’ve played the past 3 games, and they are all incredibly entertaining, turn-based tactics games. It’s like Final Fantasy Tactics without the depressing bits – Disgaea is all about having a good time and being silly. It knows that having 9999 at the max level is crazy, it has equippable items such as the “horse wiener” and it breaks the 4th wall whenever it can to poke fun at itself and even parody common anime or video game clichés. It’s like a gag anime became a game. You may even spot some familiar anime characters such as Horo and Index if you pay close enough attention (or just watch the trailer). Even if you haven’t played the past few games, you can still jump in now. This is a whole new cast of characters putting a new spin on the classic grindfest that is…Disgaea.

Disgaea’s take on the turn-based tactics genre is pretty straight-forward at its core. You move around on a grid and decide to attack, cast a spell, or use an item as the situation calls for it. There’s also combined attacks, geo tiles, item worlds, throwing, and monster fusing to add to your options. This means that the game is quick to pick up while still offering endless combat possibilities. Unless you go into a grinding frenzy, you WILL have to use your brain if you want to come out of a fight alive, let alone rack up bonus points. It’s the perfect mix of challenging and fun. It’s proudly self-described as a “hardcore grindfest” game, and you can choose to grind as much or as little as you want. The amazing thing is, you will WANT to grind because the battles are so fun. You know a game is good when you are willing to play the same map over and over just to form the ultimate party.

As a huge tactics fan, I felt right at home playing this game. It’s essentially the same as Disgaea 3 with a fresh coat of paint and a couple of new features. Think of it like a new Pokemon game – same addictive formula, new little tid-bits and characters. Admittedly, most of the new features aren’t that great, or simply aren’t big enough to note. One of the new tweaks is in the area of monster fusion, and I don’t even keep monsters with me in my party unless I’m forced to. Throwing a monster in your party onto another monster now results in a huge beast that takes up 5 spaces on the grid. You can also create your own maps and play multiplayer (and thankfully NOT be matched with players that have an ungodly level advantage). The option to arrange which characters are more likely to perform team attacks is still there, although it’s changed from a classroom into a map. The biggest change to how the game is played is the addition of 5 new classes: Onmyo monks, Professors, Bouncers, Androids and Power Suits. These bad boys are definitely worth trying out.

 

You have to start strategizing before the battle even starts.

Now, you may wonder what the story is behind all these fights. There isn’t one. It’s not so much of a story as a series of things that happen to the main character. Disgaea isn’t here to bring you a story that is deep or even makes sense. It’s here to be ridiculous. As per all Disgaea titles, it takes place in the Netherworld where all the inhabitants are bloodthirsty demons. Valvatorez, previously a tyrant, is reduced to being a Prinny instructor in Hades. He refuses to drink human blood, and every single dialogue with him mentions how amazing sardines are. All of the characters he meets along the way to overthrow the corrupternment for mistreating Prinnies and not doing their job of scaring humans properly are equally nutty. Every cutscene seems to be more about cracking jokes than advancing the plot, and Valvatorez’s character consists only of an obsession to keep promises and sardines. That’s about it. Only every now and then does it touch a genuinely serious issue, bringing us the token moral of the day that each game can’t seem to go without. The drama is always a little forced and feels a bit odd next to the humour, but it’s nice for a change-up every now and then. Without it, the game would fall flat, but it’s by no means getting a gold star for character development.

The sprites are really making leaps and bounds from game to game. Instead of a pixel-look, all the sprite look like someone cut and pasted an anime character onto the map. They’re completely smooth, and move around fluidly. In terms of sprites, they are as awesome as it gets. The cutscenes in Disgaea, much like Persona, show an image of the character talking with whatever emotion they’re feeling on their face. That’s nothing new. But they’ve added in-between animations so the character will move from one expression or pose to the next in a smooth transition. Persona, please learn from this, as it creates a MAGNIFICENT illusion of effort. The attack animations also have the same dedication and care, and the damage done by the most vicious spells is matched eye for eye in terms of visuals. My only gripe is…the backgrounds. Seriously, the backgrounds look like crap. Just slapping a texture on something and hoping for the best is not the way to go. The lava should not have polygons jutting out either. I guess all the budget went to the sprites…

A game with sprites means a lot of dialogue and cutscenes involving text boxes popping up at every instance. That means voice acting is important. Which means that Disgaea having the option for Japanese audio is a godsend. WHICH MEANS I GET TO TALK ABOUT JAPANESE SEIYUU! (Which means…okay I’ll stop). The voices are all lively and hilarious in tandem with the whacky situations revolving around sardines that go on. Valvatorez always sounds serious, yet slightly hysterical. Fenrich has a husky voice, yet always curbs it with a cunning undertone. You can even choose the voice for the units you create to join your party! Each unit has a choice of 3 different personality types, with different voices to match. If you need name-dropping to convince you, how does Eri Kitamura (Kyuubey, Kagamin), Hiyama Nobuyuki (Viral, Kohta Hirano) and Asami Imai (MAKISE KURISU!) sound? Good, right? As for the dub, it’s not bad. Disgaea dubs tend to be a little off, but the localization is always hilarious. It’s like having troll subs for everything, and I love it. Dub lovers have Troy Baker on their side, and that man can do no wrong. As for the music, there are a couple of two insanely catchy songs (the two theme songs) and the rest are just stock background music that’s nice when you’re playing the game, but unlikely to make it to your iPod any time soon.

 Sprites = good! Lava = bad!

Disgaea earns a lot of its infamy due to how much time this game can suck up. It is a veritable time vampire, draining precious hours of your life with just a little twirl of a (hypothetical) cape. The max level is 9999, and once you reach that you can choose to reincarnate your character to level 1 and start over again with a slightly stronger character. Not only that, but you won’t be able to unlock stronger characters of a certain class until you level up the crappier version of that class to a certain level. Say you start off with a thief. You’ll have to level her up to 15 before you can create a thief with slightly better stats, but it will be at level 1. You’ll have to level this improved thief to a new checkpoint level before you can create yet ANOTHER slightly stronger thief, which will again start at level 1. This means it takes a long time to get the strongest characters, and a hell of a long time to get them all to 9999.

I’m sure some of you are absolutely DISGUSTED by this. Fear not, because the beauty of Disgaea is that how much you grind, farm for items, and start again from scratch is all up to you. It is entirely possible to beat the game using the weakest tier of each class and coming short of level 100. You will only have to grind a little, and you’re good. However, the hardcore option is there for those who want it. It is never enforced, which leaves it to the player how much effort they want to put into creating the ultimate party. So in theory, the amount of playtime for Disgaea is almost limitless. You’d be surprised how easy it is to get sucked into it and start planning out your dream team.

Once you finish the game, there are still plenty of options. You can replay old maps, play multiplayer, play bonus maps, and enter the Item World. The Item World is essentially endless amounts of completely randomized levels. A near infinite amount of maps for you to play. If that isn’t replayability at its best, I don’t know what is.

This pretty much summarizes my current understanding of how the government works

Overall: Disgaea 4 is a great game. It has everything the fans love, and isn’t hard enough that a newcomer to the series wouldn’t understand it. Newcomers to the tactics genres might want to start somewhere simpler however to avoid sensory overload. The gameplay is as addictive as ever, and most of the changes are on the positive side rather than the negative side.  I thoroughly enjoyed almost every moment playing Disgaea 4 in between the crazed ravings about sardines. I was so excited for this release I got the version with the sexy box, sexy artbook and sexy Fuka figure. Anyone claiming to be a fan of tactics or turn-based strategy games is committing a crime by not playing this.

THE FINAL VERDICT

PROS:
-Gameplay is so addictive you will no longer have a social life
-Sprites look vibrant and natural
-Voiceacting is superb (Japanese audio track!)
-Hilarious

CONS:
-Carbon copy of Disgaea 3
-The face you will make when you realize you will never get to 9999
-The drama in the story is cheesier than Tiger & Bunny

Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Graphics and Sound: 8/10
Play Time and Replayability: 10/10
Overall: 9/10

About

A neuroscience graduate, black belt, and all-around nerd. You'll either find me in my lab or curled up in my rilakkuma kigurumi watching anime.
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30 Responses to “Game Review – Disgaea 4”

  1. Kitty says:

    YAY!! I was waiting for this!!!! The last one I played was Disgaea 2 (I know I deserve death) As soon as I move back to reality were book stores and games stores exist I’m so buying this. I’m craving a video game so badly and Disgaea never disappoints. Ooooo werewolves~~~ that’s an exciting new development.

    Thanks for the awesome review!! Expect now I’m dying for it. Mmmmm can I make the 4hr drive and back before work to the game store. Anyone have a time machine they can lend me?

    • Overcooled says:

      Haha, that’s okay. Disgaea 2 is still awesome. Looks like I’ve planted the seed in your head and now you’re tempted to buy it XD If you do I hope you enjoy it!

  2. BlackBriar says:

    This is nice. It’s like finding easter eggs because I wasn’t expecting anything vamp related this season. My vamp radar is off the charts. Valvatorez and Fenrich’s character designs are awesome. But I always go with the immortal. By the way, what is Index doing making a guest appearance? And sardines????

    I haven’t played any of the Disgaea games but they do look impressive, like a combination of Final Fantasy and the Golden Sun series. And those had plenty of monsters and violence.

    That’s a nice handful of voice actors, English and Japanese. Eri Kitamura (Izumo Kamiki, Kanade Suzutsuki) is good to start with. Troy Baker for the english dub is another great choice. I know him as the voice of Abel Nightroad from Trinity Blood and the english dub voice of Yamato from Naruto Shippuuden.

    • Overcooled says:

      Disgaea is all about the demons, but having vampires and werewolves is a nice little change. It’s especially good news for someone like you, hehe. Maybe they wanted to make Twilight jokes? Who knows. I think Disgaea has a tendency for throwing in parodies every now and then, hence Index showing up everytime I want to heal someone lol

      The voices are pretty darn great. You always know what you can expect from good seiyuu and dub actors like that.

  3. Tofu says:

    Is Disgaea 4 only on PS3? :\

  4. akagami says:

    Yay, another Disgaea fan! I’m still playing through Disgaea 1, but it’s so much fun! I have 2, 3, and 4 sitting in the corner waiting to be played. I was playing through 2 and they re-released 1, so I just had to start from the beginning. I’m a slow gamer, sue me =P

    Too many games, anime, books, and so little time to play/watch =(

    And WWHAT?!?!?!!! There was a collector’s edition?!? Now I feel ripped off with my regular version.

    I’m still saving up for a powerful pet dragon. I mean, any game that lets you use a dragon to crush peng…prinnies is awesome in my books.

    @Tofu – Yes, it is PS3 only.

    • Tofu says:

      nooooo~ OTL Well to be honest folks, I still play FInal Fantasy Tactics :3 I love that game!

      • Overcooled says:

        It’s okay, it took me an entire summer to play through Persona 3. Might as well take the time to enjoy the game, right? Although, I always feel like I’ll never be able to watch everything I want and play everything I want within my lifespan @[email protected] Ahhh…

        The collector’s edition was only $10 more too! That kind of sucks. D:

        lol aww poor Tofu. Hmm, I should probably put the console the game is for in my next review instead of just assuming everyone knows XD By the way, FF tactics is probably my favourite video game ever~

        • akagami says:

          Oh, Final Fantasy Tactics… I’ve played Tactics A2 but not the original, since I can’t seem to find a version that isn’t way overpriced (e.g. ebay).

          Just noticed the remake Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions is out on the PSN (I don’t have a PSP)… maybe now is a good time to try it out =)

          Ahh… another game to add to my huge list of unplayed-games-just-staring-at-me-from-the-corner.

          I haven’t played the Persona series, but I got Persona 4 to try out… which is also in the pile of games =P

          • akagami says:

            Awww, got too excited. It’s on the PSN but I can’t play them on the PS3. Boo… I’ve always wanted to try the FFT remake and Valkryia Chronicles 2/3, but don’t want the PSP since all the RPGs (but those 3 titles) are playable on my DS lite.

            • Overcooled says:

              It’s hard to find old Gameboy Advance games. I got lucky and just borrowed it from my friend. I also own the War of the Lions version, and that’s pretty amazing as well. A bit too overdressed in comparison to the origial FFtactics (I lost track of what I was doing..a lot) but still glorious. Aww, I love gaming on my psp! I find it has a lot more RPG type games that pique my interest.

              So many games so little tiiiime. I want to play Valkyria Chronicles too >_< Life is so hard..(P.S. Persona is AWESOME)

            • BlackBriar says:

              @Overcooled
              There’s a way to find old Gameboy Advance games. You should start by looking around the GameStops that are near you and look in the small Gameboy section that should be close to the desk where you pay for the games. Thanks to doing that, I was able to get all the six installments of the MegaMan Battle Network series. Good luck.

  5. Alynn says:

    Hnnnng I love that art. I want to play this so badly but I don’t have a PS3. sobbbb.

    This is like one of my favourite genres of games.

  6. Dan-go says:

    OH MY GOD yes yes yes Disgea, The World Ends with You and Kingdom Hearts are my favourate portable games ever

    • Kitty says:

      Omg TWEWY is the best crack ever!!! Neku is teh God of awesome!!! Thou as far as KH goes I could have done WITHOUT birth by sleep. That game’s timeline just messed everything up!!

      • Dan-go says:

        Did you hear, Kingdom hearts 3D has neku in a cameo!

        • Overcooled says:

          I love those 3 series too, although I admittedly gave up on Kingdom Hearts when it started releasing a whole bunch of games after KH2.

          I saw the Neku cameo too and it was awesome! They hinted at the possibility of a TWEWY sequel too. I am excite.

          • BlackBriar says:

            The Kingdom Hearts series is great because the guys at Square Enix sure know how to create addictive storyline for prequels and sequels, like Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII.

            I’m currently playing Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. The story and main characters are nice but the bosses are not a piece of cake to beat, especially when it comes to Xehanort and Vanitas.

            • Overcooled says:

              I haven’t played Birth by Sleep. Do you think I should download..err…I MEAN BUY IT? It might be a good way to kill time in between classes when I’m done all my course readings.

              Kingdom Hearts always has a few impossible bosses. Like the Sephiroth bonus fight (I died in one hit) or the frustrating battles in the Chain of Memories game where you use cards to attack. Aiiyaa.

              and yes Karakuri, we shall fangirl together when/if it is released!

          • Karakuri says:

            WHATTTT?! A SEQUEL!? I AM ALSO EXCITE.

  7. Yuki says:

    Disgaea!!!!! Hell yea! One of the best game series ever (but can never beat SMT series especially Persona.) But sadly I only have a PSP and thus, can play only the PSP version. OTL
    (My brother is stingy and doesnt let me play his PS2 anymore even though he has a PS3 now. Pffttt…)

    On a totally different note: I really hope PSVita will be coming over to my country. ;o; I foresee many new games getting ported there instead of the PSP. orz

    • Overcooled says:

      Disgaea is one of my favourite game series as well, probably in my top 5. Well, at least you have PSP, that’s better than nothing. But that’s pretty mean of your brother to not let you play the PS2 :/ Times like this, I’m glad to be an only child so I can do whatever I want XD

      If you got the PSP, I can only assume you’d get the PS Vita. There are a loooot of sexy games coming out for that badboy, so I hope you get it!

  8. akagami says:

    Awww, just found out the Japanese premium edition got the nendoroid. Why do they always assume american gamers don’t like cute things? :sadface:

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