Nippon Ichi has always been a company that I could predict, well until recently when they decided that the PS3 would be a good place for the next installment of the Disgaea series. I could see it now, high resolution sprites, huge battlefields, scores of characters being wiped off the face of the map in one gigantic spectacle. Suffice to say I was more than a little disappointed when what showed up on my doorstep was more akin to a PS2 to PS3 port than a game that really takes advantage of the cell processor. While there was definitely a visual letdown, the game is certainly not a slouch in the gameplay department. Disgaea 3 Absence of Justice deserves an A for effort when it comes to gameplay and story and it captures the feeling of the original Disgaea all over again, and it’s a load of fun to boot.
Disgaea 3 is all about getting your patricide on, as the very angry and diabolical demon spawn Mao. Mao is currently the number one honor student at Evil Academy, he never goes to class, avoids teachers, and is generally a big jerk. After a fairly traumatic experience of having his Slaystation game console smashed by his father, the Overlord, Mao decided it was high time he gained the power of a hero in order to defeat him. In order to do that he would need to study heroes extensively, perhaps even capture one and experiment on him. And with that the adventure begins, involving everyone at Evil Academy, from the lowliest freshmen to the toughest senior.
NIS has always made sure that gameplay was the bread and butter of the Disgaea series, and the trend continues on in Disgaea 3. For those who are familiar with the series, there are a few new tweaks that help those who enjoy the game's “number porn” aspect. For the uninitiated, Disgaea is a strategy RPG that is all about amassing a large army of demons to defeat your enemies. So sadly, if you're new to the game a lot of these new changes may go unnoticed, but the core game is balanced enough that you won't miss much by skipping out on them. For starters there are new sub-skills, called Evilities, each character is allowed two “Evilities” that can range from additional HP received from healing spells, to extra attack damage. To learn these skills cost mana that is rewarded upon defeating enemies, and there is plenty to go around. You can also use that mana to reincarnate your characters, allowing them to start back at level one with a lot of their skills carried over.
Mana is also used to pass motions in the Student Council. Similar to the Dark Assembly of the original Disgaea, the Student Council is where you go when you want the ability to make new classes of characters. These classes include new human troops
and new demon troops. You can also change the stock of the shops, increase the power of enemies, or leave the battle to your collection of Prinnies. For those of us just joining us, Prinnies are the souls of murderers and thieves, confined to the body of a peg-legged little penguin, and they make quite a good bomb when thrown too. They also have a penchant for saying “Dood!” a lot too, and are often the source of comic relief.
Another new element is the Magichange ability that allows you to take a monster unit, and turn it in to a weapon, allowing for new skills. You can also combine skills between two units. So lets say you have a unit with sword skills, if you queue up an attack with a gun skill then you have a chance to combine the two attacks to do some extra damage. These types of tactics go a long way to those trying to break the billion damage barrier. Yes this game gets so ridiculous that you can do over a billion hit points in damage, but not without some serious time commitment.
There's plenty of ways to reach this ridiculous level, you can complete the main game, and then play through again with your beefed up characters in an attempt to reach the multiple endings. Or you can go and visit the Disgaea staple, the Item World. The Item World is used to power up items and to kill time, which it does a very good job of. Enemies are scaled to the power of the weapon, so don't think you can just dive right in if you find an awesome sword, odds are you won't last more than a few levels before you can reach the exit.
Previous Disgaea titles allowed you to mess with the battlefield through the use of the Geo system, various colored panels that can share powers like increase to strength or experience points gained. They can also harm by dealing damage or by creating clones of the enemies on the field. This system is now controlled by Geo Blocks, which can be picked up and thrown like previous Disgaea games, but this time you can climb them as well. But beware, because if you toss a Geo Block next to one of the same color then it will cause a chain reaction and destroy all the connected blocks of the same color. These Geo Blocks are what give the Geo Panels their power, so for example you throw a red Geo Block on to a blue panel, this will transfer the power of the block to all of the same colored panels. Destroying the block will change the color of all panels to that of the destroyed block. It sounds complicated trying to explain it here, but once you start playing it is easy to get the hang of.
Disgaea has always prized itself on its humorous writing and wacky characters, and this go round we're treated to one of the most manic casts yet. The are complemented with some excellent voice actors, with the lead character Mao being voice by Vic Mignogna who has also lent his talents to Persona 3 and Full Metal Alchemist. The vocal track comes in both English and Japanese flavors and I recommend the English cast this time around. The music is provided by Tenpei Sato who continues to provide a wide variety of tunes that help fit the mood but at times are a slight generic.
Graphically, Disgaea 3 is a massive disappointment for anyone who was expecting high definition visuals that take advantage of the PS3 console. This game really could have and should have been placed on the PS2, as the game could have benefited from the larger install base. There are a lot of effects that the game makes use of, and they look impressive, but the character sprites remain the chunky blocks of sprites from the previous games. Don't expect this to be a game to show off to friends to brag about your shiny new PS3.
NIS has got another hit on their hands with Disgaea 3. It's the solid gameplay that will keep you coming back for more. The graphics aren't necessarily a deal breaker, but in this landscape of high definition and extreme levels of brown, it's a little disappointing to see the graphics not get the proper boost that comes with a new generation of hardware. If you're a fan of Disgaea there is no reason to miss out on this game. The mechanics have received some more subtle tweaks and help make the game all the more enjoyable. It's got the charm and manic properties that put the original game on the map (and 2 other consoles) and even a little to spare, so don't miss Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice.