Graphics:
8.0
Gameplay:
8.8
Sound:
8.2
Control:
8.4
Replay Value:
9.0
Overall Rating:
8.5
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Nippon Ichi Software
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Strategy/RPG
Release Date:
October 6, 2015


I still remember when the first game in the now-esteemed and long-running Disgaea franchise arrived. It was called Hour of Darkness and after reading a ton of positive reviews, I went in search of what I figured would be a worthy follow-up to my time with Final Fantasy Tactics . I hadn’t been impressed with the SRPG options on PS2 up to that point but everyone was raving about this strangely-named new game from Nippon Ichi. Unfortunately, NIS America obviously underestimated how popular the game would become, as I couldn’t find it anywhere and ultimately had to wait a few weeks for the stores to get restocked. Now, over 12 years later, a new – and unsurprisingly massive – entry is upon us.

If you’re familiar with the series, you know what to expect from a graphical standpoint. The grids on which you wage wonderfully intricate battles are colorful and attractive, the character designs are often loopy yet decidedly cute, and the special effects are a tremendous highlight throughout. No Disgaea entry has ever won awards for its visual presentation but this PlayStation 4 exclusive is awfully appealing. This is the cleanest, most detailed, and occasionally most eye-popping installment to date and despite a few visibility quirks, there’s a lot to like. In regards to the latter, given the sheer amount of characters that can be jammed onto a battlefield at once, it can often be difficult to distinguish who’s who (and precisely where they are on the grid).

The sound is another familiar element. The voices are typically childish and over-the-top and the voice acting is appropriately campy. It’s really the unique Disgaea flavor that permeates the experience; it’s zany and carefree, never once pretending to a profound or even remotely serious tone. Even the special effects lean toward the cartoon-y and the soundtrack is bright, vibrant and at its best when the story kicks up a notch and we’re treated to some wacky cut-scenes. Again, there’s nothing particularly special about the audio but it’s vintage Disgaea , and it boasts the upgraded quality you should expect from a PS4 production. Clean and striking on all technical sides, most series fans will be very pleased with the visuals on display.

Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance utilizes the same classic turn-based strategy/role-playing mechanic it has always used, only with a lot more mechanics, customization options, and character-building possibilities than we saw in the first few entries. The series has gone absolutely crazy in terms of depth and longevity and I can say without any shadow of a doubt, there isn’t another title released in 2015 that will offer more bang for your buck. Lv. 9,999 characters with Lv. 9,999 equipment? Seriously ? And it’s hardly about constant grinding within a simple tried-and-true formula, because the developers utilize the best of past efforts and implement numerous additions and enhancements. The result is a truly gigantic SRPG that will give fans of the niche genre hundreds of hours of entertainment.

The structure isn’t dissimilar to recent series entries: You go through a series of a half-dozen battles or so, get a preview sample of coming events, and press forward through the unfolding – and oddly delightful – narrative. The story, which involves surprisingly interesting characters like the demon Killia and a beautiful vixen named Seraphina, along with ambitious overlords with lofty goals and plenty of emotional baggage, takes center-stage. Lord Void Dark is at the center of the uprising and it’s up to you and your team of colorful companions to thwart the Lord’s plans. He wants to eradicate every netherworld in existence and of course, that doesn’t sit too well with the protagonist and his allies. It also means you get to visit new netherworlds and the game is immediately more dynamic.

Previously, we’d finish a battle and return to the same hub, where you can customize your team and characters to your heart’s content. But now, you’re aboard a huge ship that shuttles you between netherworlds, and this acts as your hub. Sure, the ship serves the same purpose as a central hub of preparation but due to the more involved narrative and shifting environments, it feels less static. It’s set up a little differently, too, even if this hub isn’t exactly popping with new-and-improved tweaks. If you want to dive into the Item World, however, you’ll soon start to see more additions and improvements, each of which are obviously designed to enhance the overall depth of an already-deep experience. Yes, you remember the Item World, don’t you? The place where you can level up items and equipment, the place that can totally own your life?