Ah, Disgaea . When you say the name, hardcore strategy/RPG fans the world over start to drool. Featuring hundreds of hours of gameplay, some of the most in-depth gameplay mechanics found anywhere, and kooky yet often memorable characters, these games are all about micromanagement…a lot of micromanagement. Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten launched in Japan last February to the expected critical acclaim, and it’s set to release in the US on September 6. Boasting a new graphics engine with higher-resolution sprites and even more content, the latest installment is primed to deliver in a big way.
This time, the story focuses on the vampire Valvatorez, a warden in Hell who discovers the corruption infecting the government. Well duh, it’s Hell ! Nevertheless, he sets out with his werewolf buddy, Phenlif, to fix things. But in reality, while the plots are often interesting and genuinely comical, Disgaea is never really about the storyline. Nah, it’s all about that addictive, super-deep, crazy hardcore gameplay. Once again, the turn-based style complete with the familiar grid will return, as will other features, like tossing characters, the Geo Symbols (colored spaces that can give you a distinct advantage), and the option to create new characters and customize your party to a great extent.
You can even ask the government for better characters and equipment, but don’t expect all your requests to be granted. Oh, and let’s not forget that torturous Item World: every item and piece of equipment features its own little mini-world where you can dive in and level grind to your heart’s content. Doing so ups the level of the item or piece of equipment in question. And I say it’s torturous because whenever I try to play a Disgaea title, I always get stuck doing this for a really, really long time. Let’s just say that the Item world is a tad distracting.
The truly hardcore will want to try the map editor, too. After making your map, you can share it with your friends on the PlayStation Network; make it as challenging as you wish! Now, this all may sound a lot like past entries in the franchise, which immediately makes me assume the critics will hate it for a failure to innovate, but I can pretty much guarantee the franchise followers will once again be plenty satisfied. Resistance 3 also launches on September 6 but let’s face it; we’re talking about two very different types of games. So one shouldn’t affect the other too much.
In closing, I will say this, though— if you’re not a long-time fan of this style, and you’re completely unfamiliar with the concept, you might feel a little overwhelmed by this one. NIS typically caters to the hardcore, and that’s exactly what Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is all about: hardcore fun to the max.