Graphics:
8.8
Gameplay:
9.2
Sound:
9.1
Control:
8.6
Replay Value:
9.0
Overall Rating:
8.9
Online Gameplay:
Not Rated
Publisher:
NIS America
Developer:
Nippon Ichi Software
Number Of Players:
1
Genre:
Strategy/RPG
Release Date:
September 6, 2011


When Disgaea: Hour of Darkness debuted on the PS2 back in 2003, strategy/RPG fans were in heaven. It generated an outpouring of praise from both critics and gamers, and that phenomenon launched the franchise. It was also the birth of the Prinny, which has become a staple of a different kind. In 2011, enter Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten , yet another installment jam-packed with that patented off-the-wall humor and a ridiculous amount of depth. The story is beyond quirky – it’s downright insane – but obviously, the focus remains squarely on the gameplay. For fans of this sub-genre, prepare to indulge.

Although the mainstream may not notice, the hardcore will undoubtedly note the visual upgrade in the latest Disgaea entry. Everything is sharper and more defined, character detail is fantastic, and battle animations are super fluid and vibrant. The best part is that NIS keeps the charm and style from past entries; all they do is update it with stellar artistry and refinement, which will certainly appeal to long-time followers. See, this is what happens when you usher in beautiful high-definition graphics: absolutely everything looks better. But if you’ve caught the nostalgia bug and you refuse to play with the fancy new visuals, Disgaea 4 lets you select the old-school style. It’s just that the new palette is so damn smooth .

Usually, I am not a fan of the uber-cheesy, over-the-top voice acting found in so many Japanese/anime productions. I’ve never found it amusing in the slightest. But the voice performances in this game are excellent, and they’re excellent because they maintain that cheesiness while combining it with effective, professional actors. That’s a plus. The soundtrack remains a highlight as always; the original score complements the game in every possible way, and the effects are also top-notch. It’s tough to take anything away from the audio, but I will say that some voices still chafe, and there’s a slight balance issue between effects and music. Besides that…fantastic.

Okay, look, this is why I can’t play Disgaea anymore. I’m all happy playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution and I’m trying to ignore this game NIS just sent. I’m trying to ignore it because I know that when I start, I won’t be able to stop; I’ll get all involved in beefing up my party, jump into the Item World, and never come out again . I got hooked on that damn Item World in past entries and the bottom line is that I just don’t have the time these days. Nevertheless, this review had to be done and yup, yet again, I got hooked. But not just to the Item World; the entire adventure just begged for an offering of many, many hours.

I mentioned the story before; I’ll briefly outline the introduction here- the main character is Valvatorez, a demon that has fallen from grace and yet, with plenty of pride and self-serving cockiness, he instructs legions of Prinnies. Prinnies were human criminals when alive, by the way. Anyway, we find out there are too many Prinnies (resulting in noise pollution and “lower test scores” throughout the Netherworld), so a big bad council orders a Prinny genocide. But Valvatorez promised his Prinnies they’d receive one sardine each for completing their lessons…and damnit, he’s going to keep that promise!

There’s more to it, of course, but I won’t give anything else away. Besides, it’s the gameplay that matters most. Fans will quickly recognize returning elements: tossing and throwing, Geo blocks, the Senate, combo and team attacks, etc. And oh yes, that pesky Item World. But you didn’t really think they’d release a new Disgaea without new stuff, did you? This time, when you complete a battle, you will conquer a certain territory on a map. Basically, all you’re really doing is clearing another square in order to create a new character, but it’s an interesting twist. I’m also forgetting the Evilities, skills, and skill boosts, which are important.

As you might expect, there’s a ton to think about. And it’s all wrapped up in that recognizable and amazingly addictive gameplay control format, which is pure turn-based. When I say “pure,” I mean speed never factors in; you bring in all the units you desire, choose actions, execute them, and when ready, turn the board over to the enemy. It has always worked extremely well and that hasn’t changed. But when you combine all the crazy depth, you’ll often sit and stare at larger, more complicated battles for several minutes, your brain spinning. In this way, it’s almost a flaw; there’s almost too much to consider at any one time.

And no matter how long I play, I can’t quite grasp the combo and team attacks. These can be triggered with basic and Special attacks, and it’s based on the positioning of your allies, the enemy, and the chosen skills. It’s a little complicated and in truth, I’m not entirely comfortable with the mechanic, because I find it difficult to determine exactly what will happen when attempting a multiple-character assault. Just when I think I understand it exactly, another factor comes into play and I get confused. Thankfully, though, the rest will always click…given enough time.

You can petition the Senate for game-related changes, provided you have enough Mana. You can use Mana to pick up specific skills for characters. You can purchase, sell, and upgrade items through shops and the Item World. Almost every item and piece of equipment has specific abilities that can be used, provided that item is equipped. You can create your own characters and choose their classes. In battle, there are the Geo blocks with which to contend (environmental alterations), height issues that require tossing and throwing characters (you can even create a “tower” of stacked characters), and situations that call for combos and team attacks.

And that’s hardly everything. It’s just packed . It’s all the depth fans know and love, plus more. We still have a central hub and a basic selection map that dictates our progression, but the core principles – gameplay freedom and customization – remain solidly in place. I still think it can be difficult to see everything one needs to see on crowded battlefields, the combo and team attacks can be a tad confusing, and in some ways, the insane depth can feel overwhelming. Also, there are a few characters I don’t like and the story isn’t exactly gripping, so there are some drawbacks. But when it comes to straight-up strategy gameplay, well…

Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten is exactly what it should be: an upgrade of a recognizable game that plenty of fans have adored. It’s very pretty, the audio is borderline amazing, the captivating, addicting gameplay is back in full force (with even a little extra force), and player choice and customization immediately gives us a sense of purpose. We can do just about anything. It’s not about exploration, as the followers know; it’s about building a team any way you see fit. It’s about a solid, well-paced turn-based experience that delivers what it promises and more. It’s about clearing off a huge chunk of your calendar so you can freakin’ play it!

The Good: Beautiful yet simple visual upgrade. Great music, effects and a few excellent voices. Depth is mind-boggling. Limitless freedom to learn and customize. Patented style and humor shines through. Longevity is off the charts.

The Bad: It can feel a little overwhelming. Battlefield can still seem too crowded, and camera doesn’t always help. Story is…weird.

The Ugly: “Yep, here I am again, in the Item World. Guess I’ll just stay here forever.”

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duomaxwell007
duomaxwell007
10 years ago

next week? I thought it was 2 weeks away?

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

Comes out the 6th so close to 1.5 weeks 🙂

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

I'm going to buy this. I have to admit the insanity of it scares me but the gameplay looks like something I'd be interested in.

Glad to here time isn't a factor, I loved that about Valkyria Chronicles.

hellish_devil
hellish_devil
10 years ago

Time was a factor in VC. When you chose a character and you started moving, enemies started shooting you, so you had to be fast and run to a cover or go into aim mode as fast as you could.

LimitedVertigo
LimitedVertigo
10 years ago

When moving yes but there was no time limit for setting your strategy up and choosing who did what and where.

It's perfectly reasonable to assume I'd get shot at as I'm moving my character near enemies.

hellish_devil
hellish_devil
10 years ago

Well yeah, but involved a little bit of reflexes. Here it is ALL turn-based, except for some plataforming parts that were really flawed in part 3, don't know if they are still here. But those took place when you explored around and it was easy as pie when you were in a high level, since the height of the jump was porportional to your level (Lv 9999, jump wherever you want)

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

I'm glad this series is chugging along and reviewing well for the fans.

Claire C
Claire C
10 years ago

Have you played FF Tactics?

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

Yeah but as pure strategy was never my thing and the story didn't grab me I didn't finish it.

hellish_devil
hellish_devil
10 years ago

I only played Disgaea3, and I loved the story, but mostly, the depth of it. When you thought your characters couldn't get any better, you found out about a new way to make them better. I think this is one of the few RPGs where you can make god-like characters. A few reincarnations here and there with some Class World in between and you are good to go.

RPG gamers support this games and NIS, showing that we niche JRPG gamers still exist.


Last edited by hellish_devil on 8/25/2011 10:18:52 PM

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
10 years ago

I can't because of the checker board strategy, never been able to play those. But I supported them with Neptunia and Ar Tonelico 3 so it's all good.

Oxvial
Oxvial
10 years ago

I think I'm going to wait, 3 is going to be on the Vita so sure this one too, I prefer this type of game on portable.

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

So… Judging from the rating this game is practically as good as Human Revolution and better than inFamous 2 (to use two other recent releases as comparison)?
I realize they are different genres and I've not played any earlier Disgaea games so I am totally judging a book by its cover here, but seeing that trailer it looks like… Well, sorry but most of all it looks like a fairly average PSP game?

(Yeah I know, I could have chosen the easy path and simply not said anything, but I just can't help myself…!)


Last edited by Beamboom on 8/26/2011 3:15:31 AM

Oxvial
Oxvial
10 years ago

Yes Disgaea doesn't look impressive, even on it debut at first I thought it was Snes game, but believe this is the hardcore paradise.

Disgaea gonna give you a lot more of gameplay for your money than Human Revolution and InFamous 2 combined.


Last edited by Oxvial on 8/26/2011 7:54:07 AM

Claire C
Claire C
10 years ago

Beam, the game is reviewed in comparison to SRPGs. He probably looks at it in terms of how successful the game is at being of that particular genre. IF2's score I should think never enters the mind. I think it's more about whether the game meets the expectations of the genre's audience.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

What Claire said.

You don't compare games like Disgaea to games like inFamous 2. That'd be…wrong.

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

Thankfully not every game released can or should be compared to each other. Hopefully they never will, or it will be a loss for us all.

I shall just conclude that this game is not for me, and happily move on. 🙂


Last edited by Beamboom on 8/26/2011 3:31:10 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
10 years ago

Yeah, if you're not already into Disgaea, you probably never will be. As great as it is, it's very, very, VERY niche. 🙂

Claire C
Claire C
10 years ago

If you like turn-based RPGs there's a good chance you'll like it.

Beamboom
Beamboom
10 years ago

I hate myself for saying it, but I would be unable to see past the graphics here, Claire.

There may be a great game underneath the visual layer, and I am no stranger to strategic gameplay, but the "children television" cartoonish look (and I say that in the least provocative manner possible) is a hindrance I am not built to traverse.

It sucks to be me sometimes. 🙁


Last edited by Beamboom on 8/27/2011 2:47:00 AM

GustaveXIII
GustaveXIII
10 years ago

awesome review definitely getting it now

Lotusflow3r
Lotusflow3r
10 years ago

Hope it arrives in UK soon.

Looks to be the best SRPG on offer.

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10 years ago

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Rings0fUranus
Rings0fUranus
10 years ago

I own Disgaea 1 and 2 on PS2 and the PSP remakes, and Disgaea 3. Am I excited for this game? You bet your tight ass!