Gaming Review: Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten

Wow, this feels like a huge milestone to review. I’ve heard of Disgaea time and time again, but the one thing I never did was actually play it. I always assumed that it was some sort of hype train, and never bothered to start one. So how did I decide to play this? I actually picked up Disgaea 4 expecting to play it, hate it and put it down again. And…well, was I wrong! I didn’t expect that it would be such a great game with such an addictive story. So thank you to that one person who talked me into buying Disgaea 4 that day in the gamestore…you know who you are.

The game focuses on an eccentric, brilliant, noble and comedical vampire called Valvatorez, who, in the bottom of Hades, is instructing the little penguins called Prinny’s on reforming and paying off their sins. Be it fighting, or obeying Prinny Rule #1 of saying Dood at the end of every sentence, he seems to have a pretty interesting life, joined with the rather flamboyant and scheming Fenrich, of the werewolf species. From here onwards, things turn sour pretty quickly, and before Valvatorez knows anything, his goal has become to usurp the regime of the corruptment and teach them all what it means to be a proud and noble demon….and that’s where the adventure begins.

Valvatorez’s mission to usurp the regime isn’t just between him and his steward, he gets joined by a cast of…well, I think that oddballs are the right term to describe them. A human prinny, the cowardly son of the grim reaper, a final boss in training and an angel obsessed with theft and money. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, too. The cast of the game leaps out of the game, bringing the amazingly well written plot to life with dollops of comedy and drama thrown in, creating some really memorable scenes and some amazing characters. Valvatorez is one of the best video game characters i’ve seen, and he’s followed pretty closely behind by the other members of the cast. To summarize? Story = Amazing. Characters = Perfection.

There’s a lot of backstory and downloadable content if you can’t get enough of the game, so it’s not like you’ll run out any time soon.However, this game ISN’T a visual novel, despite the fact that the brilliant plot and characters really suit that format. But you know, when I say that, I actually realise that the game is probably divided in half. Half visual novel, half gameplay. With games like this, sadly, the gameplay often falls pretty far behind. So thankfully, this isn’t the case here, Disgaea has brilliant gameplay filled with tactics and complicated words and headaches for beginners.

The gameplay is very classical, taking place on a grid with sprites and the like. It’s loosely turn based, but unlike the other grid based games i’ve played, it’s heavily influenced by Japanese games and culture. It’s got ridiculously over-the-top animations and moves that look so powerful that the enemy should faint just from seeing it, with even more complicated things getting added in…like team attacks, powerups, magical attacks…it all gets a little bit complicated at first, especially when they introduce all the map-based influences and the lifting/throwing schemes they have in the game. However, after playing this, I can safely say one thing: It tries to make itself more complicated than it is.

People get put off by the amount of depth that the game forces onto you, but the fact is that it’s really possible to play the game without understanding even half of it. It’s not actually until the post-game that you need to master all the complicated elements and in-depth  additions to the game…you can bluff your way through it pretty easily, whilst still having a good time and slowly learning how everything work. Lemme summarize yet again. Gameplay = Unnecessarily complicated yet brilliant.

However, I know that i’ve praised Disgaea an awful lot, but the sad fact is that it won’t be for everyone. Not everyone can get their head around the style of storytelling, the Japanese influence or the grid-based gameplay. For those who can, Disgaea 4 is like the finest of fine wines for you to indulge in. For those who can’t, I urge you to give Disgaea a try, but it’s understandable if you can’t. For me, however, the game is brilliant…with only one flaw: the ending wasn’t what I expected.

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