Title: Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software, Inc.
Publisher: NIS America, Inc.
Release Date: October 6, 2015 (NA) | October 9, 2015 (EU)
Platform: PlayStation 4
A review code was provided by the publisher, for the purposes of this review.
Let’s Take A Trip to Grind Town
Disgaea, the long-standing Strategy RPG series that has roots going all the way back to the PlayStation 2 days, puts its players through the wringer. Few gaming experiences are quite as unique as the one that the original provided me long ago. In a time when I wasn’t dealing with multiple jobs, hard pressed to find even the time to inject my drug of choice (JRPGS) into my veins. It was a halcyon time in which spending an entire Saturday afternoon and evening battling my way through floor after floor of enemies in a dungeon wasn’t a big deal. I relished the idea of not only grinding through regular dungeons and then hitting up Item World to grind even more. Here’s a question that will, ultimately, color one’s entire experience with this series: Do you enjoy the grind?
If the answer is “No” then this might be a tough sale. There’s no way to sugarcoat it, folks, and the fact is these games will suck your time away like some sort of Max Shreck of video games. If you’re not the sort of person who gladly injects 40-70 hours in a single game and hunger for NewGame Plus options then, likely, Disgaea won’t be your proverbial cup o’ tea. There are the sorts of people, though, who live for Geo-Panels, who need to feel the rush of a well-placed Team Attack and jump out of their chairs upon getting those damage numbers as high as possible. I’m one of those people. My name is Jeff and, well, I have a problem you might say. I’ve been addicted to these sorts of games most of my adult life, and I can’t seem to shake the habit. Have I shirked other responsibilities to clock over 300 hours on a single save file of Disgaea D2 on the PSP? Yes. Do I occasionally have dreams where I’m standing on terra firma in a multi-tiered dungeon tileset with rows of varying colors and a single Geo-Symbol just begging to be hoisted and tossed like an errant Prinny? No. Don’t be silly. I’m not that deep. Okay. Maybe that happened a few times one time.
Needless to say, my own personal history with the franchise is one that dates back a ways, so it was great aplomb that I took to the series first foray into the current generation, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance. I’ve got great news for those wily veterans like myself who need that insane amount of number-crunching stat customization in their lives. The core of Disgaea still remains as great as it ever was. The near absurd amount of min-maxing available for every single character let alone lesser Monsters and the like. Still rides in tandem with the longstanding series affinity for near slapstick humor and melodrama. It felt a bit like a comforting blanket draped over this tired reviewer’s shoulders after my last foray into the DRPG genre (great as it was). Back home in the Netherworld with my posse of archetype-bucking support characters and all with some of the best sprite work around, spell effects that are tremendous and a pretty great soundtrack to boot.
The Netherworld, a relatively tumultuous place to begin with, has been rocked by the Demon Emperor, Void Dark, and his million soldier army known as the Lost. This where our heroes come in. Each of them has had their after-lives inexorably altered by the rampaging Void Dark. The game’s protagonist, Killia, is a drifter who’s stoicism belies a raging monstrosity beneath the cool exterior. His journey takes a slight detour when he is enlisted, unwillingly, to help a runaway princess from the Gorgeous Underworld, Seraphina. Red Magnus, a hot-tempered demonic lord with a penchant for violence, seeks his own form of retribution upon Void Dark for destroying his homeland — soon joins the growing rebellion. Others, such as Christo the tactician, Zeroken the wanderer with a need to prove himself and Usalia, a leftover from a sanctuary for peaceful demons, enlist as well to help put a stop to the tyrant’s reign.
This motley crew of rebels have a whole lot of tricks up their sleeves to deal with the Lost. Long-time Disgaea players will note the return of series mainstay mechanics such as Team Attacks, Geo-Panels and Combo Chains. This isn’t the same old song and dance, though. The seditious demons in the player’s control can also call upon Alliance Attacks and Revenge abilities to add to the already substantial arsenal at every character’s disposal. Alliance Attacks are akin to Team Attacks, but they can only be done with specific pairings of characters. Killia and Seraphina have one, Red Magnus and Zeroken another and Usalia and Christo as well.
Revenge, the title’s aptly named mechanic, relies on a character’s ally taking damage to push them to the breaking point. Once their Revenge meter is brimming over with rage, then Revenge Mode becomes active. That results in a highly increased Critical Strike chance; spell costs lowered to zero and the chance to Overload. This is where the Guns of Navarone are unleashed upon an unsuspecting tileset full of enemies. Each character has a massive damage ability tied to the Overload mechanic that can deal ridiculous amounts of damage.
The series has always been known for its hard-hitting strategy RPG experience but one of the best parts about it? The humor. The writing, ranging from the more obscure referential jokes to animated series, other video games to far more nuanced character development offers a compelling experience. Is it a bit paint-by-numbers in the beginning? Perhaps but as the narrative unfolds things get wild and Killia, in particular, evolves in ways that one might not expect. The trend of bucking typical JRPG character archetypes is in full effect here with Disgaea 5.
Here! Have All The Enemies!
The jump to current generation hardware has definitely helped in regards to spell effects and the sheer number of characters/sprites on the battlefield at a given time. The PS3/PS2 counterparts could scarcely manage double-digit numbers whereas the PS4 easily allows for massive tilesets overburdened with enemies to destroy. The sprite work in Disgaea 5 is second-to-none, really, and among the very best in the genre. Takehito Harada’s direction on the title is fantastic.
The music is also of note as series composer Tenpei Sato returns to bring a whole lot of auditory goodness to the wanting ears of SRPG enthusiasts. The English voice-over direction has some strong performances though not without a few weak spots here and there. Killia, in particular, works quite well as the disaffected anti-hero along with Seraphina as the spoiled princess.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance continues the Nippon Ichi tradition of delivering outstanding strategy roleplaying games to the West. There is a great mixture of humor and strong mechanics here that will give long-time fans of the series reason to revisit the Netherworld while newcomers will have a whole heap of content to dive into and explore.The new mechanics add a much-needed jolt of excitement to combat yet the tried-and-true components of battle never fail to amuse. It does feel like seeing an old friend again really but what a great time you’ll have. This is a must buy for strategy RPG fans.
+ The jump to current generation hardware has resulted in far better spell effects, cleaner sprites and crisp menus. The presentation here is top-notch.
+ Strong voice acting overall with a few weak performances here and there.
+ The new mechanics in addition to the tried-and-true Disgaea formula make for a truly compelling strategy RPG experience.
+ Character development is definitely a plus here with the strong sense of humor that has run through the entire series.
- The soundtrack has some weak entries into the track listing, in particular, the main hub world music. Change it quickly.
- The grind will simply be too much for some. Item World alone is a real monster of a task to take on.
- No Vita version?