Publisher: NIS America
Developer: Nippon Ichi Software
Welcome back to the underworld! Err, several underworlds actually this time. Nippon Ichi Software (NIS) continues to pump out new versions of its signature RPG with Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance being the sixth in the main series, but the first on the PS4. The fight between daemons and underworlds are fraught with perils, pitfalls and well, daemons, some of which succeed.
Disgaea has a long history dating all the way back to the PS2 with the first, excellent, game. With re-releases of all of its signature titles on portable systems, with the exception of Disgaea D2, it is hard to find a fan of the genre who has not played a single one. All of the Disgaea games have been based on some pretty silly premises. This game follows Saraphina, daughter of the Daemon King of the Gorgeous Underworld. She has been betrothed to Void Dark, a rather nasty Daemon King (really what daemon isn’t?) who is busy taking over and destroying other underworlds. She hates the idea, not because he is destroying other underworlds, but because she wants to determine who she wants to marry herself. Enter Killia, a young male (this is important for the story) daemon who is seeking vengeance against Void Dark, but we don’t know why.
The series is a tactical, grid based RPG. When a fight begins, the battlefield is laid on in a grid. Characters can move a certain number of squares. This is determined by three factors; the character’s class and equipment, and the height of the square. Your and your enemies’ teams take turns moving, attacking and using abilities against each other. Last team standing wins. Each battlefield has a list of prizes that can be claimed depending on how your fighters did on the field. New to the series is a one-time prize item on each field that can be claimed if players do well enough. Don’t worry, players can go back to the map if they so choose to get the one-time item if missed.
Off the battlefield there is a pocket underworld that players can explore. Each chapter hides treasure in the pocket underworld that can be found and usually contains something worth using. The Item shop is used to purchase everything from weapons and armor to usable items like potions. The recruiter is used to recruit new characters. There is a base set of classes that are available to Saraphina’s crusade to start, however, as the game goes on and her army of misfits accomplish certain tasks, new classes unlock. A new addition to the series is the quest board. The quest board is just like it sounds, a place to pick up quests. In this game quests are completely optional, and really have nothing to do with the story. Many of the quests show Saraphina how to unlock new classes and items in the game.
The Dark Assembly is back in D5. This allows Saraphina can go to and ask for things like lowering prices in the item shop, extorting money from the counselors, unlock new battlefields, etc. When players go in for a vote, councilors can be bribed to persuade them to vote for your proposal. The votes are based on the level of the counselor, for example a level 20 will count for 20 votes and a level 1 counts for 1.
The item world is back as well, this allows Saraphina and her allies to enter an item and attempt to improve the item. When they enter an item it generates a set of randomly created levels. In order to complete each level one of two things must happen. Either our heroes clear out the area and defeat each monster, or a single hero makes it to the exit and moves on to the next area. Every 10th level there is a boss, defeat that boss and the item permanently improves. Be careful, once you enter the item world you cannot leave it until you have passed at least 10 levels, or, Saraphina can use a hard to find Mr. Gency’s Exit.
New to the world of Disgaea is the character world. An almost game board like world is shown and a character moves around on it by spinning a slot wheel. The character world is used to unlock new abilities and stat boosts. Enemies can also appear in the character world as well. These are fought also using the slot wheel.
Disgaea tries to be all things to everyone who likes strategy games. Most of the time it works. For players who just want to enjoy the story, they can. Be careful the difficulty goes up pretty quick after the first few battles and a little bit of grinding might be involved. If Saraphina’s group gets a little big, I myself like to pick out five or six characters that are my core, some of the other characters can become neglected. If they need to be used at higher levels in the game, players will have to go back to earlier battlefields and level them up. This is where reincarnation really helps and Saraphina’s allies can reincarnate themselves into different classes. Their level drops back down to one, but depending on the amount of character specific currency they spend, they keep some of their already learned abilities and stats. So a level one character could potentially be as strong as a level 1000 (yes you read that right) character.
As per usual with the Disgaea series, NIS has managed to combine some great looking 2d sprites with ok looking 3d special effects. Disgaea 5 does not look like a PS4 game, it still looks more like a PS2 game, and that’s all right with me. This series isn’t really known for its mind blowing special effects, but they do fit what they are trying to accomplish and are always a welcome addition to my library.
The fights are entertaining, even though the AI is a bit predictable. The story sequences at the start of the battles are goofy and ridiculous, just like all the other Disgaea games. This is what we’ve come to love and expect in the series. The biggest hang-up with the game is the music. In all of the other Disgaea games, the music in the main area players spend between fights is goofy and whimsical. In D5 it is just terrible. The music in the main area is so bad, I just want to mute the game altogether until I get away from the pocket underworld and onto the battlefield.
Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is a good addition to the series and the story and secrets that Killia has will keep players coming back to see what he is hiding. The biggest daemon in the game is the music; the intro music is easy to forgive and ignore, but the pocket underworld music, which is the music players will hear for the most of the game, is also bad. Aside from this main complaint, if you are looking for a fun, and goofy strategy RPG, Disgaea 5 will scratch that itch.