By: Jeff Cater
The Disgaea series first showed up during the early PS2 days and has made appearances on every Sony device since. The latest release from developer Nippon Ichi Software marks for the series’ PlayStation 4 debut, with Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance. Keeping with the series’ trademark humor and visual style, Disgaea 5 might just be the game JRPG fans have been waiting for.
Except for the “Options” button not being used as a Pause menu of sorts (you use Triangle instead) the controls all make sense. Being a turn-based tactical combat game, you’ll be primarily using the left stick to highlight choices and the “X” button to confirm.
Also, in what is a common issue found in games with an isometric perspective, the cursor can sometimes slip behind a wall or obstacle, so you might end up placing a character a few squares from where you had intended to put them. You can rotate the battlefield by pressing R1/L1, so if you’re careful and enough of a tactical perfectionist you’ll never misplace a unit. It’s just hard to remember sometimes!
Damn! The palette in this game is reminiscent of wet, luscious colored paint. Vibrant deep purples run against neon stripes of red with cobalt-studded stones, and that’s just in the game’s hub world! Each landscape you fight upon is filled with gloomy electric lights, cracked slates of mud, sandy avenues and boasts a populace perfectly fitting of each setting.
Characters are drawn and colored amazingly (totally HD, Dood!), but on the downside they feature few frames of animation for movement and combat. Everything is striking enough, though, especially late-game special attacks, that it’s really hard to notice after only a short time.
The soundtrack is mostly grooving and enjoyable, except for the song that plays endlessly in the hub world. That lady missed the mark so many times that I don’t even think she knows where the mark is. The non-musical voicework of the game is great and enthusiastic, but the performances do occasionally come off a bit too forceful when cramming jokes down your throat. The noise of combat is pretty unnoticeable compared to the battle music that plays, which while awesome can also be overbearing.
If you’re unfamiliar with either the series or the structure of a JRPG, it generally breaks down to turn-based combat with story playing out in-between. Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is no different, but it does the genre supreme justice.
As you start your journey, you’re slowly introduced to the main cast. The story is very much about the first character you get, Killia, who’s on an obsessed quest for revenge. Then there’s Seraphina, the Princess Overlord of The Gorgeous Netherworld, who is in the process of avoiding marriage to the main antagonist of the game, Void Dark.
Together you will guide them through a hilarious and sarcastic storyline in a sequence of battles where you will unlock new moves and loot for your crew. In the hub world, which is actually Seraphina’s chic hangout, you’ll find a huge amount of NPCs.
Save for a few that just walk around saying funny things, every NPC there has a purpose — whether it’s to sell new weapons and armor, teach you new skills or even recruit a custom ally. They all have pretty funny “classes” too, like “EXP Man” or “Wise Guy.”
What makes the gameplay so good here is the refined combat menu and mechanics. You may Move once and Attack once during a turn, unless you’ve got a character that knows particular skills that allow them to attack multiple times.
Battles tend have an incentive to be fast paced because of how the combo system works. For example: if you have two melee characters within striking distance of an opponent, both of their attacks will trigger when you hit the “Exectute” command in your menu. Enemies can also do this to you, and combo attacks are absolutely devastating, so they’re best utilized when you’ve the utmost confidence in your actions.
Keeping a balanced force of warriors is important as well; or in other words make sure you train and level up a few healers and mages, they’re both incredibly useful and generally pay for themselves.
Turns out I’m a fan of JRPG games now after not playing one since Tactics Ogre on the SNES. That being said, Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance is just right for both casual or hardcore fans of the genre. Huge amounts of content, a wonderful battle system and lively jokes are all wrapped up in some seriously lovely visuals. What are you waiting for, Dood!?! Shouldn’t you be pre-ordering this!?