[Review] Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention
Disgaea 3 is back with a different name and a new console. This time around its subtitle is Absence of Detention. All from the original and more, this quirky RPG might be the longest one ever. But does Nippon Ichi Software’s new Vita iteration hold up well on a handheld? “D00ds.”
This game requires patience. Not because of a teeth grinding difficulty that will lead you to want to quit altogether. It’s actually not difficult at all. No, rather it is the actual gameplay that will test a person’s mettle. The learning curve in this game is steep due to how much takes place. It isn’t just about placing characters on the battlefield and making sure they either attack or defend. There’s a plethora more tied into the gameplay. This can either be a good or bad thing, depending on whether you enjoy intricacy in your game.
It starts off as a fairly simple RPG but through a series of tutorials you begin to understand that there’s more to it. You have your different characters and classes that you launch into battle against the enemy, pretty standard. For Disgaea, the battlefield is a grid, and characters (as well as enemies) as positioned on a square. In order to attack an enemy, your attacks must be able to reach the square they’re standing on. When it comes to attacks, usually you’ll have to get one of your characters to move directly next to the enemy. Other times with characters that have long range weapons or magic spells you’ll just have to move within reach. Surrounding an enemy with characters also gives a chance to do a joint attack. These don’t happen all the time, but the odds are higher between characters that “play well” with each other. These attacks are stronger than just a regular one, for obvious reasons. They’re based on chance, but when they happen, you feel good. Like a counter-attack getting pulled off. Or in some rarer cases, a counter-counter-attack.
Many weapons and armor to choose from and even more abilities and magic spells to equip your party with are in the game. There are also characters that can transform into weapons for the humans in your party. For example, if you get a prinny near a human character, it will turn into a gun for that character. This allows for a bit of variety directly on the battlefield. However, it comes with difficulties because if that character is killed, both are lost. Thankfully losing a character doesn’t mean they’re gone for good. You’ll be able to revive and heal everyone at the “Nurses’ Office”. I found myself making a trip there after every battle. Sometimes unnecessary, but it’s so cheap of a cost that you might as well if only to pummel the enemy in the next battle.
After each battle, you can choose to head back to “school”. Here, there are different shops, people to talk to, and “homeroom”. In homeroom, you can choose which characters sit next to each other during class. This helps your odds of getting those joint attacks I spoke of earlier in battle. The chummier classmates are with each other, the better they’ll perform in battle together. You can also enroll your characters in different clubs, which serve the same purpose. Homeroom is also where you’ll be able to ask for better items at the store, recruitments of new characters, and more. You need to convince the council to approve it, though. Personally this felt unnecessary altogether. It’s nice to get really into the atmosphere with a classroom and all that, but I don’t think it should get that complicated to have things approved, to have seating arrangements, to have clubs. It comes off as a bit much.
Within the battlefield, there’s also an aspect of puzzle strategy. You can quickly win battles by placing blocks on certain parts of the map. These in turn explode where they land and take out the enemy standing there. When it comes to destroying stacked blocks, there’s some puzzle to finding a block that is capable of being thrown, and throwing it. The puzzles are easy to figure out. There’s very little creativity or difficulty found in them that I caught myself wondering why they’re even there. All in all, if you simply play it without caring about the extra that’s tacked on, you’ll have a better time than worrying about the puzzles. Except for when you’re forced to.
[+Many weapons, characters, armor, enemies] [+Fun to strategize and fight the battles] [-Steep learning curve] [-Too many extra things thrown in needlessly] [-Mediocre puzzle mechanics are out of place]
The visuals are my favorite part of Disgaea. The cute little sprites fit so well with the story and attitude the game is giving off. I’ve never been a fan of cutscenes that involve two still images of characters standing at opposite ends of the screen, talking to each other. Fortunately this doesn’t happen much, as the sprites of the characters and the scene will sometimes still appear in between. During battle the animations are good as well. The 3D environment makes for some interesting points of view at times. All in all though I found myself keeping it at the same angle. I think the character designs are fantastic. And there’s a bit of fanservice after every battle in the victory screen. Every time was a different, quirky picture.
That’s what Disgaea 3 is, quirky. The story is a fun one that leads to many comical scenarios. You can’t go into it expecting it to be a serious RPG. The premise is that you’re playing as an evil demon that goes to the school EvilAcademy, where good students are actually assholes and bad students are goody two shoes. This demon, Mao, is on a quest to kill his father. It’s actually funny how lighthearted everything is when this kid is genuinely trying to murder the Overlord, his father, for destroying his Slaystation Portable. Mao has an obsession with heroes and thinks that becoming one will help him in defeating his dad. This sets the precedent for a real wacky tale of the most dangerous school to ever exist, apparently. The characters are great. Each lends their part to the story well and manages to keep the story going. Regardless of how little one might want to continue because of the gameplay, the story is actually fun enough to make up for it. It really shines in production. Because while one can argue that the graphics aren’t updated and the soundtrack is forgettable, the story is very interesting.
[+Story is fun and engaging] [+The comedy doesn’t fail to crack a smile] [+Sprite graphics are endearing] [-Soundtrack is forgettable]
For $39.99, buying this game depends on how much you enjoy the genre. Newcomers, beware. It’s not an easy task. It’s not even a very enjoyable one. If you’ve already played Disgaea 3: Absence of Justice, I don’t see the point in buying this port. But if you truly love Disgaea or any strategy RPGs, then this is a great purchase. The replayability is through the roof with this. With the level cap reaching to 9,999, and with multiple endings, I’d say there’s a lot for one to do. Unfortunately, few will find the will to do it all.
[+A whole lot of replayability] [-Not worth it if you've played Absence of Justice]
This was my first Disgaea game and I think it will be my last. I felt the fun of strategizing and battling was watered down for me. This was especially true when the puzzles were heavily incorporated in. I enjoyed the art style and the story, but the actual gameplay became mundane. Most of the extra aspects were untouched by me, because I felt they were unnecessary for me to play how I wanted. But at its core either way, I didn’t enjoy what I was doing, no matter how much I enjoyed why I was doing it.
[+Many weapons, characters, armor, enemies] [+Fun to strategize and fight the battles] [+A whole lot of replayability] [+Story is fun and engaging] [+The comedy doesn’t fail to crack a smile] [+Sprite graphics are endearing] [-Steep learning curve] [-Too many extra things thrown in needlessly] [-Mediocre puzzle mechanics are out of place] [-Soundtrack is forgettable] [-Not worth it if you've played Absence of Justice]