Disgaea 3 is a charming game from a company called Nippon Ichi Software (NIS). NIS is known the world over for creating memorable, quirky characters and hilarious dialogue. Disgaea 3 is preceded by Disgaea 1 and 2 for the Playstation 2 console, and heralded much earlier by classic Strategy Role Playing Games (SRPG) such as Front Mission and Final Fantasy Tactics. If you have never played a Strategy RPG before, the concept is rather simple: think of it as an advanced game of Chess.
Instead of having six different pieces with their own rule sets, you have over 40+ classes that each have different rules! When one thinks of strategy games, blockbusters such as Warcraft and Starcraft come to mind. While these are real time strategy games, Disgaea is turn based, meaning all of your characters will move and act at once, and then the enemy will rebuttal. All battles take place on a grid, like Chess, which allows the player to easily plot out their next move. Aside from that, there is really nothing you can do to prepare yourself for the madness that is Disgaea!
Now, let me be frank when I say that Disgaea 3 is the biggest game you will ever play. The name of the game for this piece of software is absurdity. The vast majority of standard RPGs have a level maximum (cap) of 999, which is a daunting task in itself. Disgaea 3 throws all that out the window with a cap of 9999. What’s even more absurd is that at any time, you may re-incarnate any character, allowing you to keep most of your current character’s stats, and start him at level 1 again. That’s right; you can reach level 9999, re-incarnate back level 1, and be the most powerful low level character any game has ever seen!
The main draw to Disgaea 3 is its world, story, and humor. You’ll find exploding penguins, omniscient butlers, high school groupies and demons who love to play video games. The game is full of parodies and American pop-culture references, from an Emeril-esque Home Economics teacher who periodically shouts “BOOM!” while speaking, to a reluctant Hero who has a secret crush on a Princess who doesn’t even know he exists, this game will have you bellowing with laughter. Even more enticing is that the voice cast hails some of the greatest talent in the industry. Featuring Johnny Yong Bosch (Vash of Trigun), and Vic Mignogna (Edward of Full Metal Alchemist), odds are if you have ever watched a high-profile anime, you have heard most of the cast before.
Now, the story in and of itself is very unique. Taking place in Netherworld, traditionally good students are punished for being delinquents, while demons who skip class, forgo their homework, and insult their teachers are praised as honor students. Mao, the main character, and the son of the Overlord of the Netherworld, is an incoming freshman at Demon Academy. Mao is a shoe-in for honor student of the year, but complications quickly arise. Your journey begins as a quest to be the best (worst) honor student the academy has ever seen, but ends up becoming a story of epic proportions.
Shamefully, the gorgeous high resolution anime cut-scenes do not reflect the in-game sprite quality. While the cut-scenes are not live action, the portraits change drastically according to the character’s moods, and invoke tons of laughter. The sound is great, championed by colorful voice acting and countless sound effects for the hundreds of attacks in the game. There aren’t many music tracks found in the game however, and they will get repetitive, especially in-between battles. At first one may be turned off by the fact that the graphics could be sub-par on a system as powerful as the Playstation 3. However, upon further inspection, what the game lacks in aesthetic value, it makes up for in gameplay.
The name of the game in Disgaea 3 is customization and breadth. There is little level grinding involved, and you will find very quickly that the game rewards strategy. In combat, all characters are brought out from a home tile, and 10 may be out at a time. If a character dies, your maximum units allowed on the battlefield decreases to 9, and so on. There are literally hundreds of ways you could approach every single battle. You could send out 10 archers, 10 warriors, 5 mages and 5 healers, or 10 healer-caster hybrids, the choice is yours. The player can even ignore all story characters and just use custom created ones.
All characters are created in a large classroom area. Choose from one of the 40+ character classes, and then place him or her at a desk. Depending on how many experience (mana) points you spend creating that character; their personal space will go from a cheap wooden desk to a solid gold one. Characters can be placed in after-school clubs to increase their bonuses with other club members, and those who are seated next to each other receive attack bonuses. In addition to human characters, any monster you encounter in the game is creatable after that combat. In order to create a new club, or open up certain areas of the Academy, topics are passed through the student council. Not all council members like you, so you’ll have to bribe them with items.
The enjoyable complexities of Disgaea 3′s actual battle system are another fine aspect of the game. In battle, allied monsters can be morphed into a weapon to use for three turns. To further add to combat strategy, allies and enemies can be picked up and thrown across the screen, allowing slow, heavily armored characters to reach ranged enemies. Characters’ statistics may be leveled up in an Academy World, which allows you to meld them into hybrid classes, such as a Warrior-Mage. Any item in the game (even restorative items) has its’ own randomly generated Item World, consisting of up to 100 levels per item, where every level completed increases statistics for the item delved in to. Be prepared, however, because the item must be un-equipped to go inside of it, forcing to you spread out your high level items between your characters.
At first glance, Disgaea 3 may seem like a full on action game, but it is actually part puzzler. In select levels, each tile may be color coded in accordance to blocks called “Geo-Cubes”. These cubes create a special ability for anyone who is located on the according tile. Cubes may be destroyed, damaging anyone standing on the same color tile. Place another colored cube onto a tile that is about to be destroyed, and you’ve created a Geo-chain. This elaborate combo system is just one of the many puzzle elements found in Disgaea 3. It takes quite some time to peel back all of Disgaea’s layers, but don’t feel discouraged, because most of the complexities found in Disgaea 3 are optional strategies. The game is very easy to pick up, and the turn based gameplay is at your pace, allowing casual gamers to stop and think about what they want to do next. Despite the game having the fearsome task of reaching level 9999, you do not need to be anywhere near that to finish the game.
Provided you get past the barriers of entry (mostly aesthetic), you will enjoy this game for months to come. After all is said and done with the main story, you will pass numerous class bills, which will allow you fight countless other bosses and explore a multitude of areas. Pirates will take over and raid the Item World, characters from other NIS games will make an appearance, and absolute mayhem will ensue! Download content from the Playstation Network is also supported as of December 2008, and at the moment there are 3 downloadable characters to use, each with their own unique stage to complete.
With enough complexities to satisfy the most hardcore of gamers, and a learning curve that is accessible for newcomers, Disgaea 3 is a great alternative to many bland titles found in today’s market. Let the madness begin!
The in-game character models leave much to be desired, but the artwork is beautiful, colorful, and the Netherworld is immersive.
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One of the most intricate Strategy RPGS ever created. There are so many character types and options you will love the customization.
Grade ‘A’ voice acting by a stellar cast, with hilarious sound effects. The background music is repetitive, however.
Possibly the longest single player game ever made. The level cap is 9999, and there are more post-game bosses, areas, and downloadable characters than you can shake a stick at. There are also 8 different endings. Get crackin’!
If you are into strategy games, this is a must buy. You can’t beat Disgaea’s charm and sense of humor. If you are new to the genre, I’d suggest giving it a try.