Disgaea 4 is the latest sequel to the Disgaea series. Disgaea 3 seemed to have left a few fans feeling a bit disappointed with the characters, and the fact that the series has not seen any significant evolution in its visuals since it was created. Disgaea 4 seeks to remedy these two complaints, and more. Does it succeed? Read ahead and judge for yourself.
Game: Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten
Developer: Nippon Ichi
Disgaea 4 tells the story of Valvatores, a Prinny Instructor situated in Hades, and his rise against the corrupterment (which is obviously the netherworld’s version of the government) after they issue an order to exterminate all of the Prinnies. Accompanying him on his righteous quest is his loyal steward, Fenrich. Along the way, Valvatores shall also gain help from various other eccentric personalities. Among them is Fuka, a human soul who failed to become a Prinny; Emizel, the President’s son; Desco, a supposed Final Boss; and Vulcanus, the “Angel of Avarice”. The story is pretty tongue in cheek, and only rarely attempts to take itself seriously. The characters are also pretty entertaining, and each has their own little quirks (Fuka thinks this is all a dream, for example). The interactions between the characters tend to be quite amusing, and the dialogue is relatively well written. Some of the sections aren’t as amusing as the game attempts to make them out to be, but they are few. There are multiple endings, similar to previous games. Some are obtained through game overs, others are through more obscure methods.
The game itself is the same Disgaea we all know and love. Battles take place on a grid, and are turn based. Characters can be lifted and thrown to reach areas the would be otherwise impossible to reach by simply walking to. Attacking the same target with different units also leads to combos, and team attacks can be initiated by having other units adjacent when attacking. Magichange returns, as well. This feature allows a monster to change into a weapon (for three turns before exiting the battle) and equip itself to the character you chose. The unit the monster equipped itself to gets access to some extra skills, and the monster’s innate evilties. Evilties are passive skills that provide beneficial effects to the units they are equipped to, or provide detrimental effects on enemy units nearby. Weapon skills are now learned by leveling a character up, instead of using Disgaea 1 & 2’s weapon mastery system. In order to learn all the skills of a weapon, the units must be proficient in that weapon type, though. Monsters will learn skills by leveling up, as in previous games/ You can also spend mana, which is obtained by defeating enemy units, to boost these skills. Each skill has 9 levels, and increasing the levels will increase damage done by these skills, and sometimes even the range. Other returning features are the item world, which allows you to boost the strength of the items you explore, and character world, which grants bonuses to certain aspects of the unit you use to host it. The Dark Assembly, which you use to unlock various other characters and features, also returns as well as the ability to bribe senators into agreeing with you. Almost all of the features of the previous Disgaea games return, with the same absurd depth as the previous titles. It’s a bit much to take in for new players, but most of the aspects are explained well in the game.
You can ask call of the aid of other players, but that doesn't mean you'll get an answer.
Disgaea 4 also managed to add a few new features to the mix, as well. One of the first of these that you will encounter is the fusion aspect. Fusion allows you to fuse two monsters together to create a giant unit (the unit will be that of the monster you select to fuse into). Giant monsters can gain a boost to their stats, and the range of their special attacks increases. They also gain the ability to knock other units out of the way when moving. The downsides to fusion is the loss of 20% of the monster’s SP (used for special attacks) and the fact they are a larger target. Once the monster runs out of SP, it will split back into the two monsters used to fuse it. Giant monsters also have the ability to magi change into giant weapons. These increase the range of all the weapon based skills. There is also the inclusion of dual magichange as well. None of these features are particularly necessary to use to beat the game, of course, but they allow for countless other strategies to be implemented in order to tackle a particularly tough stage. Although, Giant and Dual Magichanges probably won’t be used until late or post game, due to their requirements for unlocking them.
One of the more interesting additions, though, is the inclusion of online functionality. After encountering their first pirates in Item World, the player is given the opportunity to create their own pirate ship and crew to invade other peoples’ item worlds or to duel them. Pirate ships are created from numerous parts that you will be able to collect from defeating other pirates in the item world, or through treasures that you find by coercing captive demons to divulge their locations. Once you have the ship and crew assembled, you can upload your pirates to the network and check in on them every once in a while. Pirate duels, as mentioned before, also become accessible. Both pirate crews are AI controlled, but have multiple “tactics” that can be set for them. You can change these during battle, but the other side is completely AI controlled. The side with the most points wins (obtained by boarding their ship and killing their units). Players can also upload their own senators onto the network to attend other players’ assembly meetings and receive bribes. You can also create custom maps for other people to battle in, and even change the base map that you use to shop and travel to item world. You can even set the main characters as NPCs in the base, and they all have something different to say depending on what you assigned as their job. These features, while not ground breaking in any way, add some extra fun to the game. None of them are required, and are more of side activities to be honest. Still, duking it out with another pirate crew is quite entertaining, and certainly is a welcome addition to the game.
Good news: Magichange will now never weaken a unit when used.
The change to hand drawn sprites has really made the game look a lot more modern. Animations are more fluid, and the characters have more detail in them. Attack animations have also seen a slight rise in visual quality, but not nearly as much. The game looks great for a strategy RPG, but there are some areas that could have used a bit more attention. Settings and maps don’t look quite as good as the sprites, for example. And a few of the visual effects are a bit too simplistic. But, that is about all I have in terms about complaining about the visuals. And, for those of you who like the old style of spites, there is an option to turn all the in game sprites into their 16 bit counter parts (with a smooth and crisp setting, as well).
The soundtrack in the game is great. The songs played in the game all fit very well in the areas that they were used, and no one song sounds the same as the other. A few of the tracks from previous games return, but it’s mostly new stuff. The variety of tracks is quite diverse, as well. Sound effects used in the game are mostly of the cartoonish sort. Voice work is also really solid (although you can change to the original Japanese audio). The actors play their roles well, most of the times. Their portrayal of the characters are believable, and at no point did I feel the urge to change the audio to the Japanese voice track. There are a few moments where the voice work isn’t quite up to par with the rest of the game, but these moments do not occur often enough for it to be a major issue. Over all, Disgaea 4 sounds great.
Fuka keeps thinking this is all a dream. Pro tip: It isn't.
In terms of length, I’d have to say that Disgaea 4 is definitely up there in the series in overall gameplay time. The story took me about 30 hours to complete. Most of the story maps were quite challenging, and it wasn’t always so simple to clear the map. The post game content has, so far, racked an additional 60 hours to my gameplay time. There are a number of additional characters you can unlock, alternate challenge maps called X-dimensions, and the Land of Carnage has returned (all the maps get way stronger enemies, and a few other additions). Add in the Item World shenanigans and pirating, and you can easily lose 100s of hours to this game.
Overall, Disgaea 4 was a great addition to the franchise. It’s not a revolution of the series so much as a refinement. Those interested in the series will find the game to be quite accessible, and long time fans will find that it is just as deep, if not more so, than the other games of the series.