Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten (PS3) Review

Author: Dany Argueta
Editor: Howard Ha
Publish Date: Friday, September 9th, 2011
Originally Published on Neoseeker (http://www.neoseeker.com)
Article Link: http://www.neoseeker.com/Articles/Games/Reviews/disgaea_4/
Copyright Neo Era Media, Inc. - please do not redistribute or use for commercial purposes.

Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea series is known for breaking quite a few RPG trends in outrageous manners. Whereas other RPGs have a character level cap of 100, Disgaea sets its maximum cap at 9,999. Want to inflict millions and billions of points worth of damage? With some work, Disgaea will let you do that.

Disgaea also scraps exploring overworlds in favor of pure gameplay. These and many other concepts native to the series are reused in Disgaea 4 but, regardless if you’re a newcomer or longtime fan, you’ll still get hundreds of hours of enjoyment out of this entry.

The oddball star of Disgaea 4 is Valvatorez, a former vampire tyrant whose fall from glory came from his own personality quirk: Valvatorez commits to uphold every promise he makes, no matter how ridiculous or impossible these promises may be. Since his fall from power, Valvatorez spends his days in the Netherworld with his faithful servant Fenrich training Prinnies (penguin-like creatures who are inhabited by human souls) for servitude.

One day, the Corrupternment (a demonic spoof of real-life governments) kidnaps the latest batch of Prinnies from Valvatorez to kill them. Valvatorez manages to rescue the Prinnies while discovering the Corrupternment is inefficient at maintaining the Netherworld, putting its inhabitants in danger and jeopardizing Valvatorez’s job as Prinny Instructor. With the help of Fenrich and a few of the rescued Prinnies, Valvatorez begins his campaign to overthrow the Corrupternment and become President of the Netherworld.

Death by Human Towers and Giant Monsters

Disgaea 4 takes the form of a turn-based strategy RPG where your characters move around a field in a grid-style fashion to defeat enemies. Whereas some strategy RPGs are just about going up to your enemy and attacking with a weapon or spells, Disgaea 4 lets you do that and more. Human party members are capable of lifting, allowing them to throw any character on the field and create towers consisting of your own party members to beat up enemies in comical ways. You’ll witness enemies taking hits while they're being thrown up the tower or having your tower come down on foes like a giant slinky. 

Monster allies make up for their lack of lifting abilities by fusing with another monster for a few turns (a new feature introduced in this game) or transforming into a weapon usable by a human ally. Disgaea 4 also takes the transformation ability one step further by allowing fused monsters to transform into giant weapons. Couple monster abilities along with standard attacks and human lifting maneuvers, and you end up with some amusing but practical ways to deal with enemies.

In some battles, players may have to manage Geo Panels along with defeating enemy forces. Geo Panels are colored parts of the land that can receive a variety of advantageous and harmful effects from Geo Blocks placed on spaces of the same color. For instance, if you place a bonus EXP Geo Block on a blue tile, all blue tiles in the area enable that bonus. Geo Panels can be eliminated so it’s up to the player to figure out whether to take advantage of beneficial or detrimental effects from Geo Blocks or destroy the panels to level the playing field.

Endless Customization

Outside of the main story missions, Disgaea 4 presents loads of options for players to customize their characters and the gameplay experience itself. Disgaea fans are more than likely used to the customization options by now but newer players might be intimidated by how much they’re able to do. Rest assured, Disgaea 4 slowly introduces new features as you play and explains their use with tutorials.

One staple Disgaea feature returning in Disgaea 4 is the Item World, a random dungeon generator that lets players visit worlds literally found within, literally, any item. Why visit the Item World? First off, every floor you complete in the Item World levels up the item you’re visiting at the time, improving its stats. Second, there are Residents that can be captured and transferred to other items to enable all sorts of beneficial effects like boosting a certain stat or increasing EXP earned. Finally, the Item World serves as a good ol’ dungeon romp in itself since you can find treasure rooms and encounter difficult enemies to earn quality loot. With the Item World, you can make a powerful piece of gear even stronger by cramming Residents into the item and traversing through the dungeon floors while being rewarded for your efforts.

Your characters can receive their fair share of customization with Evilities and the Chara World. Evilities are exchangeable skills that grant your character offensive and passive skills for survival, which is exceptionally convenient since this allows you to adjust  your characters for any battle situation. Chara World acts similarly to the Item World except your progress helps boost character aptitudes that are not normally improved by gaining EXP such as weapon skills and movement range. Players are free to boost whichever skills they like, though they’re only allowed a limited amount of Chara World visits per character so boost wisely.

Cam-Pain HQ houses familiar Disgaea options like character creation and the Dark Assembly, where you’re able to petition a demon senate to introduce game-wide effects. These effects are meant to increase and decrease game difficulty at the player’s whim. Cam-Pain HQ is also where you can assign party characters and manage lands you’ve conquered in story missions. By having a character or an Evil Icon placed in a previously conquered area, you enable character stat boosts or a helpful tool when revisiting a mission.

For the first time ever in a Disgaea game, players can create their own custom levels and pirate ships. Unfortunately, the level editor underwent a change in the North American and European versions of Disgaea 4. Players have to make do with pre-made layouts and randomly named NPCs to create custom maps. Having only presets available was Nippon Ichi’s attempt to prevent any offensive material from being made. It’s inevitable someone will make some tasteless stuff when given the chance but it’s virtually unheard of for a developer to cripple their own toolset to thwart these crass works from getting out there. Is a reporting feature too much to ask for?

The custom pirate ship feature is pretty versatile since you can duel against a friend’s party members or subdue one of these intruders for “torture” (you’ll need the Discipline Room Evil Icon to do this). When we say torture, we actually mean silly, harmless activities like drawing on faces or forced participation in corny pep rallies. Successful torture sessions can result in extorting loot from the victim or forcing them to join your party, saving you the time and effort of raising a character class that caught your eye.

It would be a shame not to mention how humorous Disgaea 4 is. Just by reading this review, it should be evident this is a game not to be taken in a serious light. The main storyline is offbeat fare, items have hilarious descriptions, and some of the attack animations will warrant a few chuckles. One of best laughs you’ll have while playing is finding out one of your allies has such terrible misfortune, her own sprite is drawn at a lesser resolution.

Final Thoughts

Disgaea 4’s only major issue is that it is a huge time sink mostly filled with hours and hours and hours of grinding, more so than most other RPGs out there. When you hear this game lets you level up your characters to level 9,999, you better expect to spend somewhere over 100 hours in play time. That’s not to say the grinding is outright bad, because every player is capable of boosting EXP gain from capturing certain Item World residents and receiving bonus EXP as a frequent reward (among a wide variety of other loot) for participating in battles. Still, if you can’t stand grinding for any extended length of time, we advise you pass up on Disgaea 4.

If you like strategy RPGs like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre, or just a fan of RPGs in general, you owe it to yourself to check out Disgaea 4, plain and simple. Newcomers will be delighted with Disgaea 4's endless customization options while returning players can soak up the new features and feel right at home with familiar yet entertaining gameplay. We cannot stress enough that it'll take tons of hours of grinding to see all of the content offered in Disgaea 4 but Nippon Ichi has made said grinding enjoyable, which is something few RPGs can accomplish. No matter what price you pay for Disgaea 4, it will be worth your money.

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