Over the years, I have had this profound love for strategy RPGs. Ever since I first got my hands on Final Fantasy Tactics, it quickly became one of my favorite games ever. There is just something immensely satisfying in being able to take a group of people and building them up from scratch the way you want them to be.
Having full control over their stats, skills, and the equipment that they wear. What I enjoy most is finding that one non-story character I can become attached to and create my own backstory for them.
The Disgaea series has stood near the top for delivering a fantastic strategy RPG experience for people to enjoy. The writers have been able to weave in its off-brand style of humor in with a grounded story that fans can enjoy and sometimes even relate to.
Whether it’s deciding between selfish gains or the greater good, friends or family, keeping up a facade or opening up to others for acceptance, there are moral choices that are made – linear as they are.
Thanks to the effort that the folks at NIS have poured into the series, Disgaea has crossed over boundaries and find wider success. As a result, it has won over both critics and fans alike.
For many, the series finds its most considerate appeal in the sheer amount of depth it contains. There are all of these amazing systems in place, many of which it pioneered over a decade ago. I am sure most everyone has already heard that you can level your characters up to 9999, breaking the text boundaries on the user interface as a result.
For those looking for a more laid-back experience, Disgaea 5 may be the best example of a game that welcomes players in with its excellent pace and high entertainment value.
A demon emperor known as “Void Dark” and his million-strong army known as “The Lost” are unleashing a blitzkrieg, taking over one Netherworld after the next in the bid to spread their power. Their goal is to enslave the populace, or cause their destruction if they resist. The only ones who can stop this oncoming evil are the Overlords, the rulers of those territories.
Our protagonist, the loner Killia, is on his own quest for vengeance against Void Dark with his own selfish reasons. He is soon confronted by the Overlord of the Gorgeous Netherworld, Seraphina, a prima donna who insists that Killia becomes her obedient servant.
Together, the pair travels from one Netherworld to the next, recruiting more Overlords to band together and halt Void Dark’s advancement. The curry-loving, half-rabbit/half-humanoid Usaria is the most interesting out of the bunch for her endearing backstory and unique manner of speaking.
For the most part, the story does a good job in developing its characters and giving you a reason to care about that plight.
The problem with Killia is that the reason behind his path of Vengeance is hammered on one too many times, almost to the point of nausea.
Yes, we get it, you’re a troubled individual who lost the person who understood you the most.
The plot also treaded a little closely to Disgaea 4’s key events, down to the protagonist’s similar appearance and his motivation. Thankfully it’s the only critique I can give this well told story.
Combat has had some neat little additions to the formula. Players still move around a grid with tiles of different heights, unleashing different abilities while either taking advantage of or avoiding environmental traps and other hazards.
Stacking is made more useful by allowing players to throw a characters in the totem pole at a diagonal direction. This helps to avoid the nuisance of wasting turns getting someone in just the right spot.
New to the series is Revenge Mode. There is a gauge at the bottom of the screen that fills up over time from landing successful attacks among other tasks that may vary between each map.
While the gauge is full, stat parameters are boosted. When triggered by a plot-relevant character, they can unleash a powerful and stylish attack that can help turn the tide of battle.
The sound design in this game has never been better. Sure, you will not hear Troy Baker wax poetry about sardines or Vic Mignogna deal with his daddy issues, but the English voice cast does a superb job delivering their character’s lines.
That being said, it’s hard to beat the incredible Japanese dub led by Mamoru Miyano which I spent most of the game’s story listening to.
There were moments in the game where the emotion the characters conveyed had shook me to the core, and that could not have been without their talent. It’s also thanks to the amazing writing that provides truly unforgettable moments with topics that haven’t been touched upon before in the series.
Tenpei Sato is on the top of his game with the music in Disgaea 5 delivering arguably the best soundtrack in the series. From the wonderful vocal song that plays while idling in the home base to the dozens of other tracks that play during skits and in combat.
There is a healthy variety of instrumental and vocal tracks to be found here little to no recycling from earlier entries. I can’t stress enough how good the music is and is one of the best parts of the game.
NIS took a huge risk in Japan by releasing Disgaea 5 only for the PlayStation 4 and paid for it as a result there. That being said, thanks to the huge increase in horsepower by focusing on a current-gen platform, we have a game that could not have worked on older hardware.
Not only has there been an exponential growth in the amount of high-definition sprites that can fit on screen, but there is far more volume to be found in the systems.
Seraphina’s way of convincing Killia to become her servant is to invite him to her Pocket Netherworld, an alternate dimension of sorts that will act as a hub for the rest of the game.
There are an assortment of NPCs to be found here. You have the Item World, the map editor, the strategy assembly, the character creation system, the Squad Shop, the Netherworld editor, a deep quest system, and so much more. It’s incredible the amount of stuff you can do in this game. So why don’t we go through them?
First off, the map editor makes a return from Disgaea 4. This time around, instead of using precious CP, you can buy new objects, geo effects, and terrain patterns using the in-game currency.
This may not capture the interest of a more casual player. Thankfully, you can always download someone else’s creation online and try it out. You can even share among friends and enjoy the challenge there.
It’s a cool feature I got use from thanks to one pre-release journalist’s penchant of filling a map with experience bonus geo spaces and covering it with Prinnies.
The Chara Worlder is a board game that has a wide assortment of good and bad effects on the character you send into this mode. You begin by rolling a die and making your way across the board.
There are only a set number of Moves one can make to reach the goal before the game is up and you may get hit with penalties. There are hazards along the way such as enemies you duel with, boxes to destroy, spaces that send you back to the beginning, and more.
By making it to the goal, the player can choose from an assortment of rewards that can have a profound effect in battle. This includes being able to jump to a higher tileset, move farther, boost that character’s weapon aptitude, and more.
This is basically the perfect way to grind for new abilities and improve their stats. While this was incorporated into Disgaea 4 and Disgaea 3 for the PS Vita, there are plenty of new elements here to keep the experience enjoyable, with limits in place to avoid exploitation.
The biggest feature added to the game is the Squad Shop. There are over a dozen different squads for players to assign characters to, all with different perks associated with them. Some squads won’t trigger any sort of effect unless an ally is assigned to it.
This can mean anything from starting a battle as a giant for a few rounds to regenerating health at the end of each turn. There are even squads that enhance the effects of different NPCs around the Pocket Netherworld, like having a higher influence in the Senate during the assembly.
These squads can be leveled up through the use of the Interrogation Room. Players can capture enemies either during battle with a certain skill or as a reward at the end. These enemies then become prisoners who can be solicited into joining your team; have their power extracted to benefit another party member (a great way to grind stats); or even added into a squad’s reserves.
By adding these prisoners into the back-up squad, this will level up the squad and strengthen its effects. It will be important for players to level up their squads constantly as the benefits can be immeasurable both in battle and around the base.
During battle, Squad Skills can be used by the leader of the squad where every member in a given squad including those fed into the leveling process attack as one to damage an enemy squad. This can be strengthened in power through the number of party members in the squad and the number of reserves, and the skill unleashed can be an amazing sight.
A fun inclusion is the Nether Research squad, which lets players send a party out to scavenge the different Netherworlds for the chance at obtaining rare items and capture new prisoners.
There are dozens of worlds to explore not just those seen in the story but even ones exclusive to this feature. As a result, it also makes sure that the characters you only use semi-regularly or not at all can still be useful while you’re busy with something else.
There are other systems, like a Netherworld Editor that has an effect in battle, and the Curry Shop that provides temporary effects on the next battle with the help of delicious curry, but that’s about it for the major additions.
The Cheat Shop from Disgaea D2 also makes its very welcome return. This allows players to modify a different assortment of mechanics in the game. For example, there are a set of sliders that allow you to increase one attribute such as Experience Points in favor of decreasing the amount of HL received in battle.
Probably the most exploitable feature of this system is being able to increase the difficulty of the monsters anyway where from only a few levels to a couple thousand. This was a big help when I was trying to grind up levels early on or when I needed a ton of money quickly to upgrade my equipment.
All of this in a game that runs smoothly without even a hint of hitching or frame drops at any point. This helps a lot for someone who wants to quickly get through a battle while they have free time.
The character creation system isn’t all that different from earlier entries. You still unlock new classes either by taking on quests or through the Item World. The player chooses a name, their starting level, their personality (which has no tangible effect), and their character color. Basic stuff.
There are several new classes to recruit, including pirates, sages, wrestlers, and fearsome Wicked Bears. Altogether there are over 40 different classes overall with more being added as DLC including characters from past NISA games including La Pucelle. It’s a staggering amount that I found a lot of enjoyment from.
Disgaea 5 represents the ultimate entry in the series. It has taken the best elements from past titles, molded them together, and presented what is arguably one of the best strategy RPG titles to come along in years. I have poured 50 hours into this game and I barely even scratched the surface of all the other features that this game has.
Not only will fans of Disgaea discover something here that they can sink hundreds of hours into, but newcomers will find plenty to love about the story. There is also the charming cast of characters, the excellent writing, and that beautiful soundtrack. Not since Final Fantasy Tactics have I had this much enjoyment from a strategy RPG.