|Disgaea 5 Complete
|Nippon Ichi Software
|Nippon Ichi Software
|May 23rd, 2017
|T for Teen
I should start out by confessing that the last Disgaea game I played before this was the original game on the PlayStation 2. So to say I was rusty is a bit of an understatement. Having said that, I had fond memories of the series, so when the opportunity to tackle the latest entry came up suddenly, I decided I should give it a shot. That turns out to have been an ambitious decision, as Disgaea 5 Complete is, quite frankly, enormous. It takes all the DLC and bonus content released when Disgaea 5: Alliance of Vengeance hit PS4 and incorporates it into this well-stuffed package. The question is, how did this old Disgaea fan appreciate getting back into this crazy series? Keep reading to find out, doods!
The game starts out with a violent conflagration exploding in the various Netherworlds. A tyrant named Void Dark has his sights set on the subjugation of everything and everyone, and those who don’t submit to his rule are massacred. Enter Seraphina, the Overlord of Gorgeous. This gun-toting succubus has been promised as a bride to Void Dark by her cowardly father, and she’s not having it. She is determined to try and take control of the situation with her man controlling Balor Gaze but is quickly overwhelmed by the sheer number of soldiers at Void Dark’s disposal. Enter a mysterious savior, a blue-haired demon named Killia, who steps in out of nowhere and wipes out the forces Seraphina finds herself outmatched by. Thus begins our crazy little story, and it quickly expands, adding new teammates, threats, and a surprising number of touching plot twists.
You might be surprised that in a game where 99% of your cast is a bunch of demons the focus of the game is on family, hidden pain, and mastering one’s negative emotions. Not quite the themes that come to mind when I hear about Netherworlds, but the upside is that each of the characters is well developed and surprisingly complex. None of them are one-note wonders, though some do overuse a quirk, such as Seraphina’s dramatic laugh or how Red Magnus has to use the word “super” in every other sentence. In typical anime fashion, there is a ton of humor, raunchiness and general insanity, and it’s all balanced pretty well. It almost never grates, though sometimes the game will find ways to say the exact same thing over and over. You’ll have dialogue at the start of chapters, right before most levels, and even randomly while at your home base (Seraphina’s pocket Netherworld/spaceship). The nice thing is, the majority of the dialogue is voiced, quite capably, by the supporting cast. Every character’s personality flows forth with every word, and it’s nice to just sit back and listen to the antics unfurl on auto.
Though the plot and characters are one of the highlights of any RPG, the Disgaea series is equally well known for intense and complex combat, and Disgaea 5 Complete doesn’t disappoint. On the surface, it’s a standard tactical RPG, but there are so many ways to delve deeper into the game that things rarely get boring. As you use skills they level up and get stronger, as well as unlocking new techniques. You also have flashy combination attacks with particular characters, not to mention tag teaming foes with adjacent allies. Throwing and stacking are also back, and both are very viable strategic options. Especially fun are Overload skills, which can only be wielded by Overlord characters. Most of the main characters get access to these flashy abilities, such as Seraphina’s Balor Gaze, which charms all male units nearby for a turn, setting them against each other; my personal favorite, Drumdawn’s Attack on Giant, makes every character in your team gigantic for several turns, increasing their stats dramatically while taking away their standard skills. There’s a lot of ways to turn the tide of battle, but what I’ve mentioned thus far is just the very tip of the iceberg. Frankly, the number of systems you can use to your advantage is overwhelming, and while I didn’t spend a ton of time on most of them in order to get through the game quickly, I will mention some that were especially useful.
While I didn’t utilize features such as the Curry Shop, Squads, Item or Chara World, many of the systems were enormously useful. I made frequent use of the Strategy Assembly to use Demonic senator’s influence to unlock better items to buy, for example. The Cheat Shop was a lifesaver, as it lets you juggle how much you’re rewarded in battle by decreasing another reward. For example, towards the mid-game, I found myself a bit under-leveled, so I increased the amount of EXP I got by decreasing the amount of money (HL) I got. I also enjoyed interrogating foes I captured after battles, getting items and even new units that way. Not to mention taking quests to unlock new characters who proved tremendously useful, such as my dragon Drumdawn or my super healing fungi pal, Erynder Z. There’s just a ton of useful distractions, and none of them are superfluous. But as far as beating the main story, you only need to utilize the barest minimum of these systems.
As far as how Disgaea 5 Complete plays on the Switch, for the most part, it was smooth, though a couple of issues did irritate me. Since there is no D-pad on the joy-con (I played in portable mode), I had to use the buttons or the analog stick to control things, which meant the cursor was somewhat floaty. While it’s true I could utilize the shoulder buttons to switch between units, this was hampered by the fact it will switch between units which have ended their turns, which was frustrating when I was trying to zoom through battles. I also encountered zero slowdown during combat, though occasionally things would briefly slow down at Seraphina’s home base. Besides that, the game controlled quite well overall, and I never found myself at a loss to figure out how to control it.
On the aesthetic side of things, there’s a lot I appreciated about Disgaea 5 Complete. While it’s true that graphically this looks a lot like a PS2 or PS3 game, it is still vibrant, with great cartoony artwork. A special treat were some of the attack animations, such as Red Magnus turning gigantic, grabbing a planet, and crushing it in his meaty fist. They aren’t all that flashy, but none of them are ugly. Though occasionally some of the backgrounds are a bit blocky and barren, it was hardly a game breaker. Musically, my experience was a bit mixed. While I highly enjoy the gothic Japanese choir vibe in the music, I wanted more musical variety. There are only a handful of tracks, and the game could have benefited from one or two more. And though I loved the voice acting, the audio was pretty quiet, meaning I couldn’t really appreciate the sound effects unless my system volume was dialed nearly all the way up.
On the topic of difficulty, I would say that most of the game is balanced, though I did encounter difficulty spikes as I progressed through the story. While grinding made this workable, I would have appreciated the game more clearly indicating things like enemy levels at the stage select screen. Though even that is somewhat misleading, as oftentimes I would play a map with my team at the same level as my foes, and they would surround and wipe the floor with me. I had to use careful strategy and abuse the Overload skills to get by, though more than one stage I beat by the skin of my teeth, with only 1 or 2 characters still kicking. What was also a game saver were using the Shards gained from combat to boost the stats of my main team. On the other hand, I could have spent far more time grinding and using systems like Item World to get overpowered instead. I just wanted to avoid endless grinding so I could get this review out in a timely manner.
I admit that it was a bit daunting to review a game like Disgaea after such a long hiatus. That said, Disgaea 5 Complete does a pretty good job of streamlining things and explaining new mechanics at a good clip. While not every little thing was explained to my satisfaction, I shoulder some of the blame, as I’m sure many aspects of the game would be far more familiar had I played any of the recent entries. While there were some frustrating aspects of the game, there is far more to love. The characters and plot were especially enjoyable, though I found myself more invested in Void Dark’s Generals as villains than the big bad himself. If you enjoy tactics games and own a Nintendo Switch, you get endless hours of fun for only $59.99. That’s not even taking into account all the DLC, which I didn’t even touch for the purposes of this review. I spent some 60+ hours and barely scratched the surface of all the content. NIS America has outdone themselves once more, and I’m happy to finally see Nintendo getting a little Disgaea love. I just hope this trend of 3rd party support from fantastic publishers continues. Now if you doods will excuse me, I have plenty more game to tackle!
Review Copy Provided by Publisher